Tony Stewart favored to win the Cup
Owner Jack Roush has five cars in the championship Chase.
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
It appears the experts favor Tony Stewart to win the Nextel Cup championship.
Five of seven who made predictions on NASCAR.com for the 10-race playoff to determine the champion picked Stewart. One selected Jimmie Johnson to take the title and one voted for Kurt Busch.
Actually, picking a car from Roush Racing to win would be the smartest bet.
Owner Jack Roush has five cars (Busch, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth) in the Chase, and he has won the past two Cup championships with Kenseth and Busch.
Stewart had built a 206-point advantage but starts the Chase with an adjusted lead of only 45 points over 10th-place Ryan Newman and five points over second-place Greg Biffle.
"There's no blueprint," Stewart said. "Every year, if you look back in the history of NASCAR, there's never been two years that have been identical. Every year is kind of like a snowflake -- they're all different. You've just got to take the circumstances you're dealt each week and work to consistently finish in the top five."
There's no doubt the sentimental choices to win the championship would be Rusty Wallace, third in the points, or Mark Martin, who is sixth. Wallace has said he definitely is retiring after this season.
"I'm at the top of my game right now," Wallace said. "Every athlete wants to go out at the top of their game and it feels so good right now. I'm loving life right now. I'm going to miss the sport, there's no doubt about that, but it's one race at a time right now. You don't have to win a race to win the championship. I do want to win. When I'm all done, I want my fans to have that image that I'm a winner."
Martin wants to bow out of Nextel Cup competition. He wants to race trucks and in an occasional Busch race next year, but that might not happen because Roush has asked him to stick around for the 2006 season.
Jeremy Mayfield, seventh in the standings, was picked to finish last by five of those who offered their prognostications, but he is confident about his chances.
"I feel real good about where we are right now," Mayfield said. "We're getting better and better, week in and week out, and showing that. If you look back at the last few finishes, the last few races have been pretty good."