Given the season he's enjoyed so far, having dominated the No. 1 spot in the Sprint Cup standings for 18 of the first 20 weeks—and never being lower than third in the other two weeks—Jimmie Johnson is unquestionably the driver to beat for the championship this season.
But just because he's been No. 1 up to now doesn't mean he'll finish up the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the same position, which would mean a sixth Cup crown for the suburban San Diego native.
There indeed are several drivers out there that could knock Johnson from his spot atop the standings.
Sure, it may take awhile, given he holds a large 75-point lead over second-ranked Clint Bowyer heading into Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway. But Johnson is not unbeatable or insurmountable. We just need to look back to the end of last season to know that.
So who are the top threats to challenge Johnson's superiority—not to mention having the best chance to overtake him? Here are the five top contenders in our mind.
But there's also one other threat that is not on the list: Johnson himself. Hopefully he's learned from crucial mistakes that cost him the title last season. Remember how he fell behind at Phoenix in the second-to-last race, pushed it too hard in an effort to catch up and wrecked?
Or how about overdriving the car in the season finale at Homestead, which knocked him out of both the race and the championship hunt?
More than anything, Johnson has to do what he does best: Drive a level-headed race, be aggressive yet not overaggressive (obviously a fine line to walk), take chances where the risk-reward ratio is most favorable and stay out of other drivers' messes.