New year. Same reality.

Every year, the Chase begins. At first, all the drivers are within a few points of each other, legit contenders. Every week, a driver or two has a run of bad luck and goes out of contention. With three races left, three drivers find themselves in a solid place to win the 2011 Sprint Cup. The names might be new, but the same questions still linger

Why are people not in the Chase still driving?

If you’re not in the Chase, you shouldn’t race. Brian Vickers might be a great guy. But that team’s only releveance all season involved late race cautions that impacted last week’s finish. A Cleveland Indian can’t throw at Albert Pujols and knock him out of the World Series. This happens in NASCAR.

Why can’t any race winner automatically qualify for the Chase?

That rule would have kept David Ragan employed, Regan Smith important and a whole country curious about how Marcos Ambrose does every weekend. Winning should matter more.

Why can’t we get a little more Charlie Sheen in NASCAR?

Carl Edwards has one win and is in prime condition to win the Sprint Cup. Jeff Gordon has three wins and has no chance. This seems wrong. No, this is wrong. There needs to be more incentive to win, whether it’s adding points to the winner or taking fewer points away from someone who finishes 20th or worse. That way, if you go for it on fuel and fail, you’re not done for the season.
New year. Same reality. Up a fake five dollars for the year, here are my fake picks this weekend for the sake of entertainment.

20 fake dollars on Matt Kenseth at 7/1

Kenseth has the best average finishing position at Texas Motor Speedway over the last five years. Were it not for a ridiculous wreck last week, he would be a Chase contender.

20 fake dollars on Carl Edwards at 7/1
If Edwards is a champion, he needs more than one win.  He has the third most laps led in the last five years. It’s a 1.5 mile track. Why not?

10 fake dollars on Brad Keselowski on 20/1
Dude still has a shot?? Right?? Maybe??

New year. Same reality, just with different names at the top. Here’s what The Spread thinks, and insert random catchphrase here.

Jimmie Johnson 7/1
Matt Kenseth 7/1
Carl Edwards 7/1
Tony Stewart 7/1
Kyle Busch 9/1
Kevin Harvick 9/1
Jeff Gordon 9/1
Denny Hamlin 10/1
Clint Bowyer 13/1
Greg Biffle 15/1
Kurt Busch 20/1
Brad Keselowski 20/1
Kasey Kahne 20/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr 25/1
Ryan Newman 30/1
David Ragan 35/1
Mark Martin 40/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 40/1
David Reutimann 50/1
Jeff Burton 50/1
Martin Truex Jr 50/1
Joey Logano 50/1
Field 20/1