1 of 12John Harrelson/Getty Images, Michael J. LeBrecht II /SI (inset)
Regular-season finish 3rd. Wins 3 / Top 5s 9 / Top 10s 15. Best at Phoenix. Worst at Talladega.<br><br>Are you ready for some history? People keep trying not to make him the favorite, and every year he just keeps winning. The fact is, with the resetting of the standings, the Chase perfectly suits the strategy of Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, who spend the regular season preparing to dominate the final 10 races. On tracks that will be in the Chase, Johnson's average finish in 2009 was 8.6.
2 of 12Elsa/Getty Images, Simon Bruty/SI (inset)
Regular-season finish 1st. Wins 3 / Top 5s 13 / Top 10s 18. Best at Dover. Worst at California.<br><br> It's been a magical year for NASCAR's onetime enfant terrible. Now a mature professional, Stewart took over a moribund Haas outfit and turned it into a powerhouse in less than a year. Yes, his team's gotten a boost from Hendrick, but Stewart has been driving his fanny off since he finished eighth at Daytona on opening day. About the only thing counting against him is Johnson's record of dominance.
3 of 12Harry How/Getty Images, Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 8th. Wins 0 / Top 5s 7 / Top 10s 11. Best at Texas. Worst at New Hampshire.<br><br>The preseason favorite to win it all after he took a series-high nine races a year ago, Edwards has been a disappointment. He's struggled all year to stay consistent, and his 37th-place finish on Sept. 6 at Atlanta, one of his favorite tracks, has to be a cause for concern. Still, more than any other driver, he's proved that he has the stuff to challenge Johnson on the Chase's crucial 1.5-mile ovals.
4 of 12 Jason Smith/Getty Images, Greg Nelson/SI
Regular-season finish 6th. Wins 4 / Top 5s 9 / Top 10s 14. Best at Dover. Worst at New Hampshire.<br><br>For all his success in 2009, NASCAR's wizened gnome has seemed to drift at times -- his seven finishes outside the top 30 are the most of any Chase driver. Has he been saving something for the postseason? Martin is certainly driving a car that's fast enough to win races. He may have something for the young fellers yet.
5 of 12Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 2nd. Wins 1 / Top 5s 12 / Top 10s 18. Best at Martinsville. Worst at Texas.<br><br> The four-time champ has morphed into this year's version of Jeff Burton, a driver who's almost never a threat to take the win but nevertheless gets up for a solid points finish at the end. His 2009 racing form -- he would begin races strongly, encounter midrace problems and then recover in time to claim another top 10 -- isn't a winning one for the Chase.
6 of 12 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 4th. Wins 2 / Top 5s 9 / Top 10s 14. Best at Martinsville. Worst at Kansas.<br><br>Hamlin got his second win of the year last Saturday in Richmond (his first multiple-victory season since he won twice in 2006 on the way to Rookie of the Year honors). That could signal a timely change of gears: Hamlin excels at racing for points -- as shown by his overall fourth place finish in '08 -- but to contend for the Cup he'll need to gamble for some wins.
7 of 12Todd Warshaw/Getty Images, John Harrelson/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 5th. Wins 1 / Top 5s 7 / Top 10s 14. Best at New Hampshire. Worst at Dover.<br><br>His win at Atlanta on March 8 was Busch's third top 10 in the first four races. He was rarely that consistent again. His finishes on intermediate tracks were mixed at best, though his third place in the June race at New Hampshire is a good omen: A solid start this week could propel the 2004 Cup champion into contention once again -- and he's steady enough to stay within striking distance to the end.
8 of 12Elsa/Getty Images, John Harrelson/Getty Images
Juan Pablo Montoya
Regular-season finish 10th. Wins 0 / Top 5s 2 / Top 10s 12. Best at Texas. Worst at California.<br><br>Once thought of as a road race specialist who was too wild to put together a consistent season, Montoya has performed well on all types of tracks this year and has made the Chase for the first time. That will probably have to be victory enough. Even if Montoya had ever won a race on a Chase track, which he hasn't, the fact that his cars just don't seem as fast as some of the others would be reason to doubt his chances.
9 of 12Chris Graythen/Getty Images, Jason Smith/Getty Images
Regular-season finish: 7th. Wins 2 / Top 5s 5 / Top 10s 10. Best at Charlotte. Worst at Talladega. <br><br>Kahne is back in the Chase after missing out for the past two years. And is he peaking at just the right time? His performance on Sept. 6 at Atlanta -- where he qualified second and went on to take the victory -- would seem to indicate as much. Certainly Kahne is always a threat to win races, but there's little in his record this year to suggest that he'll be able to maintain such a pace. His longest streak of top 10s is just three races.
10 of 12Jamie Squire/Getty Images, Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 9th. Wins 0 / Top 5s 5 / Top 10s 12. Best at Dover. Worst at Homestead. <br><br>It was a bounceback year for the other member of the new Stewart-Haas operation. Though he didn't win a race, Flyin' Ryan reestablished himself as one of the top drivers in the Cup garage and qualified for the Chase for the first time since 2005. Newman closed out the regular season with three straight top 10s, the first time he'd done that since he ran off six straight from April 26 through June 7.
11 of 12 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images, Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 11th. Wins 0 / Top 5s 8 / Top 10s 12. Best at Homestead. Worst at Martinsville.<br><br>Much as he did last season, the Biff went winless through 2009 despite being one of the circuit's stronger and more consistent drivers. If he can repeat his Chase performance of a year ago -- when he won the first two races -- Biffle could be a surprise contender again. Working against him is the overall performance of Roush Fenway, which hasn't been up to the high standard of '08.
12 of 12John Harrelson/Getty Images, Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Regular-season finish 12th. Wins 1 / Top 5s 4 / Top 10s 13. Best at Talladega. Worst at Texas.<br><br>Just about the hottest driver over the last two months, Vickers has been running up front and logging top 10s with regularity. He and crew chief Ryan Pemberton have clearly figured out their car, and they've also shown a willingness to gamble -- their fuel-mileage win at Michigan was the catalyst in their Chase drive. They might not have the right car, but they've got the right mind-set.
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