A 6-pack of bold choices: Who makes the Chase?
With 15 races down in the 2016 season, 10 drivers have all but locked themselves into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by virtue of winning races already.
That leaves the remaining six Chase slots to be decided over the final 11 races of the Sprint Cup regular season.
The drivers who are already in:
-- Kyle Busch, who leads the series with three race victories;
-- Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, who each have won twice; and
-- Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, who have a single victory apiece.
So who joins these 10 when NASCAR's playoffs kick off at Chicagoland Speedway in September?
I'm going to go out on a limb and say these six:
6. AUSTIN DILLON -- Already enjoying the best year of his career, Dillon hasn't had the speed to win yet, but he has been consistent and the best performer among the full-time Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets. It might be close, but he should get in.
5. RYAN BLANEY -- If the Chase started tomorrow, Blaney would be in. That's no guarantee he holds on for another 11 races, but he certainly could. Blaney races like a veteran and with a major assist from Team Penske, the Wood Brothers are putting fast cars underneath Blaney every week.
4. KYLE LARSON -- In all probability, Larson, like Tony Stewart, is going to have to win to get in the Chase. But he shows every sign of being able to do so. He just needs to put it all together on a given Sunday and he'll be golden. And after his first win, he'll likely start winning often.
3. DALE EARNHARDT JR. -- We all know how important track position is in racing. Well, Earnhardt is in a good points position, which is very beneficial to him at this point. The only winless driver ahead of Earnhardt in points right now is his rookie teammate Chase Elliott.
2. TONY STEWART -- If you look at just the raw numbers, it's hard to make a case for Stewart, who will have to win in the next 11 races to get in. But Stewart is running a lot better lately, and in 2011 pulled off the most remarkable stretch run in NASCAR history. Let's not forget he is at his best in the heat of summer.
1. CHASE ELLIOTT -- Chew on this for a minute: Of the four drivers on the star-studded Hendrick Motorsports team, rookie Elliott has the most points, the most top-10 finishes and is tied with Jimmie Johnson for most top fives on the team. No way he misses the Chase.