NASCAR at Phoenix: 10 Drivers Who'll Be In the Mix at the Kobalt Tools 500

Brian Shannon@bshannon15Correspondent INovember 13, 2010

NASCAR at Phoenix: 10 Drivers Who'll Be In the Mix at the Kobalt Tools 500

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NA
    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Just two races remain in NASCAR's chase for the Sprint Cup and there are now just three drivers remaining in contention.

    Denny Hamlin is the Chase leader after his win last week at Texas, but Jimmie Johnson is within striking range to regain his title for a record fifth straight year. Kevin Harvick also still remains in the hunt in third, but he has a lot of work to do if he is to catch Hamlin and Johnson.

    There is no doubt all three drivers will be racing hard this weekend at Phoenix. Here is a look at 10 drivers who should be in contention this weekend at the track.

Jimmie Johnson

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  (L-R) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, stands in the garage with his crew chief, Chad Knaus during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12,
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Johnson needs back-to-back strong finishes if he is going to have any chance at his record fifth straight Sprint Cup title and he could really use a win this weekend at Phoenix.

    Johnson will start 21st this weekend and he finished third at the track earlier this season.

    The No. 48 will now have the No.24 pit crew working for him during pit stops the next two weeks, a surprising move that the team is carrying over following last weekend's mid-race switch.

    Johnson needs a win at Phoenix and he should be considered one of the favorites to get it.

Denny Hamlin

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chris
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Hamlin is now the man to beat following his victory at Texas last weekend. Hamlin will try to continue the trend set by all other Chase champions who have won the title after leading with just two races remaining.

    It's not going to be easy for Hamlin as he has the No. 48 bearing down in his rear-view mirror, but the No. 11 has been racing exceptionally well as of late to put himself in this position.

    Hamlin finished 30th earlier this season at Phoenix, and he will start 17th on Sunday.

Ryan Newman

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    FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 05:  Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Tornados Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Newman won the Phoenix race back in April and he should be considered a contender again this time around. 

    Newman started 14th at the track when he won the race and he will start 18th this Sunday.

    The No. 39 has really been struggling lately, with only one finish in the top 20 in his last four races but expect him to get back on track at Phoenix.

Carl Edwards

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASC
    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Edwards is on the pole for Sunday after his record qualifying lap put him at the front of the pack.

    Edwards hasn't been great as of late, but he has been solid, finishing in the top 20 in each of his last four races. The No. 99 started third last week, only to finish 19th, so he will be hoping for a better result this weekend.

    With a seventh place finish at the track earlier this year, you should expect Edwards to have a strong showing this go around.

Kyle Busch

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M'sToyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCA
    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Kyle Busch is coming off of two disappointing finishes now, but Phoenix may be just what the No. 18 needs to turn things around.

    Busch will start seventh this week after finishing eighth at the track back in April.

    Look for Busch to get another top-10 this weekend as he looks to build momentum towards the 2011 season.

A.J. Allmendinger

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    LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 18:  AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #43 Insignia HDTV Ford, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 18, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire.
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Allmendinger qualified second for this weekend's race, and while he hasn't run particularly well this season, he has had some quality finishes in the top 10.

    Phoenix will be another opportunity for Allmendinger to have a good showing and like many of the other racers, work to build some momentum for next year.

    The No. 43 will be working hard in order to get to his eighth top-10 this season.

Kevin Harvick

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty
    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    Harvick needs to win this weekend in order to have a real shot at the title when the drivers head to Homestead for the Chase's final race this season.

    As if he didn't have his work cut out for him enough already, Harvick will start this weekend's race in the 29th position.

    The No. 29 will try for his seventh straight top-10 finish this weekend, but anything short of a win will make it nearly impossible to realize his title dreams.

Jamie McMurray

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald's Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Imag
    Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

    McMurray has three wins this season and he just narrowly missed the Chase, but he should be a strong contender this weekend as he starts in the fifth position.

    McMurray finished 24th at Phoenix earlier this season after starting 13th, but the No. 1 is hoping that a better qualifying run this time will result in a better finish as well.

Marcos Ambrose

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    TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 30:  Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #47 Kleenex/CloroxToyota, walks on pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 30, 2010 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by
    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Ambrose is not much of a threat to win the race this weekend, but he has a good chance to have a strong day.

    Ambrose has two top-fives this season and he will start 13th this weekend.

    The No. 47 finished 12th at the track earlier this season and he could really use a strong finish this weekend to feel better about his struggles this season.

Joey Logano

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    AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Joey Logano, driver of the #20 Home Depot Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2010 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christi
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Logano has been racing very well lately after finishing seventh four weeks ago. He has improved his finish by one spot in each of the past four races.

    Logano finished 10th at Phoenix earlier this season and he will start 10th this weekend.

    The No. 20 will definitely be a car to watch out for this weekend.

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