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PROJECTED CHASE FIELD
MARK BEECH
February 16, 2009
The nine-month, 36-race quest for the Sprint Cup begins on Sunday at Daytona, and here are the 12 drivers who are expected to battle it out for stock car racing's grandest prize
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February 16, 2009

Projected Chase Field

The nine-month, 36-race quest for the Sprint Cup begins on Sunday at Daytona, and here are the 12 drivers who are expected to battle it out for stock car racing's grandest prize

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11 DALE EARNHARDT JR. | 2008 SEASON: 12th place; 1 win; 16 top 10s
Junior started strong last season, his first with Hendrick, but faded late when he and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. began tinkering with setups in preparation for the Chase. ( Earnhardt had only five top 10s following his June 15 win at Michigan.) His crew's biggest fix is going to have to come in late-race adjustments, as the car rarely got better as races wore on. Beyond that, NASCAR's most popular driver still must prove he can win consistently.

12 DENNY HAMLIN | 2008 SEASON: 8th place; 1 win; 18 top 10s
With Tony Stewart's departure from Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin has been saying he will take the leadership role on his team. To do that, he's going to have to cut back on late-race mistakes—something he and crew chief Mike Ford have spent the winter analyzing. "Things like fuel mileage really hurt us last year," he says. Always one of the top drivers in terms of laps run on the lead, he could, with even a small improvement, be a serious Cup contender.

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