In This Corner: GoBowling.com 400 Preview (w/ Celebrity Guest Picker Carolyn Brewster)

When you have three pickers competing against each other all pick the same driver, it makes that driver’s status in the race pretty much moot, regardless of whether he wins the race or finishes dead last.

The latter was the case last weekend in the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

All three pickers, John Farrell, Alex Pohlman and celebrity guest picker, Thomas DeBoyace, all selected Dale Earnhardt Jr. among their three picks.

If you watched the race or follow NASCAR, even slightly, you probably saw or read that Earnhardt didn’t have one of his best at the track. After his day had ended, he even quipped that he was ready to call it a day and head home.

Somewhat surprisingly, his bad day came at a track at which he’s pretty dominant; hence the reason all three prognosticators had tabbed him as a favorite to win.

According to the race report, he was involved in two separate accidents. The second one, which came on Lap 111 (after he had completed only 63 laps), ended his day prematurely.

He finished the race in dead last, 40th of 40 drivers. John, Alex and Thomas all received 40 points as a result of his finish, which in a contest where the person with lowest total of points wins isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Since the pickers’ 40 points for Earnhardt’s finish cancel each other out, it was up to the other two drivers the prognosticators chose to determine who would win “In This Corner” for the weekend.

For the ninth time in 10 races, one or more of the prognosticators correctly identified the race winner. This week, Thomas took home those honors.

After leading a race-high 46 of 188 laps, including the final 17, Brad Keselowski powered to his second win of the season. His first win came at the third race of the season in Las Vegas.

Coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap, Keselowski, driving the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, was just ahead of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon when a seven-car wreck unfolded behind them in the turn. As soon as the yellow flag came out, the field was frozen and Keselowski was confirmed the winner.

Filling out the top 10 were Busch, Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney and Trevor Bayne. Of the 40 cars that started the race, 35 of them were involved in at least one incident that brought out the yellow flag. The five drivers that were able to keep their cars out of the way of trouble for the entire race were Keselowski, Elliott, Stewart, Bayne and David Ragan (34th).

Stewart was relieved mid-race by Ty Dillon, and Ragan’s day ended early when his Toyota Camry experienced engine troubles.

In addition, to Keselowski and Earnhardt, Thomas had also picked Martin Truex Jr. Truex finsihed 13th. Together, the three drivers combined to give Thomas a combined finishing position of 54 points, good enough for first place.

Alex finished eight points back with 62 total points after Bowyer and Harvick finished seventh and 15th, respectively. Earnhardt was her third choice.

Kurt Busch (eighth) and Matt Kenseth (23rd), along with Earnhardt’s last-place finish, gave John a combined finishing position of 71.

Saturday night, the drivers will be at it again, but this time it will be in the GoBowling.com 400 at Kansas Speedway. Catch it on FOX Sports 1 at 7:30.

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.

Carolyn Brewster is our celebrity guest picker for Sunday’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway.  Carolyn has been writing about the joys and frustrations of being a NASCAR fan since 2002. She is the contributing columnist to NASCAR Illustrated’s Fan Zone. Carolyn lives in Columbus, Ga., with her family, three dogs and life-sized cardboard cutout of Matt Kenseth. Carolyn, a devout Dale Jarrett fan, is still in denial of his 2008 retirement.

CAROLYN’S PICKS

Carolyn Brewster1. Jimmie Johnson: Last year’s winner of the spring Kansas race and third-place finisher in the fall, JJ has my vote. His record at this track along with my women’s intuition says this week he will spring right back into the winner’s circle.

2. Kevin Harvick: With one win under his belt this season, Kevin could easily get his second win at Kansas. Only a blind fool would ignore his consistency in 2016. What’s that you ask? Oh, he was second in the spring Kansas race last year.

3. Kyle Busch: With a fifth-place finish at Kansas in the fall, Kyle had to be somewhere on this list. So far this season, he is “el hombre.” If Kyle keeps up this pace, he just may win it all again.

ALEX’S PICKS

InThisCorner-Alex1. Matt Kenseth: He is the only Joe Gibbs driver not to have a win this season and with some bad luck this season, Matt is due for a win.

2. Kasey Kahne: Kasey has had a tough couple of years and with a couple of good runs, there have also been some bad ones, so expect this Hendrick driver to be up front this weekend fighting for the win.

3. Brad Keselowski: Coming off his win at Talladega, Brad will be looking to add that third Winner’s sticker to his car.

JOHN’S PICKS

InThisCorner-John1. Jimmie Johnson: After looking at all the Loop Data categories, there is one name that dominates most, if not all, of them — Jimmie Johnson.

2. Joey Logano: Joey has won two of the last three races at Kansas, including a fifth-place finish here last spring, and he’s been so close in getting his first win of 2016 several times already.

3. Carl EdwardsDespite a 35th-place finish last week at Talladega, Carl has done well this season, including two consecutive wins, and it shouldn’t be a surprise for him to reel in another strong finish.

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