Sprint Cup Title Predictions
Racing writers Lars Anderson, Bruce Martin, Brant James and Tim Tuttle reflect on the 2010 Chase and make their predictions for who will take this year's Sprint Cup title at Homestead-Miami on Sunday. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com)
 
Biggest lesson learned from Chase 2010?
 
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Anderson
The big takeaway from the 2010 Chase is that NASCAR, finally, has a compelling on-track rivalry. Hamlin and Johnson should be the co-favorites to win the championship again next year, so this is a battle that is far from over. They represent the two strongest teams (Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports) and probably have the two best crew chiefs in the sport (Mike Forde, who calls the shots for Hamlin, and Chad Knaus, who sits atop Johnson's pit box). Between the two of them, Hamlin and Johnson could win 18 to 20 races next year.

Bowles
Pick your battles. That's how Hamlin got to the precipice of beating Johnson, keeping the car in one piece while learning the right races to get aggressive, capitalize on wins and close the gap. And even then, Johnson likely won't be beat ... so it's hard to say what you can do to bring him down if title No. 5 slips on his thumb at Homestead.

Martin
That if NASCAR simply leaves the format alone it will provide a competitive Chase such as it did this year. This has been the best Chase since the inaugural year of the format in 2004 when five drivers entered the final race of the season in contention for the title. This year, Hamlin's 15-point edge over Johnson is the smallest since Kurt Busch led Johnson by 18 in 2004.

James
Leave the system alone and the let the competitors settle things on the track.

Tuttle
Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and Rick Hendrick's No. 48 team have stayed intact and remain formidable, but other teams are capable of rising to their level. This year, it's Hamlin, Mike Ford and the Gibbs' No. 11.
 
Will NASCAR stick with the Chase format next year?
 
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Anderson
Absolutely. Though TV ratings have dropped, the 10-race playoff this year was the best since the start of the Chase. I'd like to see a road course featured in the Chase, but that likely won't happen anytime soon.

Bowles
Yes, but much to fans' chagrin I think they'll tweak it. Elimination format, more drivers, something ... because as close as this title race was, the ratings were still down over 20 percent. NASCAR can't say it's working when there's that type of slide in viewership.

Martin
Let's hope so but NASCAR CEO Brian France (pictured) seems determined to make Homestead a "winner-take-all" race because he wants the excitement of a Game 7 every season. A "Champion of Homestead" not the true "Champion of the Season" would lessen the value of the other races of the season.

James
It better.

Tuttle
There's been talk of some tweaking, but that seems likely to be discarded after a Chase that has three drivers in contention going into the final race.
 
Who will win the Chase?
 
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Anderson
Denny Hamlin - Hamlin has clearly been the top driver in the majority of the first nine playoff races. If not for poor fuel mileage at Phoenix last week, Hamlin would essentially have the title wrapped up by now. But the moment won't be too big for him on Sunday and I expect that he'll drive away from the field, lead the most laps, take the checkered flag, and win his first championship.

Bowles
Jimmie Johnson - Johnson comes in with all the momentum and most importantly, the mental edge he's lacked over Hamlin the last few weeks. It'll be a squeaker, but a second-place finish behind Kenseth should be enough to pull it out.

Martin
Jimmie Johnson - Johnson (pictured) has the experience on his side and understands how that is a valuable tool heading into the final race. Although he has never won at Homestead, he doesn't have to do much to win this thing -- simply make sure he is far enough ahead of Denny Hamlin at the end of the race to make up the 15-point differential.

James
Jimmie Johnson - Don't fight it. Just accept it. His historic run will eventually end, but not this year.

Tuttle
Denny Hamlin - With a 15-point lead over Jimmie Johnson and 46 over Kevin Harvick, Hamlin needs to go all-out at Homestead and he has the speed to do it in style by winning the race.
 
Chase Predictions Part 1: SI experts weigh in onthis year's Chase and title race at Homestead

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