NASCAR Chase 2012: Top Contenders to Take Home the Sprint Cup Championship

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NASCAR Chase 2012: Top Contenders to Take Home the Sprint Cup Championship
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

With three races to go in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series, it's anybody's game.

Despite holding a three-point lead after the series' first seven races, Jimmie Johnson shouldn't feel too comfortable, because as Bob Pockrass of Sporting News points out, the trophy is still far from locked up.

Yes, Jimmie Johnson has five Sprint Cup Series championship trophies at his home. But even though he has the experience of winning titles and performing nearly flawless on the way to winning them, drivers know the reality of racing.

The reality is anything can happen — such as what happened last week when Denny Hamlin had a master control switch fall apart. The reality is that Keselowski has five victories this year and has shown the ability to win races on both fuel strategy and shear strength.

Now, heading into the final three races of the season, here are the top contenders to take home NASCAR's most coveted prize.

Jimmie Johnson

Obviously, the guy sitting at the top of the standings has to be considered the favorite, and rightfully so; Jimmie Johnson has been the sport's most dominant driver for the better part of the last decade. 

There's a reason why he has five Sprint Cup titles on his resume, and unless somebody unexpectedly overtakes him in the final three races, he'll add a sixth to his collection.

Brad Keselowski

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

As Pockrass pointed out above, Brad Keselowski is currently Johnson's closest competitor. If he adds to his already impressive five wins in the next three races, he has a real shot at overtaking the five-time champion in the standings.

Looking ahead, Keselowski appears to be getting hot at the right time, but he'll need to have some of the best races of his career to leapfrog Johnson and take home the title.

Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne

At this point, the only two drivers outside of Keselowski that appear to be capable of stealing the title away from Johnson are Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne, who both sit less than 30 points back of Johnson's No. 48 car.

Bowyer, who is currently third in the standings at 26 points back, will be looking to build on his three wins on the season, but he'll likely need at least one more win and an unexpectedly poor performance from Johnson and Keselowski to get the coveted trophy.

For Kahne, his third-place finish at Martinsville was a step in the right direction, but at 29 points back, he has to do something big in the final three races to claim his first Sprint Cup series title.

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