The eighth iteration of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup may have been the most entertaining one since the format's debut in 2004. It came down to the very last race of the season, where Tony Stewart had to win the race to take the championship from Carl Edwards; despite Edwards winning the pole and leading the most laps, Stewart did just that.
This season, almost every major team in Sprint Cup will see some sort of change in 2012. Whether it's bringing on a new driver (Penske Racing with A.J. Allmendinger), a new crew chief (Stewart-Haas Racing with Steve Addington), replacing both (Hendrick Motorsports with Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis), or starting a new team altogether (Michael Waltrip Racing with Clint Bowyer), the garage will look drastically different for some of the sport's top teams this season.
And yet, much of the cream of the crop remains the same. Chances are, if it's a household name involved, you won't see much fluctuation in results this season. That's part of why so many teams on the second rung of the ladder have made changes—nothing is changing in the top tier of the sport.
With all of that in mind, we're here to try and project the top 20 in Sprint Cup standings come Homestead in November. The list is broken up into five tiers based on projected performance, each comprised of four drivers who should have statistically similar seasons.
We'll start with the lower end and work our way up.