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NASCAR Panel: Week one of The Chase

With rumored Chase changes in ’11, the number of contenders may change.

How many should be in?

Ken Mays: It seems like the past five or six years that NASCAR has tried to make sure that a good number of big names are in the Chase and have changed the numbers around each year to do it. I think they should pick a number and stick with it.

Jason Cannon: For the last two years, the only interesting battle has been for the last two spots. I don’t think that will change much if it’s 10, 12 or eight

teams. Fourteen teams, or anything more than 12, is too many.

Mark Trest: Twelve competitors is enough. To me, it’s like the playoffs. There is a reason only the elite make it. You start adding everyone to the mix and you make the regular season meaningless. I’m still a fan of the ‘old’ points system. I dont like the fact that a driver, such as Harvick this year, has been the man all season but if he has a bad Chase, he won’t be the champion. It’s already happened to several since the inception of the Chase.

Bigger surprise: ’09 runner-up Mark Martin missing the Chase or Denny Hamlin, after ACL surgery, being the top seed?

Ken Mays: I think Denny in the Chase is more of a surprise than Martin not being in it. I would have never thought a person driving and winning like Hamlin did after knee surgery. I guess it all came down to the age gap. Martin is and will continue to be a good contender, but as for hanging with the young guns? I think his best bet would be to give up on winning a Chase and walk out.

Jason Cannon: Martin missing the Chase is a huge surprise. He was so strong last year, it looked like it was just a matter of time before he won a championship, but

he hasn’t really been a contender since early in the season.

Mark Trest: Martin not making the Chase is the biggest surprise, especially since he ran so strong last season. One would had to have thought that he was in position to make another run at a championship this season.

Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have three of the top four seeds. Which stable has the best title chances?

Ken Mays: I believe that Gibbs Racing has the best of the best when it comes to winning races. The teams just seem to click when it comes down to the wire and they have really good consistence in winning races.

Jason Cannon: You have to give the edge to Hendrick. Jimmie Johnson is the man to beat until someone actually beats him. Gibbs, namely Hamlin, has been impressive all year but as long as the 48 is in the hunt, he’s the favorite.

Mark Trest: In sports, there is an old saying, the champion is the champion until dethroned. Gotta like Hendrick’s chances again. They still have the best drivers, the most money, the best engineering. They are royalty in NASCAR. Gibbs, however, is closing the gap. Should be fun to watch.

If Mark Martin ends his career without a Cup title, how does that impact his legacy?

Ken Mays: Martin was a great ambassador for NASCAR. His willingness to help others in the sport was huge and his classy way of running a good clean race will be his legacy.

Jason Cannon: The title is the only thing that is keeping him from being an all-time

“great.” Look at Dan Marino. He held almost every significant NFL passing record but always falls in line behind Montana and Elway because they won Super Bowl rings.

Mark Trest: If anyone dismisses Martin’s career as a failure only because he never won a Championship, they aren’t much of a fan in my opinion. He is only one of the best to ever grace this sport, and one of the most respected and trusted drivers in the garage and on the track. He’s already a champion in my eyes.

Who is your pick to win this weekend?

Ken Mays: I am picking Kasey Kane this week to win. I believe he has a good chance at this weekend’s track.

Jason Cannon: Jimmie Johnson. I look for him to roar into the Chase and remind everyone that he’s still the man to beat.

Mark Trest: Jimmie Johnson won New Hampshire back in June, and now that the Chase has started, look for the 48 to once again show us why he is the four-time Champion. He may not win it all when it’s said and done, but the championship still has to go through him.