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Monte Dutton


Jimmie Johnson is now the favorite to win the Sprint Cup championship. That?s what Las Vegas says. Last week the favorite was Martin Truex Jr., and, before that, Kevin Harvick.

It doesn?t seem that complicated, this prognosticating buisness. Every week the guy who wins becomes the favorite. I thought oddsmakers might use all those statistics like the ones in baseball and politics. I expected to read about how the IQX crossed the Maginot Line, and a cross-pollination of the VNC in regard to the QXY revealed an SFZ that correlated to a Johnson title.

Nah. He won last week. Go with him.

We live in the Age of Overreaction. It?s telling that GOAT is used as an acronym for ?greatest of all time.? It's fairly common for a GOAT to wind up being a goat. People have short memories. They are prone to hyperbole with their double-sided knives. Moderation is in short supply. It used to be that a driver was only as good as the last race. Now people seem to think he?s exactly as good as the last race.

My father died too soon. At least several times a day, he called something either -- the funniest thing they ever was -- or  -- the damndest thing ever I seen. He would have felt right at home now.

Johnson, after languishing through the summer, has come alive recently. He's been a rising tide: eighth, seventh and first in the last three races. It's no surprise that Johnson hit the Chase running. It is the grand penchant of his career. It's why he's won six championships. He hasn't won one in this format, but this is only the third time it's been used.

The Bank of America was lively. Beyond Johnson guaranteeing himself a place in the Round of 8, not much happened in terms of the other seven. Attrition was so high that the failures -- Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick -- nearly canceled themselves out. Hamlin is still in the top eight. Instead of the planned scenario ? one wrong move and you've got to win -- a greater likelihood is that anyone who only strays only once will make it to the next round. The next race is in Kansas.

Then there's Talladega, NASCAR's headquarters of both ecstasy and agony.

Between now and then, there?s still time to declare another driver the One True Contender. Kyle Busch, for instance. Or Matt Kenseth. The game is reaching the final race and winning it. Forget this segment, this Round of 12. The whole Chase is a matter of canceling out. Whatever happens next will cancel out what?s happened last.

Then, after innumerable twists, turns and declarations of boom and bust, a Sprint Cup Survivor will be crowned.