Comparing the Sprint Cup championship-winning seasons of the past 15 years proves a difficult task. How does one compensate for the numerous changes in the points system? The evolution of the cars—especially including the Car of Tomorrow? Different off-track pressures that come with the different mindset under the Chase?
As NASCAR moved towards homologated cars and embraced a playoff format in the past decade, championships became harder to win because fewer drivers were able to post dominant seasons. As such, the average finish of championship winners has generally gone down in the past 15 years—especially with the Chase altering who would've won the championship a total of five times.
To answer the questions posed earlier, the most important thing to consider is that we're power ranking entire seasons, not just Chase performance. A driver who came into the Chase cold and then broke out isn't going to get as much credit as a driver who was up front all season.
And while increased parity hurts, some of the seasons that drivers posted in the late 1990s were other-worldly despite having a strong field chasing them down—and the Chase hasn't precluded some drivers from posting similarly dominant seasons in recent years. But you may be surprised at who comprises the top three on this list: