In This Corner: Food City 500 Preview (w/ Celebrity Guest Picker The Orange Cone)

Seven races … seven winners picked.

That’s right … Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was the latest race winner that one of the In This Corner pickers correctly identified.

This week the Little Rappers, who wrote out their selections in rap form, had Kyle Busch among their three picks. However, the Little Rappers didn’t provide the celebrity guest pickers with their third point of the season. Instead, Alex picked up the week’s point in one of the closest contests of the young season.

Shortly after the race restarted after what would be the final caution period of the race, Busch darted to the front of the field. By the time the cars made it back around, Busch and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry were out front. He held onto the lead for the final 33 trips around the 1.5-mile track before finishing ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was 3.904 seconds back.

Busch led the race for 34 laps, also pacing the field on Lap 177. However, the two fastest cars on that night belonged to Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards. Truex led a race-high 141 laps after starting third and help the point until Busch passed him on the race’s final restart. In the waning laps, Truex’s car started to fade and he eventually finished sixth.

Edwards started the race on the pole and dominated most of the first half of the race, recording 124 laps led. He placed one position behind Truex.

Although all three of the Little Rappers picks finished in the top 10, it wasn’t enough to get the win. In addition to Busch’s win, the Little Rappers also picked Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick, who finished fourth and 10th, respectively. The Little Rappers finished with a combined finishing position of 15, which on most weekends would have been enough to win In This Corner.

However, this wasn’t like most weekends.

Alex took home the win with a combined 13 points. Her three picks, Earnhardt, Johnson and Edwards finished second, fourth and seventh.

Although, John Farrell’s selections didn’t necessarily have a bad day at the track, their efforts just weren’t enough. In addition to Johnson, he also had Joey Logano (third) and Denny Hamlin (12th). His total combined finishing position was 19, third place among the three In This Corner pickers this week.

John, however, can have solace in the fact that he still leads the overall In This Corner standings with three points. Alex and the celebrity guest pickers both have two points.

This weekend NASCAR returns east where the drivers face the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in 2016. Make sure to tune in to FOX at 1 p.m. EST for the Food City 500 at the place they aptly call “The Last Great Colosseum.”

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 is a social media legend that you may recognize for its quick wit and intriguing analysis of NASCAR happenings — the one and only Orange Cone.

The Orange Cone is a familiar fixture at pit entrance and many NASCAR races. As Mike Joy has said, he is the lone sentinel of pit road, keeping cars in line and soaking up the attention and fame when they don’t. With over 220,000 tweets, The Cone needs to find a hobby other than tweeting.

 

THE ORANGE CONE

wgjdlV5Q1. Kyle Busch: He’s been on a role, and with momentum after the last short-track race at Martinsville, Busch should be strong on the high banks at Bristol.

2. Kevin Harvick: Harvick is a threat week in and week out, but especially so at short tracks where his ask no quarter, give no quarter style of driving style really comes into play.

3. Jimmie Johnson: You cannot count Jimmie Johnson out of any race at any track. Johnson has already locked into the Chase in 2016 but his relentless quest for victory should continue on the high banks.

ALEX’S PICKS

InThisCorner-Alex1. Jimmie Johnson: He’s on a roll this year already winning two races, so he will be a contender this weekend in Bristol. 

2. Matt Kenseth: Needing to make a comeback this season, Matt Kenseth will need to use his short-track skills to make it to the front Sunday.

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: A dark-horse pick indeed, but he has had a couple of good runs at Bristol and look for him to be up front at the end.

JOHN’S PICKS

InThisCorner-John1. Joey Logano: Joey already has a second-, third- and fourth-place finish in 2016 so it’s time for him to notch that first win of the season at Bristol, a track at which he’s won two of the last three races.

2. Kurt Busch: Bristol is the site of Kurt’s first victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and it is definitely possible for him to add his sixth one this Sunday, which would break a tie for the most wins at the short track among active drivers.

3. Matt KensethWhen reviewing the Loop Data for Bristol, Matt’s name kept popping up at the top of most stats, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he has four wins and the most top fives and top 10s among active drivers at the track.

GUESTS – 2; ALEX – 2; JOHN – 3

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