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Your moment of Chase

And now we interrupt Ball State 41, Indiana 39, Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3 and the TinCaps clinging to the cliff's edge by their fingernails for .... something else.

Remember NASCAR?

Well, believe it or not, it's still going on.

(And why, I ask? Another bit of Blobification for another time, but if NASCAR was smart, they'd lop about a dozen races off their season and end the Chase right after Labor Day. It completely falls off the radar once football starts).

Anyway ....

On to the Chase. And here's where the smart money isn't necessarily the smart money.

Smart money makes Denny Hamlin the Chase favorite, and why not? The guy's won four times this season and he's matured into a seasoned veteran. If any time is his time, this is it.

I'll tell you who, in its secret heart of hearts, NASCAR ought to be rooting for, though: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

What a bump for the sport that would be, the most popular driver on the circuit carrying off the big prize. The perfect man for the perfect moment, considering the sport's been losing traction since about 2009 or so.

And, listen, Junior could do this. He comes to the Chase 7th in the re-shuffled points, but no one on the circuit has been more consistent: In 26 races, he has 18 top tens and 11 top fives. Unless someone goes completely nuts and wins half the Chase races the way Tony Stewart did last year, Junior's as good a bet as anyone.

Plus, he's one of the genuinely nice guys in NASCAR, sometimes to his own detriment. And sooner or later, you've got to figure a nice guy won't finish last.

Ben Smith's blog.

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