Up to this point in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series there have been six races and each and every week at least one of the “In This Corner” prognosticators have correctly picked the winner.
Batting 1.000 (to borrow a baseball term) is not a bad way to begin the season … in any sport.
Last Sunday it was the reigning champion Kyle Busch’s turn to take his first trip to Victory Lane after dominating Martinsville Speedway’s STP 500. He led 352 of the event’s 500 laps including the last 174 trips around the 0.526-mile track.
Busch, one of three drivers picked by In This Corner mainstay John Farrell, beat AJ Allmendinger to the finish line by 0.663 seconds. Busch, who was at the wheel of the No. 18 M&M’s 75th Anniversary Toyota Camry, posted a near perfect driver rating (148.2).
Allmendinger’s runner-up performance may have surprised some, but one person it didn’t surprise was the other In This Corner mainstay, Alex Pohlman.
Alex selected Allmendinger as somewhat of a dark-horse candidate for pulling off the upset. If the race had been a few laps longer and gone into overtime, Allmendinger could have posted his second career victory in the premier series as he was coming on strong in the waning laps.
In the end, Allmendinger’s second-place showing paid off well for Alex; however, it wasn’t enough for her to pull out her second In This Corner win of the year.
Instead, those honors went to John, who notched his contest-leading third win. The collaborative efforts of our celebrity guest pickers have a combined two wins.
John’s other two picks, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano, didn’t fare too poorly either. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS finished ninth while the driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion finished two positions back in 11th. The total combined finishing position for his three selections was 21.
Last weekend’s In This Corner celebrity guest picker was Kelly Crandall, the current award-winning Managing Editor of POPULAR SPEED. She also picked Johnson, but her two other picks, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, finished 14th and 17th respectively. Her three drivers combined for a total finishing position of 40.
In addition to Allmendinger’s second-place performance, Alex had Kurt Busch, who finished a respectable 13th. However, her chances were pretty much shot when Denny Hamlin left the race after only 221 laps as a result of an accident. His 39th-place finish combined with Busch’s 13th and Allmendinger’s 2nd gave Alex a total 54 points or combined finishing position.
This weekend’s race is in the state where everything is bigger, Texas. The 40 drivers will try their hand at conquering the 1.5-mile track of Texas Motor Speedway in the Duck Commander 500. Unlike the previous six races so this year, this weekend’s race is the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event to take place on Saturday night.
If this is your first time reading our “In This Corner” weekly column, we’ll explain how it works. The 2016 season marks the second year our “expert” prognosticators, Alex Pohlman and John Farrell, will choose who they think will win the upcoming race. (They’re only experts in their own heads.)
Every week last season, Alex and John picked one driver they thought would win that weekend’s race. Alex based her picks more on guts, while John based his picks solely on stats. The weekly winner between the two of them was the one who chose the driver who finished better in the race. For every weekly win, they received a point. In the end, Alex beat John 14-10. (It wasn’t a full season as they began with the May Dover race.)
This year, “In This Corner” is similar, but with some new twists thrown in to make it more challenging and entertaining. Joining Alex and John each week will be a different guest prognosticator. In addition, instead of selecting one possible winner, each oracle will pick three drivers they think have the best shot at ending up in Victory Lane.
Whoever selects the three drivers with the lowest accumulated finishing position will receive the point for that weekend. For example, if Alex picks the race winner and the 20th- and 30th-place finishers, but John picks the 10th-, 15th- and 20th-place winners, John would get that week’s point (depending on who the celebrity guest picker selects) because his drivers’ accumulated finishing position total (45) was lower than Alex’s (51).
The celebrity guest forecaster can choose whichever three drivers he or she wants regardless of who Alex or John select. However, Alex and John can only have one pick in common.
We will keep a running tally between Alex, John and the guests every week. At the end of the season, the prognosticator with the most points will be crowned the victor.
This weekend’s celebrity guest picker for Texas’ Duck Commander 500 is actually a pair of rappers who also happen to be NASCAR fans. The Little Rappers burst onto the NASCAR scene in 2015 with the rap music video call “The NASCAR Rap” and a series of NASCAR rap music videos, including monthly rap recaps, track recaps and live appearances on FOX Sports NASCAR RaceDay!
Eight-year-old Caleb C and Lil’ Brother Sammy event got to meet and rap with Caleb’s favorite driver Jeff Gordon for the May 2015 Recap and Sammy’s favorite driver Kyle Busch for the June Recap. They even appeared live on NASCAR RaceDay on FOX before the Dover race.
Texas Motor Speedway also enlisted Caleb C to do a Rap Music Video to promote the first spring race the BIG Hoss TV which was aired on Big Hoss throughout race weekend.
Learn more about Caleb C and the Little Rappers at YouTube.com/LittleRappers and on Twitter/Instagram @LittleRappers.
THE LITTLE RAPPERS’S PICKS
2. Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie Johnson won the night race last year,/At Texas in Victory Lane all his fans will cheer!
3. Kevin Harvick: He’s a driver his winning skills are slick,/them Texas cowboy boots going to Kevin Harvick.
2. Carl Edwards: Carl is on a mission to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Texas is the perfect place for him to take the checkered.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Needing a win to lock his spot in the Chase, Dale Jr. will be there this weekend and be a strong contender for the win.
1. Jimmie Johnson: With the type of season Jimmie’s had and the fact that he’s the all-time wins leader at Texas with six, you can’t deny that he’s going to be a favorite and will most likely finish near the front barring any accidents.
2. Denny Hamlin: I’m banking on Hamlin bouncing back from a uncharacteristic 39th-place finish last weekend at Martinsville to finish strongly and possibly get his third Texas win.
3. Joey Logano: Joey hasn’t run as well at Texas as some other drivers I could have selected, but he does have a win there and he’s run well in the first six races of 2016.
GUESTS – 2; ALEX – 1; JOHN – 3