The pressure is on as twelve  NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers get set for the 2013 Sprint Championship Run.  Those  who made the Chase will battle each other for the next ten races to see who will be this year's champion.

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Congrats to drivers Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Ryan Newman who all made the 2013 Chase.

This was a very chaotic season that saw perennial contenders Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin felled by injuries, four-time champ Jeff Gordon miss the playoffs, and a major cheating scandal on the last regular season race.  However, that is (mainly) behind us and now I'd share my thoughts on what to expect for the ten-race Chase battle that unfolds this weekend in Chicagoland.

My top picks: 

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  1. Jimmie Johnson gets my nod as the favorite to bring home his sixth championship.  He has struggled badly the last month but traditionally he and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, have used the last few regular season races to tinker with future setup packages.  I think this year will likely be no different and I expect a quick turnaround will put the 48 team on top.
  2. Matt Kenseth will be a real contender for the championship.  He’s been the most consistent (he had the points lead at the end of the regular season).  He’s been a champion (although that was ten years ago) and knows how to win.  I put him behind Johnson because I think Rick Hendricks’s Chevrolet engine program is slightly more reliable than what the Gibbs’ boys are receiving from Toyota Racing Development.  If the equipment holds up he’ll be right there.

Next best bets:

1.      Kyle Busch has had a great year.  He’s won a lot.  He’s been more consistent.  His emotions haven’t got the better of him.  He is capable of reeling of wins in bunches.  In the past he has faded in the Chase.  This year may be different.  His talent is unquestioned.  If he translates his recent gains in maturity and consistency to the Chase he could very well win it all.

2.      Carl Edwards is my favorite so I’m biased.  He hasn’t been as fast as Johnson all year.  But he has been quite consistent and he won in Richmond last week so momentum might kick in.  I’ll be pulling for him, as I always do.

My long shot possibilities:

1.      Kasey Kahne.  He can get on hot streaks.  It’s possible he could pull off a 2011 Tony Stewart style surge and snatch the Cup.

2.      Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle.  Very experienced, very mature, and very consistent drivers.  They rarely make mistakes and with some help here or there they could win this.  I think they will both be in striking distance throughout the Chase.

There you have it!  That’s my Chase breakdown.  Who do you think will hoist the Cup this fall?