The dog days of summer are here.

The 2012 Sprint Cup schedule will return to tracks where it ran earlier this year. None of the tracks we see between now and the Chase will actually be a Chase race. Coupled with a points race that is mellow, at best, and it would be easy to change the channel for the next few weeks. Here are three reasons to stay tuned:

The quest to replace AJ Allmendinger:

Joey Logano, Brian Vickers, Trevor Bayne and Sam Hornish Jr. fight for the right to be Brad Keselowksi’s running buddy. This is a hidden gem of an opportunity for the right person.

The quest for Roush Fenway Racing to stay relevant:
Carl Edwards looks lost. Matt Kenseth looks like he has one foot out the door. Greg Biffle looks like he’s in a slump. Maybe all are gearing up for the Chase. But I need to see something before my fake money goes there.

The quest for NASCAR to have an exciting race:
The Brickyard 400 was rough. It’s been hard to not DVR your way through the last two months, and that’s not just because TNT offered race coverage. There’s more to racing than green flag pit stops.  Maybe mandatory cautions weren’t such a bad idea.

Something will change in the next five weeks. Hopefully, it’s not my luck.  Up a fake 602 dollars after Jimmie Johnson’s win at the Brickyard, here are my fake picks for the sake of your entertainment.

20 fake dollars on Denny Hamlin at 7/1

Nobody has led more laps here over the last five years than Hamlin.

10 fake dollars on Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 10/1

The #88 ran well here earlier this year. The dude wants another win and runs well on big tracks.

10 fake dollars on Joey Logano at 15/1
This is really close to must win, not just for the Chase, but for his job next year. It’s not fair, but at least it’s a good track for such a critical race.

5 fake dollars on Martin Truex Jr. at 25/1

If there’s any driver who might fall out of the Chase, it’s Chowder Man. Mark Martin ran well here; maybe they steal his setup or the car itself for that matter.

5 fake dollars on Clint Bowyer at 30/1

Because I want to win a 30/1 long shot this year.

Here’s what The Spread thinks. Enjoy the race, I hope, and insert random catchphrase here.
Jimmie Johnson 6/1
Denny Hamlin 7/1
Kyle Busch 8/1
Tony Stewart 10/1
Matt Kenseth 10/1
Greg Biffle 10/1
Kasey Kahne 10/1
Dale Earnhardt Jr 10/1
Jeff Gordon 12/1
Carl Edwards 15/1
Brad Keselowski 15/1
Kevin Harvick 15/1
Mark Martin 15/1
Joey Logano 15/1
Martin Truex Jr 25/1
Ryan Newman 30/1
Clint Bowyer 30/1
Juan Pablo Montoya 100/1
Paul Menard 100/1
Jamie McMurray 100/1
Kurt Busch 100/1
Marcos Ambrose 100/1
Jeff Burton 100/1
Sam Hornish Jr 100/1
David Gilliland 300/1
Regan Smith 300/1
Bobby Labonte 300/1
David Ragan 300/1
Aric Almirola 300/1
Field (Any Other Driver) 50/1