Johnson will be in search of an unprecedented fifth Cup championship in a row. The last time the media picked him to win the Cup championship was in 2005, a year he did not win. He did go on to win the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in 2006-2009.
Last year’s pick to win the Cup championship, Carl Edwards, was voted to finish fifth.
Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing were well represented. Jeff Gordon was selected to finish second and Mark Martin was selected to finish seventh.
Matt Kenseth, last year’s winner of the Daytona 500, was voted to finish 10th. Greg Biffle was selected to finish 11th.
Some notable drivers who did not make the top 12: Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne and Vickers made the Chase in 2009. Junior, well, disappointed. Maybe now that the media has lowered its expectations, Earnhardt Jr. might be poised to impress.
Here’s a look at how the media predicted how the Chase will play out:
- Jimmie Johnson: The drive for five begins in a couple weeks at Daytona. How many championships will he win before NASCAR decides to change the Chase rules again?
- Jeff Gordon: When did he become the dark horse at Hendrick Motorsports?
- Tony Stewart: It didn’t take long for him to become a contender for a Cup championship with a new team. He’s making the owner-driver thing look way too easy.
- Kyle Busch: He won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship and almost half the Truck Series races he entered. It’s hard to think he needs to rebound after a NASCAR season like that.
- Carl Edwards: Last year’s favorite has turned into this year’s underdog.
- Denny Hamlin: Maybe contending for a Cup championship with a torn ACL will earn him some respect.
- Mark Martin: At least the media didn’t pick him to finish second.
- Kurt Busch: He is single-handedly keeping Roger Penske and Dodge relevant in NASCAR.
- Juan Pablo Montoya: So how would the NASCAR nation respond to a Columbian winning the Cup championship? It might happen sooner than later.
- Matt Kenseth: His hot start in 2009 did little to help his Chase aspirations. He, like Kyle Busch, is looking for a return among the Cup elite.
- Greg Biffle: For a driver who didn’t win a race in 2009, Biffle will be lucky to make the Chase in 2010. Then again, he did get the most out of his car last year.
- Ryan Newman: Another winless driver in 2009. Having Stewart and Hendrick’s support has to give Newman a good feeling about 2010.