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1 Jimmie Johnson
The five-time champ won his last title in 2010, but no team will be more adept at adjusting to the Gen-6 car than the 48 gang. The last time a new design was introduced, in '07, JJ took the Cup.
2 Denny Hamlin
Last season Hamlin was sixth in the standings and had the second-best average race finish (12.8) of his career. He has already said that he likes the "feel" of the new car, and at 32, he's a proven race winner in his prime. He'll be in Johnson's mirror all year.
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The sport's most popular driver had a breakthrough in 2012, snapping a 143-race winless streak and briefly holding the points lead. The Gen-6 car suits him, and fully recovered from an October concussion, Junior should continue his ascent.
4 Matt Kenseth
The move from Roush Fenway to Joe Gibbs Racing should re-rev the 2003 champion's career. In the last three seasons Kenseth has peaked too early, then faded during the Chase. A new team and crew chief (Jason Ratcliff) should break the pattern.
5 Carl Edwards
After just losing the title to Tony Stewart in 2011, Edwards endured an atrocious '12, failing to win a race, missing the Chase and finishing a career-low 15th in the standings. Now with the Cup-miss hangover past, expect a rebound by Cousin Carl.