5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior and crew chief Steve Letarte have really meshed over the past two years, but this is Letarte’s final season in the pitbox before he moves to NBC Sports as an analyst. Earnhardt Jr. will hope to carry over the momentum of eight top-eight finishes in the last nine Chase races. Crew chief: Steve Letarte.
4. Kyle Busch: We all know Wild Thing can win races, but will he ever win that first championship? Crew chief: Dave Rogers.
3. Kevin Harvick: Harvick has aligned with Tony Stewart. That could be mighty combustive — or it could be great. I’m betting on the latter. Crew chief: Rodney Childers.
2. Matt Kenseth: His first year with Joe Gibbs Racing was impressive. Year two could be even better. Crew chief: Jason Ratcliff.
1. Jimmie Johnson: How good is the driver they now call “Six-Time?” He has won at least five races in four of the past five seasons. Johnson has excelled in The Chase era like no other Cup driver, and there is no reason to think anything will change this season. Expect Johnson to officially become NASCAR deity come November when he wins his seventh title, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most championships. Crew chief: Chad Knaus.