Consider the gauntlet thrown.
Brad Keselowski raced his tail off in Sunday's AAA Texas 500, taking risks at the end of the race that would've left lesser drivers shaking in their shoes. He made the call to take two tires instead of four during the last set of pit stops, and twice he managed to clear the field on restarts, even staring down five-time champion Jimmie Johnson in the process the second time.
But the amount of late-race accidents proved one too many for Keselowski to overcome, as he couldn't get the same jump on the third and final one. Johnson took the lead in the green-white-checkered restart and scored his fifth victory of the season, extending his points lead to seven in the process with two races to go.
But as exciting as that battle for the championship was (and has been), there are 41 other drivers on the track every week, too. Our job is to count down the top 20 drivers on track heading into Phoenix, and while the first two are obvious, the order of the next 18 may surprise you: