Jimmie Johnson has won five straight Cup titles and is gunning for yet another, but half a dozen of NASCAR's best have a shot at ending his streak
Jimmie Johnson's 2010 Sprint Cup championship was his fifth straight title, an unprecedented feat. It was also his most impressive win to date, as Johnson (above) didn't even have the fastest car in the 10-race Chase. (That belonged to Denny Hamlin, who finished 39 points behind him in the standings.) Johnson won by displaying more savvy behind the wheel than at any point in his 10-year Cup career, which enabled him to avoid untimely accidents—something Hamlin couldn't do.
Johnson's number 48 team returns this season at full strength. And so the 2011 season opens with a very familiar question: Can anyone beat Jimmie? Here are the six drivers with the best chance:
1 DENNY HAMLIN
2010: 8 wins, 18 top 10s, 2nd in final standings
Strength Hamlin, like Johnson, now runs well on all types of tracks all season long and has emerged as a weekly threat to take the checkered flag.
Weakness A poor qualifier, last year Hamlin often found himself beginning races in the rear of the field, where crashes frequently take place. This is what doomed him at Homestead in the season finale.
Bottom line He made it close last year. Now no driver appears as well equipped to dethrone Johnson as Hamlin.
2 CARL EDWARDS
2010: 2 wins, 19 top 10s, 4th in final standings