Tony Stewart will win the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship. This announcement might seem a bit premature, since none of the deciding 10 races in the new Chase for the NEXTEL Cup have been run yet. But if history plays a role in the final 10 races, Atlanta Motor Speedway President and General Manager Ed Clark ¿ whose speedway will host the seventh of 10 races in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup ¿ said this projection probably isn¿t too far off the mark. ¿Of course these findings are completely based on what might be, rather than what will be ¿ and as we all know, anything can happen in NASCAR,¿ Clark said. ¿But those of us who follow racing history also know how strong an indicator it can be. Based on what we¿ve found, I wouldn¿t be surprised if the final standings are almost identical to our charts.¿ Atlanta Motor Speedway¿s unscientific study took the average finish of each of the top 10 drivers at each of the 10 tracks in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. Drivers were then awarded points, according the usual NASCAR points system, based on their average finish at each track. Those projected points were added to each driver's current point totals to create a projected finishing order for the top 10 drivers in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. None of the 5-point bonuses for leading a lap or leading the most laps were awarded. Based on those calculations (see attached charts), Stewart will fare the best during this final 10-race stretch, propelling him to the 2004 NEXTEL Cup championship. He will be closely followed by four-time champion Jeff Gordon and fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson. ¿Obviously our study was just for fun, but it does provide some food for thought,¿ Clark said. ¿When you break things down like this, you see who needs to do a lot of work and who just needs to stay with the status quo. The beauty of this new format, though, is that you don¿t have any idea who¿s going to peak ¿ and momentum is something that we can¿t calculate mathematically.¿ For instance, based on history, Elliott Sadler won¿t do that well in the final 10 races. But he¿s had a breakout season this year, and momentum might propel him much higher than his stats would indicate. On the other hand, Johnson has had a spectacular season but has struggled in recent weeks. And Mark Martin is starting near the back of the top 10, but he¿s been on a roll lately, and he knows how to compete for a championship. He may also be a sentimental favorite, having finished second to the champion in four different ¿ but equally heartbreaking ¿ seasons. ¿The key to winning the championship for those at the bottom of this list to focus on improving every week,¿ Clark said. ¿I expect to see a lot of testing and a lot of experimenting ¿ anything to improve their past performances. ¿And of course we think the culmination of this excitement of the final 10 races will probably be during week 7, when a couple of drivers are starting to establish themselves as contenders and the rest of the field is struggling to stay in the race.¿ Don¿t miss the exciting week 7 of 10 in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup, as NASCAR races to decide the 2004 champion at the fastest track on the circuit, Atlanta Motor Speedway. Great seats are available starting at just $30; for more information call Ticketmaster or the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211.