The first race of The Chase tells a story. But even this one seems stunning for Hollywood.

After Tony Stewart’s fuel mileage cost me 50 fakes dollars, leaving me down a fake 130 bucks for the season, we know there are drivers who seem to be on the outside looking in. Others find themselves in thin ice. Some are looking awfully good. Who fits is what’s surprising.

Outside Looking In

In theory, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart are toast. Someone tenth or worse in the standings at any point in The Chase have never won it. Amazing how many thousands of miles a driver can run over the course of a year and how one gallon of gas could have such a massive impact for Whopper Man.

On Thin Ice

In theory, Jimmie Johnson is on thin ice. The new King is down 92 points. If Johnson dips another 46 points this week, Johnson’s comeback would be historic never before seen stuff. That doesn’t mean said comeback is impossible. But that’s not the kind of history Captain Lowe’s wants to make.
In theory, Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are all checking in at the same location at Johnson. Each is awfully close to the same threshold Johnson is at right now.

Looking Good

In theory, the race is already over. 2007 was the only year a driver came back from the pack to catch the leaders. Every other year, a driver tied for the lead or within 35 points of the lead took home the title.

This year that leaves one driver in prime position to call himself champion. Denny Hamlin. That’s it. Clint Bowyer would have been there had the whole failed inspection snafu not occurred. This stuns me too.

By the way, I didn’t forget about Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. They don’t fit in the “On This Ice” category being 45 and 62 points down respectively. But neither can afford to lay an egg, and history suggests a comeback is unlikely.

In case you’re wondering, I do plan on making picks this week. But they’re really simple and slightly boring.

50 fake dollars on Jimmie Johnson at 2/1:
Johnson led 225 laps at Dover back in May. He swept Dover in 2009. Dude even has the second best average finishing position of any active driver. And I picked him to win the entire Chase. Seems like a perfect place to mount the comeback eh?

Enjoy Sunday’s race. Here’s what The Spread thinks, and insert random catchphrase here.

Jimmie Johnson 2/1
Kyle Busch 2/1
Kurt Busch 6/1
Kevin Harvick 7/1
Tony Stewart 7/1
Jeff Gordon 7/1
Denny Hamlin 7/1
Matt Kenseth 8/1
Clint Bowyer 9/1
Greg Biffle 19/2
Carl Edwards 19/2
Juan Pablo Montoya 10/1
Jeff Burton 10/1
Jamie McMurray 10/1
Martin Truex Jr 14/1
David Reutimann 14/1
Ryan Newman 16/1
Kasey Kahne 16/1
Joey Logano 16/1
Mark Martin 26/1
Brad Keselowski 33/1
Paul Menard 50/1
David Ragan 75/1
Sam Hornish Jr 75/1
Reed Sorrenson 100/1
Scott Speed 100/1
Elliott Sadler 125/1
Joe Nemechek 150/1
Bobby Labonte 150/1
Robby Gordon 150/1
Regan Smith 150/1
JJ Yeley 200/1
Travis Kvapil 200/1
David Gilliland 200/1
Dave Blaney 200/1
Tony Raines 250/1
Scott Riggs 250/1
Mike Bliss 250/1
Landon Cassill 250/1
Casey Mears 250/1
Jeff Green 250/1