In This Corner: Toyota Owners 400 Preview (w/ Celebrity Guest Picker Bobby Allison)

All great streaks come to an end … eventually.

And that’s exactly what happened this past weekend in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

While Carl Edwards had one of the two fastest cars on Sunday (the other one was his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth), for the first time this season none of the three “In This Corner” pickers had Edwards among their three drivers tabbed to win the upcoming race.

For the first seven races of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series either John Farrell, Alex Pohlman or one of their weekly celebrity guest pickers had correctly identified the weekend’s race winner.

When Denny Hamlin won the season-opening Daytona 500, John celebrated after naming the driver to his race favorites. The following weekend at Atlanta, John correctly identified Jimmie Johnson as the winner of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

In the third race of 2016, Alex selected Brad Keselowski and then the driver No. 2 Ford Fusion won a windy Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas. Then at Phoenix all three pickers (John, Alex and guest picker NASCAR artist Sam Bass) each had Kevin Harvick among their three picks.

At Auto Club, Johnson did his best Superman impression by beating the rest of the field to the finish line. This race, celebrity guest picker Mike Forde (Loop Dog from NASCAR) and Alex had Johnson penciled in as the winner.

The next two races (Martinsville and Texas) were won by Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota Camry. John had Busch tabbed for the Martinsville race, while the celebrity guest pickers, the Little Rappers, had Busch winning at Texas.

This past Sunday, the highest-finishing driver selected among the three pickers (The Orange Cone was the celebrity guest prognosticator) was John’s pick of Kurt Busch, who finished third.

Even more surprising than none of them correctly picking the Bristol winner was the fact that the number of picks (6 of 9) that finished below 15th.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Johnson, Kenseth and Matt Kenseth finished 16th, 23rd,  36th and 38th, respectively.

After all the dust had settled and the points were tallied, John took home the “In This Corner” pick for the week with a combined finishing position of 49. In addition to Kurt Busch, he also had Joey Logano (10th) and Kenseth (36th). He increased his lead by two over Alex and the guest pickers.

The Orange Cone followed up in second place. The highest-finishing driver among its stable was Harvick, who finished seventh. The other two drivers it had selected were Johnson (23rd) and the younger Busch brother (38th) for a total finishing position of 68.

Alex brought up the rear with 75 points: Stenhouse (16th), Johnson (23rd) and Kenseth (36).

NASCAR returns to Virginia for its second race in the Commonwealth. Instead of Martinsville, we’ll be in Richmond for the Toyota Owners 400. Tune in to FOX 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.

This weekend’s celebrity guest picker is someone every NASCAR fan (old or young) knows … and he’s a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion — Bobby Allison.

Robert Arthur “Bobby” Allison was born on December 3, 1937, in Miami, Fla. Bobby entered and won his first car race while a senior at Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School in Miami.

In searching for lucrative racing opportunities, Bobby, his brother Donnie and a good friend Red Farmer set up shop in Hueytown, Ala., where they became know as the “Alabama Gang.” Bobby worked as a mechanic, engineer, engine builder and eventually became of the greatest drivers in NASCAR.

During his 25-year career, Bobby accumulated 84 official NASCAR Sprint Cup victories including three Daytona 500 wins (1978, 1982, 1988), placing him fourth on the all-time NASCAR winningest driver list.

Allison was NASCAR’s Winston Cup champion in 1983. On June 19, 1988, Allison was almost killed and suffered massive head injuries in a terrible crash at Pocono Raceway. Those injuries would force his retirement from racing.

Bobby Allison was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in May 2011.


 Bobby Allison
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 
Dale’s been running good and continues to be close. I feel like it’s his turn to make the Win!”

2. Joey Logano: Joey’s really running good and he’s figured out how to close the deal on how to get to the finish line first.”

3. Carl Edwards: Carl has fit into the Joe Gibbs ride and has done a great job lately.


InThisCorner-Alex1. Kevin Harvick: Look for Kevin Harvick to be back on top this weekend in Richmond as he goes after his second championship.

2. Kurt Busch: Kurt Busch has been running near the front this season and in Richmond this weekend, look for him to be going after his first win of the season.

3. AJ Allmendinger: This year with the short-track program, AJ has been a strong presence and this weekend will be no different as he tries to clinch his spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.


InThisCorner-John1. Jimmie Johnson: Every weekend, every race Jimmie has to be considered a serious contender … at least until he gives us reason to think otherwise and that might not happen for years to come.

2. Kyle Busch: Based on who he is and his four previous wins at Richmond, there is no question in my mind that this weekend Kyle will wipe away what ailed him last Sunday during his 38th-place finish at Bristol.

3. Denny HamlinI was tempted to take Tony Stewart here because, let’s face it, that would be awesome, but I decided to go with Denny who’s been racing well all season and near the top of most Loop Data categories at Richmond.

GUESTS – 2; ALEX – 2; JOHN – 4

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