|Not pictured: Ryan Newman, because he didn't qualify.|
Above are my predictions for the 2016 Nascar Chase for the Sprint Cup, with Chris Buescher as the 2016 Sprint Cup Champion. Impossible, you say? Well, here’s how he’s going to do it:
ROUND OF 16
Chicagoland: WINNER Kyle Busch. The excitement of the “last race to the Chase” at Richmond quickly wears off with a dull affair at Chicagoland, where Kyle Busch leads a Toyota brigade to dominate the top-10. About the only DNF comes when Austin Dillon blows an engine late in the race, forcing him to run to the comfort of his smoking-hot fiancee.
New Hampshire: WINNER Kyle Busch. The “Kyle Busch Train” keeps on a-rolling as Rowdy outlasts a strong performance by brother Kurt Busch to visit victory lane in what is dubbed the “Busch Clash”, a term that is quickly forgotten. Everybody is talking about the fierce on-track battle between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano which ends with Logano getting punted into the wall, torpedoing his Chase chances. The two snipe at each other through the media for the rest of the week, as they are wont to do.
DOVER: WINNER Jimmie Johnson. “The Comeback” begins at his greatest track, with Jimmie Johnson putting on a clinic at The Monster Mile. A massive early-race wreck on the backstretch wipes out a number of cars, including Chasers Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray. McMurray takes the hit in stride, saying that “he’ll be back next week”, while Truex complains that the gray cloud that had been hovering over him all season caused a slick spot on the track. Avoiding the wreck is Chris Buescher, who records his third-straight 20th-25th-place finish, allowing him to squeak by into the next round. ELIMINATED: Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray
ROUND OF 12
CHARLOTTE: WINNER Carl Edwards. Cousin Carl outlasts Kyle Larson on a fuel-mileage gamble, watching Larson and others run out of gas in the waning laps. Attempts to repaint the SAFER barrier as “Carlotte” are abandoned midway through for obvious flow reasons. Kevin Harvick drops out of contention after speeding on pit road on the final round of pit stops, which he blames on his crew for “surprising (him) by doing the job right for once”.
KANSAS: WINNER Chase Elliott. NBC finds itself in hot water after they hype “The Kurse of Kyle at Kansas” throughout the race, then, as Kyle has a mechanical failure with 20 laps to go, they announce “THE KKK HAS STRUCK AGAIN!!!”. Chase Elliott inherits the lead and pops out of his car in Victory Lane with his new pit hat, Make America Chase Again. Tony Stewart is clipped into the wall early by Ryan Newman, who is immediately parked by RCR for “tearing up Ty’s equipment”.
TALLADEGA: WINNER Matt Kenseth. After a week’s worth of hype about how “anything can happen at ‘Dega”, we get one of the strangest races of all-time, in which we see nothing but green-flag racing for almost the entire race. On the white-flag lap, however, twenty different drivers “make their move to the front” at the same time, leading to a 38-car wreck. The only cars not involved are those of Matt Kenseth (leader at the time) and Chris Buescher (hanging in the back). ELIMINATED: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart
ROUND OF 8
MARTINSVILLE: WINNER Jeff Gordon. Substituting for Nascar’s most popular driver, Jeff Gordon makes all the Alex Bowman fans in the stands happy by repeating his success of 2015. Gordon dedicates the victory to fellow competitor Kurt Busch, who suffers a punctured tire from the lead after being shot at from the stands by a sniper known only as “Datricia Priscoll”.
TEXAS: WINNER Denny Hamlin. In what becomes known as “The Flu Race”, Denny Hamlin manages to win one of the longest races of the Chase despite suffering from food poisoning believed to have been caused by consuming irregular “factory second” M&M’s celebrating honoring teammate “Koil Bush”. Joey Logano finally gets his revenge on Matt Kenseth, but not by causing his early-race handling problems, but by telling him post-race, “Your Mom”.
PHOENIX: WINNER Brad Keselowski. Brad Keselowski, after having finished well off the pace in the previous two races, intentionally breaks his foot post-Texas, allowing him to nearly lap the field at Phoenix for the win, avoiding a spinning Carl Edwards on the final lap (several laps down due to “the guacamole incident”). Ironically his win is almost completely overshadowed by the announcement that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be returning to full-time Cup competition at Daytona in 2017 AND will have a slightly-different color #88 on the side of his car. Chris Buescher finishes 20th, making the next round of the Chase by a single point over Chase Elliott, who is later seen punching himself in the face. ELIMINATED: Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott.
HOMESTEAD-MIAMI: WINNER Tony Stewart. Tony Stewart shocks the sports world, as with the eyes of the universe on him in his final race, Smoke manages to hold off a hard-charging Kyle Larson to win the final Nascar race of his career. Perhaps acknowledging the specialness of the situation, Nascar allows Stewart leeway as he punts Brad Keselowski AND Denny Hamlin out of the way midway through the race during a restart. That restart happens to have been caused by a bizarre transmission failure on Jimmie Johnson’s car, which leads to a meltdown on the radio in which Johnson calls crew chief Chad Knaus “unprepared”, and Knaus fires back that Johnson “isn’t very nice”. By virtue of finishing as the last car on the lead lap, Chris Buescher is the highest-finishing of the Championship Four, earning him the title of the 2016 Nascar Sprint Cup Champion.