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Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth have been the two best drivers all season.
Normally, in this spot we would take a look at each of the top-five drivers in the standings and assess their chances moving forward. Seeing as how the championship appears to be down to just two drivers with two races remaining, we thought we would change it up a little and look at how each of them has put themselves in the position they are in currently.
Jimmie Johnson: After leading the point standings for the duration of the season, Jimmie Johnson limped into the Chase with the worst four-race stretch of his professional career. His finishes of 40th, 36th, 28th and 40th to end the regular season saw a 75-point lead in the standings turn into a one-point deficit as the playoffs began.
When the standings were reset as the playoffs began, Johnson started the postseason as the second seed thanks to four regular-season wins.
In eight Chase races this year, Johnson is a two-time winner and has finished inside the top 10 seven times. His lone postseason finish outside the top 10 was a 13th-effort at Talladega where he beat his primary championship rival by seven positions.
Johnson has not started a Chase event worse than 11th this year, and he has led at least one lap in all eight postseason events. With two races remaining, Johnson leads the standings by seven points.
Matt Kenseth: Matt Kenseth had a very up-and-down regular season. He led the series with five wins, but he also posted six finishes outside the top 20. He spent the majority of the season ranked between fifth and seventh in the standings, ultimately ending the regular season in fifth place.
Thanks to his five victories, Kenseth began the postseason as the top seed. He opened the playoffs by winning the first two events. Following three more finishes of 11th or better, Kenseth maintained his spot atop the standings as the series headed to Talladega.
Following a disappointing 20th-place finish on the two-and-a-half mile superspeedway, Kenseth lost the points lead for the first time this postseason.
He has since rebounded with back-to-back runner-up finishes but has been unable to regain the points lead thanks to slightly better performances by Johnson.
As the series travels to Phoenix for the second-to-last race of the year, Kenseth trails Johnson by seven points in the championship standings.