NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Contenders: Ranking Drivers Post-Daytona

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Contenders: Ranking Drivers Post-Daytona
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A disclaimer: The Daytona 500 is not an end-all, be-all predictor of who's going to contend for the Sprint Cup championship.

For example, perennial Chase contenders Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne were eliminated from winning contention just 33 laps into Sunday's race, while Toyota engine failures crippled the competitive teams of Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. In fact, only once in the Chase for the Sprint Cup era has the eventual championship winner been the same person who won the Daytona 500 itself.

But that guy, Jimmie Johnson, is the guy who won it this year. And only twice in the Chase era has the winner failed to make the 12-driver playoff. Plus, with a host of races in Daytona Speedweeks to determine the strength of a team, there's a lot more to this than looking at a driver's finishing position in an unpredictable race.

With that being said, these 20 drivers should comprise the top half of the Sprint Cup standings for most of the season (with apologies to Mark Martin, whose competitiveness is unquestioned despite running only a 25-race schedule).

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