Chase for the Championship Predictions
Racing writers Tom Bowles, Cory McCartney, Lars Anderson, Bruce Martin, Brant James and Tim Tuttle make their predictions for this year's Sprint Cup Chase for the Championships. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)
 
Which driver will have a breakout Chase season?
 
Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
Bowles
Denny Hamlin - Six of his 14 wins have come in 2010, a heartwarming story of season-threatening ACL surgery turned miraculous recovery. Last year, he learned how to lose a Chase; can he learn how to win one this fall?

McCartney
Clint Bowyer - He was third in 2007 and fifth in '08, but he's never really been a threat for the title. That could change this season. The Richard Childress Racing cars have been strong all year and Bowyer seems to be heating up at the right time with three fourth-place finishes in his last seven races.

Anderson
Tony Stewart - After struggling early this season, Stewart has scored more points than any other driver over the last 13 races. He'll be in the championship hunt at Homestead.

Martin
Kyle Busch - After missing The Chase last season and falling flat in 2008, Busch is ready to break out and be a title contender in 2010. He has the car, the team and most importantly the maturity level and experience to know what will work and what won't over the final 10 races. That could make him a serious threat to win the championship.

James
Kyle Busch - His regular seasons have been eventful (19 Cup wins in 212 starts) to spectacular (see Bristol, sweep), but his three Chase appearances have been unfulfilling because of disaster finishes. Early woes -- twice finishing 34th or worse at New Hampshire in the Chase -- have preceded 10 weeks of smoldering. He's ready now, rolling, and likely a little snarky after missing the Chase last year.

Tuttle
Kevin Harvick - He finished fourth in 2006, 78 points behind Jimmie Johnson, won in the Chase at 1-milers New Hampshire and Phoenix, and is stronger at every type of track this season.
 
Who will deliver the biggest Chase flop?
 
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Bowles
Kevin Harvick - Cockier than he's ever been, Kevin Harvick also has his confidence level sky high. But not since Tony Stewart in 2005 has first in September meant first in November; the No. 29 likely peaked too soon, motivated by sponsor and contract extensions they already have in place.

McCartney
Matt Kenseth - While his Roush Fenway Racing brethren heated up over the second half of the regular season, Kenseth has put together consecutive top 10s just once since the All-Star Race. He's been steady, but he hasn't been a threat to win since May.

Anderson
Kyle Busch - Busch has a history of falling flat in the Chase. Win-or-wreck drivers -- and Busch is one of them -- traditionally don't do well in the Chase.

Martin
Matt Kenseth - Many blame the creation of the Chase on Kenseth, who won the 2003 Cup title by winning just one race that season and wrapping up the championship with one race left on the schedule. Kenseth is back, but as the 11th seed there really isn't much expected from him over the final 10 races.

James
Kevin Harvick - A season that could have come unbolted with the loss of a sponsor, an unsettled contract situation and reported tension with his team owner became one of Harvick's finest. He won three races and held the points lead -- by a wide margin -- for 21 of 26 regular season weeks. He's won Chase races twice, but both were in 2006. He will flop partly -- and unfairly -- because he has so much to lose..

Tuttle
Matt Kenseth - Matt Kenseth struggled in the final 13 regular season races with two top-10s, a fifth at Michigan and a 10th at Bristol.
 
Which Chase contender may see a crew change in 2011?
 
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Bowles
Matt Kenseth - Already on his third crew chief this season, Kenseth hasn't been able to make things work since longtime partner Robbie Reiser left the pit box in November 2007. Don't be surprised to see Roush Fenway's GM back in that role next February.

McCartney
Matt Kenseth - His pitbox has already had a revolving door. Things haven't improved under Jimmy Fennig, who took over in June and has led Kenseth to just two finishes of 10th or better in 10 races.

Anderson
Kyle Busch - Only because Busch goes through crew chiefs with greater frequency than any other elite driver in NASCAR.

Martin
Matt Kenseth - This team has bounced back and forth between crew chiefs all season before returning Jimmie Fennig to the top of the pit box. But Fennig has been a long-time warrior in this sport and may be ready to turn that role over to a younger individual.

James
Matt Kenseth - The 2003 champion won the Daytona 500 in his first race with Drew Blickensderfer last year (and at California the next week), but they were stale thereafter. Todd Parrott took over this February, but was replaced by Jimmy Fennig in June. Results have remained average.

Tuttle
Matt Kenseth - Jack Roush can't be happy with Matt Kenseth's performance this season and he's never shy about switching personnel around.
 
Who's most likely to wreck first?
 
Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR
Bowles
Kyle Busch - His first ever Chase race, Busch crashed at Loudon, title hopes dashed before the cars even finished 50 laps. A "checkers or wreckers" philosophy can backfire at times for a veteran whose enemies include the calculating Brad Keselowski. Considering he's never made a serious playoff push, it wouldn't surprise me to see the No. 18 a pile of junk again after Sunday.

McCartney
Jeff Burton - He has the lowest average starting positions of any Chaser in the first two races, 20.1 at Loudon and 25.3 at Dover, plus he's said he's expecting to be more aggressive than normal as he tries to get off to a fast start. That's a dangerous combination.

Anderson
Kevin Harvick - At least one Chase racer will wreck early in the Chase opener at New Hampshire. I'm guessing it will be Harvick for one reason: the driver who wins the regular season points title often struggles in the Chase.

Martin
Clint Bowyer - With the flat 1-mile New Hampshire Speedway followed by the concrete monster known as Dover, someone is likely to have a crash. I'm going with Bowyer.

James
Matt Kenseth - He doesn't qualify or finish particularly well at Loudon, so he's likely to be surrounded by a lot of flotsam on Sunday.

Tuttle
Kyle Busch - It can happen to any of them, but the best candidate is the always-aggressive Kyle Busch.
 
Chase Predictions Part 2: SI experts weigh in onthis year's Chase for the Championship

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