Tony Stewart ruined my favorite column of the year.

Every year, I would write an article using past data to explain why drivers wouldn’t win the Chase. Tony Stewart blew a hole through half of those theories, making this year’s column moot. With that in mind, here are three things to think about when trying to predict a 2012 Sprint Cup Champion.

Running Buddies:
I still remember Tony Stewart passing Jeff Burton late in a race to pick up an extra point. Turns out that point won Whopper Man the Sprint Cup. Will manufacturers or drivers team up? And how will that impact Brad Keselowski, who is his own one man wolfpack.

Silly Season:
Matt Kenseth is out the door, leaving Greg Biffle in a bit of a lurch. Joey Logano might be Keselowski’s best friend. Then you have drivers and teams thinking about 2013 work. The margin for even one dud race might be minimal to nonexistent.

Kurt is trying to find a job. Kyle’s face might explode at any given point in time. Both have rivalries with racing’s biggest names. It would make for quite the story.

My success picking races is far from a happy story right now. Another loss has me up just a fake 352 dollars heading into the first Chase race.

10 fake dollars on Tony Stewart at 8/1
Only guy who was won at Chicagoland three times….I kind of have to do this.

10 fake dollars on Jeff Gordon at 12/1
Gordon might be racing’s hottest drivers, and that’s before he added the mustache.

10 fake dollars on Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 12/1
Chicagoland is like Michigan, where the #88 won earlier this year. If this team is going to win a title, they will need to win a race.

10 fake dollars on Kevin Harvick at 12/1
Harvick is one of only two drivers to have ever won at Chicagoland. Harvick also hasn’t won in a year. In the last two Chase races, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer surprised people.

5 fake dollars on Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer at 20/1

Because I have to win with one of these two at some point.

In previous years, I’ve rallied here. Let’s see what happens Sunday afternoon. Here’s what The Spread thinks, and insert random catchphrase here.

Jimmie Johnson 7/1
Tony Stewart 8/1
Matt Kenseth 8/1
Greg Biffle 8/1
Denny Hamlin 8/1
Kyle Busch 10/1
Kasey Kahne 12/1
Carl Edwards 12/1
Brad Keselowski 12/1
Kevin Harvick 12/1
Jeff Gordon 12/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr 12/1
Mark Martin 20/1
Martin Truex Jr 20/1
Clint Bowyer 20/1
Ryan Newman 40/1
Marcos Ambrose 50/1
Joey Logano 50/1
Kurt Busch 100/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 100/1
Jeff Burton 100/1
Paul Menard 100/1
Aric Almirola 100/1
Sam Hornish Jr 100/1
Jamie McMurray 100/1
Bobby Labonte 300/1
Danica Patrick 300/1
Regan Smith 300/1
Trevor Bayne 300/1
Field (Any Other Driver) 50/1