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NASCAR is rolling out a new and unique fantasy game. 32 of the top drivers will be selected and seeded in a tournament style head to head single elimination bracket (think March Madness). Fans will then be able to choose the winners of each matchup. The winning driver of the head to head race (i.e. Dale Jr. goes against Mark Martin, Dale finishes in 7th place in his race, while Martin finishes in 15th, Martin is then eliminated and Dale Jr. moves on to the second round) then advances to compete another day. The competition kicks off at Pocono on August 7th and runs for 3 weeks until the "fastest four" are left and compete for the Championship at the August 27th race at Bristol.
The fan with the most accurate picks will win a brand new truck from the manufacturer of the winning driver (i.e. Dale Jr. wins the contest, thus the fan who "wins" gets a Chevy Truck since Dale drives a Chevy). A perfect bracket results in the chance to win $1,000,000. Drivers will be competing on behalf of their favorite charities, with a total of $400,000 being awarded to help great causes. The contest starts on August 7th so be sure to get your entries in soon! Click here to get set up:
Racing-reference.info picks for Round 1 at Pocono (seedings in parentheses):
TURN 1 BRACKET
(1) Jimmie Johnson vs. (8) Regan Smith: A 1 vs. 8 upset may occur somewhere but not likely here: take JJ.
(2) Matt Kenseth vs. (7) Jamie McMurray: Jamie Mac may deserve better than a 7 seed, but his recent Pocono performances are not encouraging and Matt has been fairly hot lately. We'll stick with the favorite.
(3) Tony Stewart vs. (6) Joey Logano: Tony is tough at Pocono lately with four top-3 finishes in his last 6 races. Logano has started here 5 times but has yet to record a top-10. A Logano upset wouldn't be a shocker -- he has been putting together some good finishes recently -- but we have to take Tony.
(4) Kasey Kahne vs. (5) A.J. Allmendinger: Since his dominating win here in 2006, Kahne has been all over the place, up and down; but Allmendinger doesn't look to be primed for the upset. We'll complete this bracket by unanimously going with the favorites.
TURN 2 BRACKET
(1) Carl Edwards vs. (8) Casey Mears: Mears has had some success at Pocono, but that came mainly in other series and not Sprint Cup. Absent a mechanical failure it's hard to picture Casey outrunning Carl.
(2) Jeff Gordon vs. (7) Jeff Burton: The #31 RCR team has struggled mightily all year long, and even though Burton has run generally well at Pocono in the past Gordon is likely to have the better car -- and the better finish.
(3) Denny Hamlin vs. (6) Brian Vickers: Hamlin has absolutely OWNED Pocono throughout most of his career and he needs to register top finishes every week as he attempts to make the Chase. A focused #11 team is going to be very hard to beat here.
(4) Mark Martin vs. (5) David Ragan: Ragan hasn't built very much on his recent win, but the #5 team seems to be in disarray at times. We'll go with the upset here and take Ragan over the venerable Martin.
TURN 3 BRACKET
(1) Kevin Harvick vs. (8) Dave Blaney: Nobody can be sure whether Blaney will even run the entire race; we know Harvick will at least try.
(2) Kyle Busch vs. (7) David Reutimann: August races (as opposed to June) at Pocono haven't been very kind to Kyle lately. We still find it hard to picture him losing out to The Franchise though.
(3) Ryan Newman vs. (6) Brad Keselowski: Newman hasn't finished outside the top 20 at Pocono since 2005 and a good consistent run is probably all he needs to outduel Kes.
(4) Juan Pablo Montoya vs (5) Paul Menard: Montoya hopes to come into Pocono following a contending run at the Brickyard; Menard has faded after a good start to 2011 and never has had much luck at this track. We'll go with Montoya.
TURN 4 BRACKET
(1) Dale Earnhardt, Jr. vs. (8) David Gilliland: Would you believe that Gilliland has more points over the last 5 Sprint Cup races than Junior has? He does. Gilliland's average finish at Pocono over his career is dismal, and his advantage over Jr. lately is less of his own making than it is a result of the #88's struggles. Against some other driver we might go for the upset, but if Dale doesn't get his act together quickly he could easily go down in round 2.
(2) Kurt Busch vs. (7) Bobby Labonte: Labonte is coming off a great run at Loudon and at times is getting more out of the #47 car than people expect. But we have to take Busch and that Penske horsepower.
(3) Clint Bowyer vs. (6) Marcos Ambrose: This is a real toss-up in our opinion. Like Gilliland, Ambrose has never figured out how to run up front at Pocono but Bowyer is ripe for an upset. We're going to go off the board here and take the 6 seeded Ambrose.
(4) Greg Biffle vs. (5) Martin Truex, Jr.: Truex has been quietly competent at Pocono in the past and Biffle just hasn't been able to turn solid runs into good finishes over the past several weeks. It's another tossup but we're sensing another potential upset and looking for Truex to advance to round 2.
Pocono isn't a track that lends itself to a lot of mayhem, and mechanical failures aren't that common (and even less predictable) so we selected only a small handful of upsets this week because the good cars will likely be on the track at the finish, and closer to the front than the lower-seeded ones.
Round Two: Watkins Glen
Montoya is known for his success on road courses, but Harvick is no slouch either: we go with Harvick and also take Kyle over Newman at the Glen.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr's luck runs out and Truex finishes ahead of the #88; Ambrose is tough to pick against on a road course, but we're going with Kurt Busch.
On the other side of the bracket, Carl Edwards will get the better of his Roush Racing teammate David Ragan, while Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin slug it out with Gordon emerging as the victor.
Jimmie Johnson will have his hands full dealing with Kasey Kahne, but we'll stick with Five Time; Tony Stewart could dominate against Matt Kenseth, a chance we're willing to take.
Round Three: Michigan
Harvick vs. Kyle. We think Mr. "Where did he come from?" will surprise again and we select Harvick.
Kurt Busch is made for tracks like Michigan, and although Truex had a nice run to get this far it's time for us to jump off that bandwagon: we select Busch to go the Final Four.
Carl Edwards is also capable of excelling at Michigan; it's tough call but we go with our favorite, Jeff Gordon.
Jimmie Johnson vs. Tony Stewart is also bound to be a close one; we've all heard how much Tony likes the hot weather and slick tracks but J.J. will be hot too and we stick with the defending series champ.
The Finals: Bristol
Among the four drivers left standing after three rounds, we call the Bristol finish in this order:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kurt Busch
Bring on that million dollars!
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