There they are: our championship contenders. I say that but I think some of them are not really serious contenders. Austen Dillon is probably not going to be holding the trophy after Homestead. Or Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. or Ryan Blaney or Ryan Newman or, I'm sorry about this one, Jamie McMurray or Kasey Kahne or Matt Kenseth or Kurt Busch or - don't give me the evil eye Chase fans but I don't think there's any way he can pull it off either..

If I were laying a bet, I'd put my money down on Martin Truex, Jr. His team's performance has been superlative all season and he has a pot load of points going in from winning stages and races. Second, I'd place Kyle Larson ahead of Kyle Busch. They've both been brilliant at times but neither have had Martin's season-long consistency. Jimmie can never be counted out and neither can Harvick although they'd both need to pick up the pace considerably to emerge as the champion. Keselowski? Yes, it's possible. Hamlin? Maybe. We saw in the Darlington race that he sometimes has the ability to practically carry a car on his back, especially if he's feeling guilty over making a mistake.

So, there's how I see it although I'm not adamant about it and I'd be thrilled if a dark horse came along and won, like Jamie McMurray or Matt Kenseth.

Other thoughts about the regular season:

*Poor Matt Kenseth - what a freaky accident following a freakily, un-Kenseth-like year.

*Too bad Junior didn't make it in last season. And Logano didn't make it because of an encumbered race.

* Numbers - there seemed to be quite a to-do on the Nascar threads about William Byron and Chase Elliott switching numbers but it seems perfectly logical to me. The 9 was Bill Elliott's number. Of course, his son would want to drive it. And as for William Byron, what driver wouldn't be thrilled to get behind the wheel of the 24?

Hendrick will certainly be a completely different team next year with Jimmie as the only old timer and then a bunch of kids. Let's see - it's Chase in the 9, Alex Bowman in the 88 and William Byron in the 24. I'll have to practice that a few times before next season begins.

* I will, as always, root for Jimmie. I'd like to see him win his 8th championship and at least one Monster Energy trophy, which, incidentally, I think is striking and beautiful. If not him, then Kyle Larson. I know that Martin Truex, Jr. has earned it but if he can't get the job done with that huge head start then oh, well....such is life.

* Why is the 78 so much better than anyone else? I wonder if it has anything to do with being based in Colorado? I've always heard you can't keep a secret in the NASCAR garage. If someone finds something, pretty soon they all have it. But Furniture Row can work in secret.

* One more time, I will say, I wish NASCAR would lighten up a little....two encumbered races, too many not passing final inspection for being slightly out of spec or having a loose lugnut, fines, crew chiefs sitting out races.....

And now, onward and upward to the championship!

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