In This Corner: FireKeepers Casino 400 Preview (w/ Celebrity Guest Picker Chris Knight)

All Alex Pohlman needed was a little push and now she’s off and running, getting her second win in two weeks.

As a reminder, her win last week was the result of John Farrell being disqualified for changing his pick after qualifying.

Regardless, Alex took the momentum from that win and used it to power her way to her second consecutive win, pulling into a tie with the celebrity guest pickers and only two points behind John.

Alex’s three picks had the lowest combined finishing position (35) to give her the In This Corner point for the week. Her top performer was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who finished second. The popular driver led twice for a total of four laps. Although the race’s winner, Kurt Busch, won by 1.126 seconds, it’s possible that if the race had gone into overtime or was scheduled for several more laps, Earnhardt could have taken over point.

Denny Hamlin, who is the wins leader among active drivers at the triangular track, which is partially why Alex chose him as one of her three picks. Hamlin finished 14th.

Her third pick was Martin Truex Jr., who completely dominated the the Charlotte race the previous weekend, leading a NASCAR-record 588 of 600 miles. However, Truex didn’t fare as well at Pocono, finishing 19th. He was Alex’s third driver.

John correctly identified the race winner, but this time he wasn’t disqualified. His selection of Kurt Busch was above board and he didn’t change it after qualifying. However, Busch’s first-place finish didn’t help much. Jimmie Johnson, John’s second pick, was involved in a late-race accident and finished 35th.

With 36 points already accrued between his first two picks, it didn’t matter how well John’s third pick finished. Regardless, Hamlin was his final driver. His combined total was 50.

When @NASCARCASM submitted his selections, John and Alex found his picks and commentary extremely amusing. We hoped he would display his wit and sarcasm and we weren’t disappointed.

We did, however, start to worry once we realized we didn’t know exactly how to score his picks since one was a tongue-in-cheek selection. His third pick, Alexander Rossi, isn’t even a NASCAR driver, but rather an IndyCar driver who had just won the 2016 Indy 500.

Do we combine the finishing position of the two drivers competing in the NASCAR race? For this week only, do we calculate the winner based on average finishing position of eligible drivers? Does @NASCARCASM get disqualified?

Fortunately, his drivers made it easy for us by racking up 53 points between the two. @NASCARCASM’s two picks, Truex (19th) and Tony Stewart (34th), didn’t do as well as he hoped. Stewart spent a lot of time in the garage getting repairs after getting caught up in an accident while Truex just wasn’t able to duplicate his on-track performance from the previous week.

This week, the NASCAR caravan travels north to the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Mich., where Michigan International Speedway is located. Catch the FireKeepers Casino 400 this Sunday on FOX Sports 1 and MRN/SiriusXM at 1 p.m. (EST).

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.

If you pay attention to the Twitterverse on race weekends and go to www.CATCHFENCE.com for your daily dose of NASCAR nose, you probably know this week’s guest picker, Chris Knight.

Chris (@Knighter01) has served as Senior staff writer, Assistant News Editor and director of driver communications for CATCHFENCE.com since 2001. In his 15 years with CATCHFENCE.com, he has covered and posted daily news and press releases for NASCAR’s top-three national divisions, ARCA Racing Series and “Other” Series. In addition to his active duties at CATCHFENCE.com and other racing endeavors, the 33-year-old is also a frequent contributor to SiriusXMM Satellite Radio NASCAR channel 90. Before moving back to a media role full-time in 2011, Knight served as the Manager of Operations and Communications for Sheltra Motorsports and driver Patrick Sheltra in the ARCA Racing Series for four years, including their 2010 championship season.

CHRIS’ PICKS

Chris Knight1. Kurt Busch: Kurt is the defending champion of Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway and fresh off a hot and much-needed win this past week at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. It would be hard to count out the 2004 series champion.

2. Kyle Larson: Kyle nearly pulled off a Michigan upset last year utilizing a bold pit strategy that nearly paid off. The team’s recent surge in competitiveness mixed in with an adjusted rules package that should suit his driving style.

3. Joey Logano: Joey has been winless thus far in 2016 and while that’s hard to swallow, Team Penske always comes to play in the Motor City and Logano has more than enough finesse and speed to earn his first win of the season and punch his ticket into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

ALEX’S PICKS

InThisCorner-Alex1. Brad Keselowski: Brad would love a home-state win.

2. Kevin Harvick: He’s leading points, already won a race this year and, well, he’s always up front.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I mean it’s Jr. and everyone would love to see a Jr. win. Altogether now, “JRRRRRR!”

 

 

JOHN’S PICKS

InThisCorner-John1. Jimmie Johnson: I don’t think Michigan is Jimmie’s strongest track and I don’t necessarily think Jimmie is the best driver at this track, but it’s Jimmie and that alone is a lot.

2. Matt Kenseth: I wanted to go with a Joe Gibbs driver, either Matt or Carl Edwards, but the former gets the nod due to his three wins and  series-best driver rating at Michigan.

3. Greg BiffleGreg needs a win more than I need him to do well, but for his sake and his fans’ sake (and for mine too, if I’m being honest), he has turn it around in Michigan — the site of his last two wins and four in all.

GUESTS – 4; ALEX – 4; JOHN – 6

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