Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Monday Night Football ... "Debacle"

Football fans, particularly Green Bay Packers' fans, have been up in arms since Monday night's game. My Facebook friends have posted about it. Every newscaster on every news network has offered his /  her two cents about the end of the game between the Packers and Seahawks. The so-called "experts" on ESPN and the NFL Network have dissected every second of the last play, but the fact is - what's done is done. Nothing can be changed. Now that I've listened to everyone else's opinion, I think it's time I offer mine.

Everyone knows I am a huge football fan. I love the game, particularly because of the strategy and chess match that goes into every play. While watching a football game, I like to try to guess what the offense and defense will do next. In addition, I'm a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I have been since I was a little boy back in the '70s, when they started winning Super Bowls. Each weekend during the NFL season, I'm always hoping for two things to happen : 1) the Steelers win, and 2) the Thugs a.k.a. Titans lose. Besides those two things, I don't really care what the other 30 NFL teams do. Therefore, I feel I can offer an unbiased, objective opinion as to the events of Monday Night Football this week.

I completely agree with everyone who feels that the "scab" / replacement officials are screwing up great numbers of calls and non-calls. I have seen more blown calls this season than in any other I can remember, and I've been watching football for 30+ years. One glaring example I saw on Sunday was when Raiders linebacker, #52, Phillip Wheeler crawled to Ben Roethlisberger, after being knocked down, and then took a cheap, illegal shot at Ben's knees. Ben was obviously in pain after the play, but no penalty flag was thrown. I could go on and on listing similar "no calls" and others that were blown when made, but we would be here all day. I'm sure many of you could put together a long list, too. The NFL needs to do something to end the "official" officials lockout and do so immediately.

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Wide receiver Gol...
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 24: Wide receiver Golden Tate #81 of the Seattle Seahawks wrestles with cornerback M.D. Jennings #43 of the Green Bay Packers after making a catch in the end zone to defeat the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on a controversial call by the officials at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Now, let's talk about the game on Monday night. The common theme circulating is that the Packers lost, because the replacement officials blew the final call of the game on the "Hail Mary." Most have said that there was offensive pass interference that was not called, and the Packers should have been rewarded with an interception instead of the Seahawks getting a touchdown even though both players landed on the ground simultaneously grasping the football. Normally, when their is simultaneous possession of the football, the ball is awarded to the offensive player as a catch. However, in the video, it appears that the Packer had "possession" of the football first, when the players were up in the air, and the offensive player didn't garner his half of the "possession" until later. Someone please correct me if I've got my facts wrong here.

I have also heard many people say that even if the Seahawks were awarded a touchdown, it should have been nullified, because Packers wide receiver Golden Tate was guilty of offensive pass interference before catching the game-winning touchdown. However, no offensive pass interference penalty was called. Here's the problem with that theory - on the NFL Network's NFL AM show the other morning, the Arizona Cardinals' All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald stated that on "Hail Mary" type plays, there is a long standing "understanding" between the officials and players that "anything goes." So, the no-call on offensive pass interference is irrelevant.

Who should the blame for the Packers Monday night loss to the Seahawks be placed on ? Is is fair to place their loss just on the replacement officials ? Packers fans and others are gonna be up in arms even more, but, in my opinion, the answer is a resounding "no." I think it is completely unfair to blame the outcome of that game on one missed call or non-call. In fact, I'm not even 100% sure that the officials blew the call in regards to the reception, since possession is not established until a player is on the ground and has made "a football type move."

So, who should be blamed for the Packers' loss ? The answer is very simple - the Packers, and no one else. Why ? Well, I believe the packers are to blame for the following four reasons :
  1. Penalties - the Packers were penalized 10 times for 127 yards in the game, including 6 penalties on defense that gave the Seahawks offense automatic first downs. These 6 penalties included 3 unnecessary roughness penalties, 1 roughing the passer penalty, 1 defensive holding penalty, and 1 defensive pass interference penalty that gave the Seahawks a first down and moved the ball 32 yards down the field to the Green Bay 25 yard line late in the game. These penalties all show a lack of discipline on the part of the Green Bay defense.
  2. Sacks - the Packers offensive line allowed All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rogers to be sacked 8 times in the first half alone. Four of those were on third down. The dude can't complete passes on his back, and you are not gonna win in the NFL if you don't protect your quarterback.
  3. 2-point conversion - if the Packers convert the 2-point conversion, after their touchdown in the 4th quarter, they're playing overtime with a chance to win the game. The 2-point attempt was poorly executed.
  4. The Packers won the Super Bowl year before last. They are a championship football team. Yet, they went into Seattle and played poorly. Let's be honest - when you match up the Packers and Seahawks player by player on paper, this game should have been no contest. The Packers should have been up by multiple touchdowns in the fourth quarter to where the last play wouldn't have mattered.
So, here's what it boils down to - the Green Bay Packers only have themselves to blame for the loss Monday night. The same thing happened to them that happened to my Steelers on Sunday. They played below the level they are capable of playing at to an inferior football team in that inferior football team's stadium, and it cost them. They lost a game they should have won easily, because they played poor, undisciplined football, and didn't protect their quarterback. They deserved to lose that game just as they did. They need to stop crying on their cheese, get over it, and get ready to play the Aints .... oops, I'm sorry - I mean the Saints at Lambeau on Sunday. If they keep dwelling on the Seahawks, the same thing will happen again.

And that folks is The Sheepdog's two cents.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

"Dr. Feelgood" Is "Loud" on Music Monday

As promised last week in my review of the Motley Crue / Kiss concert in Nashville, today is a Double Shot Music Monday. I'll play one music video of Motley Crue and one of Kiss. The songs will be of poplar classics each band is known for. Since Motley Crue played first on September 4th, I'll start with them.

The Crue classic I've chosen is "Dr. Feelgood." The song was recorded on the band's 1989 album of the same name. Even though it was recorded over 20 years ago, it still remains the band's highest charting single to date having reached #6.

The Dr. Feelgood album was recorded after the band completed drug rehab. At the time, the band's management was afraid that they might return home from their tour supporting the Girls, Girls, Girls album "... in body bags."

The song "Dr. Feelgood" is about one of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx's drug dealers. However, it seems there is a more important underlying theme to the song. As you watch the video and listen to the lyrics, it first shows a drug dealer living a cozy, comfortable lifestyle for a while. Then, it appears that near the end of the song and video, the band is trying to tell listeners that drugs will destroy you, as evidenced by them trashing their instruments and the cops raiding the drug dealer's home. The Crue knows the dangers of drugs as their careers were nearly destroyed by them. The video is embedded below or can be watched by clicking here.

Video #2 today is of KISS. It's got everything KISS is known for - the makeup, the outfits, the platform shoes, pyrotechnics, and yes ..... even Gene Simmons' tongue. You KISS Army members will enjoy this one. It's "I Love It Loud" from their 1982 album Creatures of the Night. It's embedded below or can be watched by clicking here. I have one request, though - you have to crank it up. I mean, c'mon man - you can only play a song titled "I Love It Loud" one way and that's .... LOUD. Right ?

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Firearms Friday - New Franchi Shotgun Now Available

The weekend is upon us, so let's start it off with something fun - like another Firearms Friday. Below is an announcement I received via e-mail the other day about a new shotgun that recently hit the market - the Franchi Affinity Compact Semi-Automatic Shotgun. This one might be worth a look, especially for a young shooter.

Franchi's New Affinity Compact Semi-Automatic Shotgun

ACCOKEEK, MD (September 19, 2012) –– Franchi proudly introduces a new short-stock semi-automatic model called, the Affinity Compact.  Integrating form and function, the Affinity Compact is the perfect gun for both young and small-statured shooters. It’s a sleek, perfectly balanced, semi-automatic shotgun that’s driven by the ultra-reliable Inertia® system.

The key feature of the Compact is its adjustable buttstock, which starts with a 12⅜-inch length-of-pull (LOP), and to which spacers can be added in ¼-inch increments, increasing the LOP to 13⅜-inches. As a young shooter grows, so grows the gun. When the time is appropriate, a full-size buttstock can be fitted to the Affinity Compact. A shim kit comes standard with the Compact, allowing for adjustment of drop and cast.

The Compact features a 24-inch barrel, slim fore end, and is light-weight for shots requiring a quick swing. Its refined design allows a responsiveness that few shotguns can claim.  Available in 20-gauge only, the Compact receiver is made of a lightweight, durable aluminum alloy that’s strengthened with steel inserts that ensure a solid steel-to-steel lock-up.  

An innovative light, fast and reliable self-loading shotgun, the Affinity Compact is right at home in every type of shooting situation, whether it’s hunting birds or busting clay targets. Shooters now have an Inertia® Driven, short-stock shotgun at an attractive price. Picking up the distinctive Compact gives new meaning to “feels right.”

SPECIFICATIONS: Gauge: 20-Gauge  Barrel Length: 24”  Chokes: IC, M 
Sights: Red fiber optic bar  Finish:  Black synthetic, Realtree® APG™ 
Stock Material: Synthetic  Average Weight: 5.5 lbs.  Overall Length: 43.375” and 44.375” 
Length of Pull: 12⅜” to 13⅜”  Drop at heel: Adjustable from 2” to 2.5” in 4 increments 
Drop at Comb: 1.5” (Adjustable with shim kit)  MSRP: $899 - $999

For the latest news and product information visit

Monday, September 17, 2012

Concert Review - Motley Crue / KISS

Today's Music Monday is the first one since my return from a three-week break. It also begins a slight change to Music Mondays. In fact, today's is gonna be different from anything I've done before - I'm gonna do a concert review.

Many of you may remember that back on a Music Monday in April, I shared with my readers about a summer concert series that was being dubbed as "The Concert of the Year" - the Motley Crue and KISS tour. As someone who has been a Motley Crue fan since middle school, I was very excited when my wife surprised me by getting tickets for us to attend the September 4th show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts about it and reviewing the show. I'm gonna grade both bands on four things - song mix, sound, special effects, and other. I'll grade them based on a typical A-F academic grading scale. I'll also not reveal too many specific details of the show, because the tour is not over yet. I don't want to completely spoil it for people who have tickets to the remaining dates.

Then, next week will be a "double shot" Monday of Motley Crue and KISS music to close out the month even though it will be the fourth Monday of the month instead of the second. Following that in October, and lasting through the end of the year, we will get back on our usual Music Monday schedule, but I will tone down the volume some. I will change things up by playing very little metal but more classic rock from the '80s, throw in some '70s, and other genres. However, for today, let's get on to the review of Motley Crue / KISS.

Song Mix

Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe (Photo credit: - bjornsphoto -)
The warmup band was called The Treatment. I had never heard of them before, and they were o.k., but when they were done, I was ready for Motley Crue. The Crue started their set, which lasted a little over an hour, with "The Saints of Los Angeles." They ended their set with my favorite all-time Crue song - "Kickstart My Heart." In between, they played a bunch of Crue classics, including "Wild Side," "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Dr. Feelgood," "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," "Shout at the Devil," "Home Sweet Home," and others. It was a great set except for one song - "Sex." I had not heard it before and wish I still hadn't. I would have given the Crue an A+ on the set, but "Sex" was so bad it pulled the grade down to an A- and probably should be a B.

KISS got on the stage after about a 30-minute intermission and started their set off great never letting up. They began with "Detroit Rock City" and finished with "Rock 'N Roll All Nite." They also played a little more than an hour performing classic after classic, including "I Love It Loud," "Lick It Up," "Heaven's On Fire," "Calling Dr. Love," "Love Gun," and many others. KISS gets a solid A for their set.


My analysis of the way the two bands sounded is very simple - Motley Crue sounded like amateurs at best and KISS sounded like pros. The difference in the sound of the two bands was like night and day. Motley Crue's sound was loud but extremely distorted and fuzzy, while KISS was loud but crystal clear. Motley Crue was so bad that I wore ear plugs (something I seldom do at concerts), and they didn't even filter out the distortion to an acceptable level. If I hadn't known all the songs they played, I wouldn't have recognized them nor the lyrics Vince Neil was singing. KISS, on the other hand, was so clear that I had to remove the ear plugs in order for the sound of the guitars to be nice and vivid and in order to hear everything clearly. Motley Crue was very disappointing in this area. They need to fire their sound guys (and / or gals) and hire the ones working for KISS. Motley Crue gets a D, and if I wasn't a fan it would likely be an F. KISS gets another A.

Special Effects

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Gene Simmons and P...
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of US rock group Kiss perform live on stage, for a one-off Independence Day show as a fundraiser for the Help for Heroes charity, at The Kentish Town Forum on July 4, 2012 in London, England. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Both bands are known for using pyrotechnics and other gimmicks in their shows. They didn't disappoint that night. Both bands used a number of explosions, lasers, and fireworks during their set. These were awesome on both sides. However, there were two things I didn't care for. First, Motley Crue's use of "the exotic dancers," as my wife called them, didn't add anything to the show. They were clothed, but barely. I found myself thinking, "If I had wanted to see strippers, I would have went to a strip joint. It would have been cheaper than buying a concert ticket." On second thought, maybe not. If I had went to such an establishment, my wife would have killed me, so technically it would not have been "cheaper."

The second thing I didn't care for was Gene Simmons "blood-spitting" act. I know it's his gimmick, and he's been doing it for years. I know it's one of the things he's known for. I get that, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. On special effects, I'll give both Motley Crue and KISS B's marking them down a little due to the two things mentioned.


Some may say I'm a little picky with my "other" category. Here, I'm gonna evaluate something that has always been a pet peeve of mine at rock concerts - the band doing a lot of talking in between songs. It drives me nuts. I don't buy a ticket to listen to them run them mouths. I buy a ticket to listen to their music. This is one area that .38 Special excels in. I've heard them play 3 or 4 times, and each time they didn't do a bunch of talking in between songs. They just played and played and played. Plus, generally when rock musicians get to talking, it leads to a bunch of cussing. Excessive cussing bugs me not just at rock concerts but in life in general as well. If that's the only way you know how to talk, then let me give you a piece of advice - just keep your mouth shut, because it makes you look like an imbecile.

Now, before I go to far down this road, let me say two things. First, I understand that cussing is a part of rock 'n roll. I get that and some cussing doesn't bother me. However, when someone or someones insist on using bad language every other word, it turns me off, because it is uncalled for. Second, I am not someone who is all high and mighty and expects no one to ever cuss. Let's be honest - at some point, each and every one of us is gonna get mad or stub a toe and utter something we shouldn't. Heck, sometimes we occasionally cuss as part of every day conversation. I get that, too. I'm guilty of it. Furthermore, I think that for any of us to expect a complete absence of bad language in every day life is unrealistic, because we are human. Nobody's perfect.

I bring cussing up as part of my review of this concert because of the excessive amount of it that Motley Crue, particularly Tommy Lee and Vince Neil, spewed. I know they pride themselves on being the "bad boys of rock 'n roll" but what I heard on September 4th was ridiculous. It was as if Tommy and Vince were having a contest to see which one of them was the "best cusser." I've seen Motley Crue in concert twice before - in 1989 during the Dr. Feelgood Tour and in 1994 in support of their self-titled album Motley Crue, when John Corabi was lead singer. They used some bad language then but nothing of the magnitude they did the other night. Instead of mellowing as they get older, they are simply getting raunchier. I found myself thinking, "Guys, we bought tickets to hear you play your music, not cuss your heads off. If that's what I had wanted to hear, there's many other places I could have gone to do so, and it would have been a lot cheaper. Shut up and play." So, in the "other" category, the Crue boys get a big fat F. I'm not cutting them a break here like I did on their sound.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Gene Simmons of US...
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Gene Simmons of US rock group Kiss performs live on stage, for a one-off Independence Day show as a fundraiser for the Help for Heroes charity, at The Kentish Town Forum on July 4, 2012 in London, England. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Here's the interesting thing about "other" in regards to this concert. Just as Motley Crue cussed their heads off, KISS did NOT use one single word of profanity - none, nada, zilch. Gene Simmons even kept his language clean. I was surprised, but pleasantly so. KISS put on an awesome show without using any profanity. Why couldn't Motley Crue do the same ? KISS proved that a band can put on a great rock 'n roll show without the cussing. Therefore, they get an A++.


My review may come off as if I did not enjoy the show. The fact is that I did for one simple reason - KISS. September 4th was the first time I have ever seen KISS in concert, but it will likely not be the last. Their show, including the music, their loud, clear sound, the pyrotechnics, and the song set was awesome. They were even in the makeup, platform shoes, and outfits they are famous for. It was professionally done to say the least. Overall, I'll give them an A. Nicely done guys. Keep on rockin', please.

On the other hand, Motley Crue's part of the show was poor, at best. They acted like, and sounded like, rebellious teenagers who were still practicing in their parents' garage. The only band I've ever heard sound worse, and I've been going to rock concerts for 25 years, was The Bullet Boys when they opened for Cinderella in 1989. Even during their 1994 tour when Vince Neil was absent and John Corabi was the lead singer, Motley Crue sounded better. I expected better, and I know Motley Crue can sound better. I'm giving Motley Crue's show a C, and I am being very generous in doing so. These guys either need to hang it up or regroup and get back to focusing on the music like they did in the '80s. If they don't, this will likely be the last Crue show I'll attend.

Sorry Motley Crue, but here's the deal, and it's very simple - it's about the music, not your mouth. I've been a fan for years because of your music and nothing else. KISS carried the show and bailed you out on September 4th, or I'd be asking for a refund.
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who Will Win NASCAR's 2012 Chase ?

It's hard to believe it's been three weeks since my last post. Time has flown by, and I needed the break. It's also hard to believe that NASCAR's 2012 "regular season" is already over, and it's time for the 10 Race Playoff known as "The Chase for the Championship."

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 10:  (Back row L-R) T...
RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 10: (Back row L-R) Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Power of Pride Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, (front row L-R) Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Kellogg's/Cheez-it Ford, Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army-9/11 Chevrolet, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Ollie's Bargain Outlet Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, pose after clinching spots in the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 10, 2011 in Richmond, Virginia. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
When the players for the Chase were set last Saturday night at Richmond, there were some surprises. For instance, who would have thought that Kyle "Whiny" Busch would choke away his shot at making The Chase, or that Jeff Gordon would squeak in because of it ? Gordon has had bad luck on top of bad luck this year. Additionally, who would have thought at the beginning of the year that Carl Edwards would not make The Chase and be winless ? Or, that Michael Waltrip racing would have two cars in it ? It's been a strange year for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, and who knows - it may get even stranger before it's over in November.

When The Chase starts this weekend in Chicago, many of the usual players will be involved. Defending Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart will be trying to repeat. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have both made The Chase again but still seeking their first Cup, and Jimmie Johnson will be trying to become a 6-Time Champion. What about Dale Jr. ? He's had the most consistent season of his career since joining Hendrick Motorsports. Could this be the year that he finally joins his dad in being called "Champ" ? In two months, we'll find out, but today The Sheepdog is gonna give his pick as to who will win the 2012 Sprint Cup.

The following twelve drivers qualified for The Chase. They are listed in order by seed, name, number of wins (if any), and by how may points they'll start The Chase trailing number one seeded Denny Hamlin :
  • 1st seed - Denny Hamlin, 4 wins
  • 2nd (tied)  - Jimmie Johnson, 3 wins, -3 points
  • 2nd (tied) - Tony Stewart, 3 wins, -3 points
  • 2nd (tied) - Brad Keselowski, 3 wins, -3 points
  • 5th (tied) - Greg Biffle, 2 wins, -6 points
  • 5th (tied) - Clint Bowyer, 2 wins, -6 points
  • 7th (tied) - Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 1 win, -9 points
  • 7th (tied) - Matt Kenseth, 1 win, -9 points
  • 9th (tied) - Kevin Harvick, -12 points
  • 9th (tied) - Martin Truex, Jr., -12 points
  • 11th Wildcard - Kasey Kahne, 2 wins, -12 points
  • 12th Wildcard - Jeff Gordon, 1 win, -12 points
Before I get too far into my prognostication as to who will win the championship, let me go ahead and weed out the drivers whom I think definitely will not win the championship and tell you why. Let me warn you ahead of time that two of these will likely shock you. I think some of these will even be out of the hunt quickly. They are :
  1. Kasey Kahne - has been bitten repeatedly by bad luck this year.
  2. Martin Truex, Jr. - drives for Michael Waltrip Racing. Nuff said.
  3. Clint Bowyer - great driver but also drives for Michael Waltrip Racing. His goose is cooked.
  4. Matt Kenseth - has had poor performances and bad luck in previous Chases - it will continue.
  5. Greg Biffle - always chokes in the Chase. He's a lot like Peyton Manning was in college - he can't win the big game.
  6. Jimmie Johnson - I'm sure many are already yelling at their computer and saying, "Sheepdog, you're out of your mind !!" Am I ? Johnson has had more bad luck and mechanical failures this year than in previous seasons. I think it will continue in The Chase. No "Mr. 6-Time" this year.
  7. Denny Hamlin - The ones that didn't yell at their computer over my Jimmie Johnson prediction are yelling now. You guys (and gals) just chill out and hear me out. Even though Denny has won more races (4) this year than any other driver, he always blows it in The Chase - always. So, even if he's still in the hunt going into Homestead in the last race, he'll find a way to lose it again there. It'll be more heartbreak for Denny this year. Maybe he should stick to golf.
So, after eliminating those seven drivers, we are left with five that I think have a legitimate shot at winning the title if things go their way. They are defending champion Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Gordon. I know it's a bit of a Motley Crew and some of you are scratching your heads thinking, "Sheepdog has definitely lost it. Maybe he should have taken a longer blog break." It's an especially odd lot when you consider that one of the five, Jeff Gordon, just squeaked into The Chase by three measly points when Kyle Busch choked and another, Kevin Harvick, hasn't won a race this year. However, I believe that the 2012 Champ will come out of this group of five. So, hang on.

First, let's talk about the two drivers that could probably be considered the sentimental fan favorites.
NASCAR auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks wi...
NASCAR auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks with members of the press at Hendrick Motorsports headquarters outside Charlotte, N.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia
Dale Jr. is having his best season since leaving DEI for Hendrick. He's been consistent and has won a race. He's raced in his dad's shadow week in and week out for years. I felt like during the first 26 races this year, he could have won more of them if he had been more aggressive at the finish. I think if he wants to win the championship, he has to continue doing what's he's been doing but step it up a little and win 2 or 3 of the ten Chase races. If he does that, he could win his first cup. If he doesn't, he'll have to wait until 2013. As an Earnhardt fan, I'll be pulling for him. If Junior does win it, it will only be the third time in NASCAR Sprint Cup history that both father and son have won the championship.

In the last three races, Jeff Gordon has been red hot finishing 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd. Yes, he squeaked into The Chase, but he did so by overcoming an extremely ill-handling race car last week at Richmond to finish 2nd. He nearly won the week before at Atlanta. I suspect after the Richmond comeback, the fire to win a 5th Championship is burning hot in Gordon's gut. It's no secret that he's sick of hearing about "Ol' 5-Time" Jimmie Johnson. Plus, the dude knows how to win championships having four under his belt already. If Gordon can stay away from the bad luck that has plagued him all year, I think he's got a good chance to become "Ol' 5-Time" himself. As they talk about in the NFL at playoff time, Gordon is peaking at the right time. Keep an eye on him the next ten races.

Kevin Harvick has just narrowly missed winning a couple of Sprint Cup Championships. He's driven to be the best, and he's hungry to win not only races but also titles. Another thing going for him is that his car owner, Richard Childress, has won championship after championship in NASCAR, including six with Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel of his cars. He knows what it takes, and Harvick knows what it takes just to get in the position to have the opportunity to win one. If these guys win a race or two during The Chase, Harvick could pick up his first title as a driver and Childress could pick up his 7th as a car owner. However, they have to win races to pull it off. For us who have followed NASCAR for years, it would be nice to see Childress win another one, and I suspect The Intimidator would be grinning when it's over.

Brad Keselowski is one of the hardest charging drivers in the Sprint Cup Series today. If the checkered flag is in sight and within reach, you better get out of this dude's way. Kyle Busch found that out this year and in incidents with Keselowski in years past. Keselowski is also backed by an owner, Roger Penske, that knows how to win titles. If you're a gambler who likes a Cinderella story, Keselowski might be your guy for this Chase.

There's one driver left of the twelve Chasers who I haven't talked about yet - Tony Stewart. Tony will be
English: Tony Stewart, NASCAR, Stewart-Haas Ra...
English: Tony Stewart, NASCAR, Stewart-Haas Racing, Sprint Cup Series, Chevy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
the first to tell you that even though he's already won three races this year, his performance has not lived up to his standards. In fact, at Richmond last week, he struggled badly for a while before fighting back to finish fourth and even led the race briefly scoring a bonus point. There was a concern that he might not stay in the top-ten in points and have to settle for a wild-card entry to get into The Chase. If he had slipped out of the top-ten and taken a wild-card, he would have lost the nine bonus points he received as a result of his three wins. Then, instead of entering The Chase tied for the 2nd seed, he would have been the 11th seed.

I'm picking Tony Stewart to win the 2012 Sprint Cup Championship for one main reason - the dude just finds a way to win. In winning the championship last year, he didn't win a single race before The Chase started. Then, he won 5 of the 10 Chase races. When the season ends at the checkered flag in Homestead, Stewart will have back to back championships and his fourth overall tying Jeff Gordon for fourth on the all-time list.

Now, come Sunday it will be time to sit back, and see if I get it right. Hopefully, I'll be more successful with this prognostication than I was last year with the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl. Man, that was a debacle.

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