It's time for money and fast cars on the NASCAR scene; the Chase has arrived! Chicagoland plays host to Chase title fight #1, and the following fellas are the most likely to get said money due to really fast cars.
Pole: Jeff Gordon
With a second-place Richmond finish that will be remembered more than most wins this year, Super-G enters the Chase with a lethal devil-may care attitude and an even more lethal throwback mustache. Fear both.
Outside pole: Jimmie Johnson
Odds are, these top two fellows will be switching the top spot a lot this Chase. In addition to Gordon's 'stache, one should also fear a Jimmie-Jeff title fight for the ages. The potential for such a bout is high.
Position 3: Denny Hamlin
Pitstop shenanigans dealt Denny's win streak a sad end last weekend, but he still enters the Chase as the top seed, with four wins on the year and hidden rocket thrusters somewhere in his car's chassis.
Position 4: Brad Keselowski
Keselowski swaggers into the 2012 Chase as certified title contender; his stuff's been proven, and he should look good at Chicagoland and beyond.
Position 5: Martin Truex Jr.
Michael Waltrip racing currently exalts in a banner year for the organization, with two drivers in the Chase and title contention a legitimate prospect to boot. Truex Jr. has absolutely found his early-season mojo over the past month, and he's eyeing his first win since 2007 with intensity. The fellow just might bust a move.
Position 6: Clint Bowyer
Who would have thought that shifting from Richard Childress Racing in 2011 to Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012 would be a lateral move...at the very least? The MWR camp has handily outperformed RCR this year. Bowyer looks to repeat his 2007 top-five title finish, and he just might do so, and perhaps a little more. Look for a quietly consistent run at Chicago to open up the Chase.
Position 7: Tony Stewart
Stewart's title defence starts in earnest this week in Chicago, where he of course won last year with a few drops of gas to spare. Look for Smoke to start out the Chase with top-five contention in the first round.
Position 8: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior flashed shades of Richmonds past last weekend, leading laps and generally being top dog with Denny Hamlin all night long. He might not win this weekend, but he'll look good as the Chase kicks off in the Windy City.
Position 9: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth has been unusually quiet over the past month, which essentially means that he's raced top-10 most of the time versus top-five. With a slew of 1.5 mile tracks about to populate the title stretch run, it could well be Kenseth's Christmas starting this weekend at Chicagoland.
Position 10: Greg Biffle
Biffle needs a punch of speed following a so-so August, but like Kenseth, 1.5 tracks are set to provide a nice home-like feel for Biffle's proclivities. Expect him to flirt with the top-five this week.
Position 11: Kasey Kahne
A mark of the competitive times, Kahne gets a relatively lowly 11th-place ranking only because the current field is so razor-thin close on speed and present win potential. After a blazing Richmond run was offset by rain-induced pitstop mayhem, Kahne should be able to rebound and nab a decent finish come Sunday afternoon.
Position 12: Kevin Harvick
Harvick, like Kahne above, gets perhaps an unfair nod as shotgun on the Power Rankings field. Happy still needs to show that his last two weeks of speed are genuine, but in truth, they most likely are. He contended for the win last year at Chicago, and he should be up for similar contention again.
Lucky Dog: Kyle Busch