I've believed all along that the champion will come from among those drivers who have more than one regular season win. I'll narrow it down even more to just the four that will have a legitimate shot at the hardware.
Denny Hamlin is the top seed in the playoffs with his four wins already. Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski, all with three wins, start the Chase just three points out of first. The 2012 champ will be among this group. Look for Stewart to have another shot at the Cup, as he battles Johnson until last call. Don't be surprised if JGR engineering leaves Hamlin out to dry. Keselowski is a smooth combination of talent and smarts with a bright future. He will make some noise over the next ten weeks.
Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, and Clint Bowyer all bring their two wins into the Chase, while Matt Kenseth has been close to the top of the standings all season long. Kahne has long been a master on the mile and a half tracks, and has improved on all tracks now. Biffle and Kenseth are both capable of winning a couple of Chase races. Bowyer could string together a few top five finishes.
Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr have put together some solid runs of late. Either could win a Chase race, but don't look for them to be among the final top five in points. Dale Earnhardt Jr has been among the points leaders all year, but has slipped a little during the late summer grind. He is due for more Chase bad luck. Kevin Harvick is winless in 2012, that will be hard to change in this field.
Hendrick Motorsports, with all four cars in the Chase, would seem to have the best chance of taking home the title. Roush Fenway Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing both have two teams in the playoff hunt.
Hamlin and Keselowski are on their own in the Chase. Although, Hamlin may find help from his two non-Chase teammates, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, easier than Keselowski does from Sam Hornish, his teammate. Stewart and Harvick also have no teammates inside the final twelve.
Kasey Kahne will be in the hunt when the Chasers roll into Miami two months from now.
Is it time to start another title streak? Yes, it is. Jimmie Johnson and his Lowes' team prove last year was a fluke by storming to the Sprint Cup title once again.