Five drivers who can win the Cup
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford
Keselowski, who just turned 29, was the youngest Sprint Cup champion since 2004 and has quickly become the new face of NASCAR. He's brash, confident and talented and could be the most feared driver on the track since The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, more than a decade ago.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet
Hard to believe it's been three years since Mr. Five-Time has won a championship, but he and push-the-envelope crew chief Chad Knaus can never be counted out. Johnson, 37, is the only driver who has qualified for all nine Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs . Johnson was third in points but tied for the most wins (five) in 2012.
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota
Bowyer, from Emporia, Kan., not only won three races but also finished a career-best second in the Chase in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing. Had it not been for Jeff Gordon crashing Bowyer at Phoenix, Bowyer, 33, might have had a chance at overtaking Keselowski for the championship.
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota
Busch, 27, is still considered the best driver in the series without a Cup championship and sometimes is his own worst enemy, considering his histrionics on the track and in the garage. Busch missed the Chase in 2012 after posting just one win, his fewest since 2007, but had 13 top-five finishes .
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet
Earnhardt, 38, snapped his streak of 143 races without a victory by winning at Michigan last season and led the points standings on several occasions going into the Chase. But having to sit out two Chase races because of a concussion derailed his hopes at winning his first Cup championship, and time is starting to run out.
FIVE drivers on the hot seat
Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford
Edwards, from Columbia, was never a factor in 2012 after losing the title in a tie breaker to Tony Stewart on the final lap of the final race in 2011. Edwards, 33, failed to win a race last year and has gone 69 races without a win, dating to Las Vegas in 2011. He's on his third crew chief in less than a year in veteran Jimmy Fennig .
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevrolet
It's been an even longer drought for Burton, who hasn't taken a checkered flag since 2008 --" a string of 149 races --" for Richard Childress Racing, which struggled across the board last season except for Kevin Harvick, who is jumping to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013. Burton, 45, could be driving for his career this season.
Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet
Menard brings plenty of sponsorship dollars --" his family owns Menards home improvement stores --" but he's won just one race, at Indianapolis in 2011, in 219 career starts. His contract is up with Childress after the season. With Childress' grandsons, Austin and Ty Dillon, breathing down his neck, Menard has to produce.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Chevrolet
It just hasn't happened for Montoya, a former open-wheel star who continues to struggle in NASCAR. Montoya, 37, finished 22nd in points last season, a spot below his 2011 finish . But a switch to Hendrick engines can help Montoya, who failed to crack the top five in any race last year for the first time in his six Cup seasons .
Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet
McMurray, from Joplin, Mo., appeared to be on the cusp of greatness in 2010 after winning the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. But McMurray, 36, was winless in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2005-06 and had no top-five finishes for the first time in his 10-year career.
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