A glance at drivers in NASCAR's championship chase

By: JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer
By: JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer

September 9, 2007

A glance at the 12 drivers competing in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup championship, in order of points standings:

DRIVER: Jimmie Johnson

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,060

HOMETOWN: El Cajon, Calif.

AGE: 32

CAR: No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Chad Knaus

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2006)

OUTLOOK: His routine summer swoon dropped him to sixth in the standings, but his series-best five wins pushed him all the way back to the top under NASCAR's new seeding system. He lost three championships before finally winning his first last season, and defending it will be his most difficult task yet. No driver has won consecutive titles since Gordon in 1997 and 1998.

DRIVER: Jeff Gordon

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,040

HOMETOWN: Vallejo, Calif.

AGE: 36

CAR: No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Steve Letarte

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001)

OUTLOOK: Very good. Gordon was the most dominant driver all season, winning four races and building a lead of more than 300 points in the standings. It's gone now, as Gordon starts the Chase 20 points behind his teammate. Many believe this is Gordon's year -- he was married in November and became a father in June -- and this is the season he'll pick up his fifth championship.

DRIVER: Tony Stewart

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,030

HOMETOWN: Rushville, Ind.

AGE: 36

CAR: No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Greg Zipadelli

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2002, 2005)

OUTLOOK: Stewart was plagued with bad luck at the start of the season, failing to win at least four races he dominated. He finally found Victory Lane in July, sparking a trademark streak -- three wins in four races. He can't be counted out as a title contender, but many wonder if Joe Gibbs Racing's impending move to Toyota will affect his Chevrolet-backed run for the Cup.

DRIVER: Carl Edwards

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,020

HOMETOWN: Columbia, Mo.

AGE: 27

CAR: No. 99 Office Depot Ford

CREW CHIEF: Bob Osborne

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2005)

OUTLOOK: Edwards turned it up this past month with four top-10s, including a win at Bristol and a runner-up finish at California. If he can carry that into the start of the Chase, he could be doing his trademark backflip off the championship stage. Edwards also is running for the Busch Series title and could have that wrapped up by early October.

DRIVER: Kurt Busch

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,020

HOMETOWN: Las Vegas

AGE: 28

CAR: No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge

CREW CHIEF: Pat Tryson

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2004)

OUTLOOK: Busch missed the Chase last season, his first with Penske Racing. After early crew chief turmoil, he settled in with Tryson and took off. He won two races and had a series of top-11 finishes to move into Chase eligibility. He used a hot streak to win his 2004 title and shouldn't be counted out this year.

DRIVER: Denny Hamlin

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010

HOMETOWN: Chesterfield, Va.

AGE: 26

CAR: No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Mike Ford

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2006)

OUTLOOK: Hamlin has just one win this season but was incredibly consistent with 15 top-10 finishes. Like his teammate Stewart, he could have won about four races at the start of the season. And when his crew choked away some opportunities, Hamlin had several members fired. He also sparred with Stewart at Daytona, showing he's ready to run for a title. But he also must worry about his General Motors support.

DRIVER: Martin Truex Jr.

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010

HOMETOWN: Mayetta, N.J.

AGE: 27

CAR: No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Kevin ``Bono'' Manion

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 19th (2006)

OUTLOOK: Truex has been good this year, and he beat Bowyer to Victory Lane by winning at Dover in June. He was immune to many of the motor problems that destroyed teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s championship hopes. Still, the dysfunction at DEI could make Truex's chances very slim.

DRIVER: Matt Kenseth

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010

HOMETOWN: Cambridge, Wis.

AGE: 35

CAR: No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford

CREW CHIEF: Robbie Reiser

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 1st (2003)

OUTLOOK: Kenseth hasn't won since the second race of the season, but he's usually in the top 10. Kenseth learned last year that's not good enough during the Chase, and he'll race hard for wins to score his second championship.

DRIVER: Kyle Busch

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010

HOMETOWN: Las Vegas

AGE: 22

CAR: No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Alan Gustafson

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 10th (2006)

OUTLOOK: Busch is certainly talented enough to win the Chase. But he's leaving Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season and will drive a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing next year. That puts him in a precarious position: If one thing goes wrong and hampers the Hendrick effort, support for Busch could wane.

DRIVER: Jeff Burton

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010

HOMETOWN: South Boston, Va.

AGE: 40

CAR: No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Scott Miller

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 3rd (2000)

OUTLOOK: Burton scored his only win of the season at Texas in April, and he's been quietly consistent since. He was nearly flawless at the start of last year's Chase, and he'll need another start like that to catch the leaders under the new seeding system. Unlike last year, when the Richard Childress Racing cars were the trendy pick to win the title, Burton is probably a long shot.

DRIVER: Kevin Harvick

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,010

HOMETOWN: Bakersfield, Calif.

AGE: 31

CAR: No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Todd Berrier

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 4th (2006)

OUTLOOK: The Daytona 500 winner limped into the Chase, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one of the final spots. That's not the way you want to go into a championship hunt.

DRIVER: Clint Bowyer

ADJUSTED CHASE POINTS: 5,000

HOMETOWN: Emporia, Kan.

AGE: 27

CAR: No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet

CREW CHIEF: Gil Martin

BEST CHAMPIONSHIP FINISH: 17th (2006)

OUTLOOK: Bowyer is still searching for his first Nextel Cup win, and many believe he's the best driver to not yet reach Victory Lane. He hasn't been overwhelming this season, and has just two top-fives all year. He could get his breakthrough win during the Chase, but he's a longshot to win the title.


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