Experts' picks: Pep Boys Auto 500

Experts' Picks: Pep Boys Auto 500
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: How can you pick against him? Aside from the fact that he won last week in Martinsville, he's also taken two of the last three checkered flags at Atlanta. He'll move closer to winning the championship on Sunday.
Keep an eye on: Greg Biffle -- Currently second in the points and trailing Johnson by 145 points, Biffle is the only remaining driver with an outside shot of catching Johnson. He has to hope that JJ has either a mechanical problem or gets caught up in a wreck, and Biffle needs a top-five run. He finished fourth here in the spring.
Don't expect much from: Kevin Harvick -- In his last 13 starts at Atlanta, Harvick has recorded only one top-10 run.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Put simply, Cousin Carl loves the ATL. In eight races there, he has two wins and six top-10 finishes. His trouble in the Chase has been of the self-inflicted variety, so I don't think there's any reason to expect him not to be fast or competitive on Sunday. Whether he wins or not, however, will be entirely up to him.
Keep an eye on: Jimmie Johnson -- As you would expect, Johnson has been aces at Atlanta, as well. But unlike Edwards, he doesn't need to win. He only needs to stay strong. To me, that means a top-10 finish will do the job.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- In six races, he's made the top 10 at Atlanta just once. And in terms of his ability to win, it seems like forever since he was a threatening presence in the series.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: It's so easy to jump on the Jimmie Johnson bandwagon, so I'm going with a guy who was supposed to be his biggest rival for the season title. At 198 points out, it's a longshot for Cousin Carl to catch up; but he should strike back at Atlanta, where the No. 99 led 33 laps in the spring before exiting with a blown engine. It was two and a half years ago that Edwards snagged his first win in a thrilling photo finish over Jimmie Johnson; I wouldn't be surprised to see the same on Sunday.
Keep an eye on: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -- In the past few weeks, Junior's shown signs of life in these playoffs. Finishing runner-up at Martinsville, he now heads back to a track where he led 62 laps and finished third in March. Atlanta's always been a good track for the Earnhardt/Eury combo, and a Top five would go a long way towards landing them back in the Chase's top half.
Don't expect much from: Martin Truex, Jr. -- Truex led 135 laps here last year before getting wiped out in a crash not of his making. But don't expect a repeat of that dominant performance; with rumors swirling around DEI's future, he'll be lucky to scratch into the Top 20.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: He wins everything else so why should Sunday be any different. Johnson arrived in rainy Atlanta with a 149-point lead -- the largest points lead with four races left in the season since the Chase was instituted in 2004. Johnson is a three-time winner at Atlanta, most recently in this race last year. His three wins are part of his eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts. He was 13th in the March race.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Edwards isn't going down without a fight and that fight comes at a track where he won his first career race. That was the first of his two victories here but he also has four top-five and six top-10 finishes in eight starts. He was 16th at Atlanta in March but he expects to improve on that Sunday.
Don't expect much from: Kyle Busch -- Stick a fork in him -- he's done.
  My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: At the risk of repeating myself, with the reward of being right again ... Why? Because it's Jimmie Johnson season.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- He's almost always in the hunt at the 1.5-mile oval and had an epic battle in beating Johnson to the line by .028 seconds in 2005.
Don't expect much from: Kyle Busch -- He won at this track in the spring. Otherwise it's been seven finishes of 12th or worse.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: He's in a must-win situation to keep his championship hopes alive and he's always fast at Atlanta, where bravery and high-speed car control are vital. Edwards has plenty of both and they'll be turned up to their limit. In eight starts at Atlanta, Edwards has two wins, a second, a third and two sevenths.
Keep an eye on: Jimmie Johnson -- With two early-season exceptions, Johnson has been a contender on the 1.5-mile tracks with a win at Kansas and seconds at Texas and Chicagoland. He had a strong run at Lowe's II, leading 67 laps before fading to sixth. Johnson is usually up front at Atlanta, too. He won both races last year, had a third victory in 2004 and has five more top-fives in 14 starts. The question is this: With such a large lead in the points, will Johnson race to win or drive the No. 48 conservatively with a top-five or top-10 in mind?
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- He has one top-10 and an eighth in six starts at Atlanta and finished 15th in March. Hamlin has been inconsistent on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, with two top-10s -- a fifth at Texas and ninth at Las Vegas -- in seven races.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Carl Edwards needs it more, so expect him to finish in victory lane at Atlanta. Edwards and points leader Jimmie Johnson have both been strong at half-mile tracks this year, and Edwards has a history of success in Atlanta. Johnson has such a large lead in the standings that he only needs to keep finishing high in the final four races of the Chase to win another title.
Keep an eye on: Clint Bowyer -- He has been consistent, finishing sixth in his last three starts at Atlanta. Bowyer is currently fifth in the standings and is closer to second-place Greg Biffle than Biffle is to points leader Johnson.
Don't expect much from: David Ragan -- David Ragan maybe be leading the race to finish in the lucky 13th spot in the Cup standings, the first position in the points out of the Chase, but he's got a bad track record in Atlanta. In three career starts, he has finished 23rd and 33rd twice.
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