In This Corner: Kobalt 400 Preview (w/ Celebrity Guest Picker Craig Baroncelli)

John Farrell was coming off a strong opening week in which he correctly picked Denny Hamlin to win the Daytona 500 — and eventually won the first week of “In This Corner.” There was no way he could make it two in a row, was there? Especially considering how poorly he performed last year.

Fortunately for John, the stars were aligned almost perfectly for him last weekend at Atlanta. He not only picked Jimmie Johnson, who had to basically win the Atlanta race twice after NASCAR experienced the first time a points race went to overtime (a new change implemented prior to the beginning of the season), but he had also selected Kyle Busch and his brother Kurt who finished third and fourth, respectively. He finished with eight total points and easily captured the week’s point from Alex Pohlman and guest picker NASCAR Hall of Fame Historian Buz McKim.

Buz selected a good group of drivers in Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. Two of them — Carl and Martin — finished in the top seven, while Kyle finished a little further back in 26th. In the end, Buz’s 38 points was no match for John’s.

Kevin Harvick had the fastest car for most of the race before falling off the lead with about 47 laps to go in the event. Harvick — one of Alex’s three picks — still finished the race a respectable and solid sixth. Unfortunately, her other two picks didn’t fare as well. Kenseth led 47 laps in the first half of the race before ultimately finishing 19th. Kasey Kahne finished four spots further back in 23rd. Alex finished last for the second week in a row, collecting 48 points at Atlanta.

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.

Our guest prognosticator for the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is Craig Baroncelli. Craig is the owner and publisher of A.E. Engine, which publishes NASCAR Pole Position and ROAR! NASCAR Pole Position is an officially licensed magazine of NASCAR that is free and published 36 times a year (every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend). ROAR! is a weekly online magazine with all the latest information about an upcoming race.


1. Kyle Busch: The 2015 champion is off to a strong start and looking forward to racing at home.

2. Kevin Harvick: He’ll be seeking redemption after leading 131 laps but finishing sixth at Atlanta.

3. Jimmie Johnson: He’s a four-time winner at Las Vegas and has momentum after the Atlanta win.


InThisCorner-Alex1. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has been a force at Vegas for the past couple of years including a win in 2014 so I think he will be a contender at the end of the race Sunday.

2. Joey Logano: I feel as if Team Penske will be strong this season and since both Logano and Keselowski run well at mile-and-a-half tracks, it will be interesting to see them battle it out for the checkered on Sunday.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Minus the mishap in the Daytona 500, Dale Jr. has been strong including a second-place finish at Atlanta which shows he will definitely be up at the front on Sunday.


InThisCorner-John1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick is the reigning Kobalt 400 winner and has two top-six finishes in the first two races of 2016.

2. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is just running too well this season not to be considered a front-runner this weekend, plus having three wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway doesn’t hurt.

3. Carl EdwardsThere were several different options I considered going with here, but I opted for the driver who has two fifth-place finishes so far this season and two wins at Sunday’s venue — Carl Edwards.

GUESTS – 0; ALEX – 0; JOHN – 2

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