SI Vault
February 21, 2005
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CHASE. After a 26-race "regular season," the top 10 drivers in the standings put the hammer down for a 10-race "playoff" in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Here's how they'll rank when the checkered flag falls at Homestead on Nov. 20 ('04 finish in parentheses). --L.A.
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February 21, 2005

The Top 20

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10 MARK MARTIN (4) This will be his 22nd--and final full-time--season of Cup racing. Expect him to win at least two races and be a factor in the Chase.

11 JAMIE MCMURRAY (11) He finished '04 on a roll, racking up 12 top 10 finishes in the last 14 races. He could be the surprise of '05--or just miss the Chase again.

12 KEVIN HARVICK (14) Harvick's durability--from Nov. '02 to Aug. '04, he finished a record 58 straight races--makes him a contender to qualify for the Chase.

13 KYLE BUSCH (2, BUSCH SERIES) Kurt's little brother, who had five victories in the '04 Busch Series, is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors.

14 DALE JARRETT (15) The '99 champ hasn't visited Victory Lane in almost two years, but his improved Ford engine makes him a dark horse to win at Daytona.

15 BRIAN VICKERS (25) Though his best finish was seventh last year, the '03 Busch Series champ has the talent--and the Hendrick muscle--to be a winner in '05.

16 GREG BIFFLE (17) If he can pick up where he left off--a victory in the season finale at Homestead-- Biffle will be a threat to qualify for the Chase.

17 JEREMY MAYFIELD (10) He won one race in '04--his first in nearly four years--and qualified for the Chase, but don't count on him repeating either feat this year.

18 BOBBY LABONTE (12) New crew chief Steve Addington will try to turn around a team that fell apart late last season and went winless for the first time since '94.

19 JEFF BURTON (18) He's not the driver he was in the late '90s, but now that he's with Richard Childress Racing, he should excel at restrictor-plate tracks.

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