Superman did it again, winning at Phoenix one week after finishing 38th at Texas. Now, all Jimmie Johnson needs to do is finish 25th this week to wrap up his fourth straight Cup title. Here's a breakdown of the top 12 heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway...

1. Jimmie Johnson, 6,492 points. Johnson didn't just win last week at Phoenix, he dominated. It was as if he were making a statement. It also was the fourth time in the Chase he has won and picked up a maximum 195 points. It was his 18th win in 59 Chase races. Phenomenal.
2. Mark Martin, 6,384. All Martin's fifth top five of the Chase got him was another 35 points behind Johnson. I know Martin doesn't want to finish second in points for the fifth time in his career, but there is no embarrassment in being runner-up to Johnson. With or without a Cup championship, Martin is headed to the Hall of Fame.
3. Jeff Gordon, 6,323. If Gordon (and Martin) can stay ahead of fourth-place Kurt Busch, Hendrick Motorsports will become the first organisation to have drivers finish 1-2-3 in the Cup standings. If you don't think that's important to HMS, you're wrong.
4. Kurt Busch, 6,281. Busch followed up his win at Texas with a strong sixth at Phoenix, leading the second-most laps. It was his 20th top 10 of the year. One more and he ties his season high set in 2004, the year he won the championship.
5. Tony Stewart, 6,207. Smoke wasn't too happy when Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun in front of him and with his subsequent 25th-place finish. Stewart will need a strong performance at Homestead to hold onto fifth place. His two wins at Homestead are second only to Greg Biffle's three.

6. Juan Pablo Montoya, 6,203. Montoya bounced back from two subpar performances to finish eighth at Phoenix. Montoya lives in Miami, and winning his first NASCAR race on an oval at Homestead would make Montoya's breakout season all the sweeter.
7. Greg Biffle, 6,171. The potential is there for Biffle to move higher in the standings, but anything short of a victory at Homestead will be a disappointment. He has wins in the past six seasons, the longest streak in the series that is in jeopardy.
8. Denny Hamlin, 6,140. Hamlin finished third for his third top five in four races and fifth of the Chase. It's those dang other four races in the Chase that have submarined Hamlin - 22nd, 37th, 42nd and 38th. Three of those are DNFs, two for engine failures.
9. Ryan Newman, 6,081. Newman posted his sixth non-top 10 of the Chase and has one last chance to get his first victory since the 2008 Daytona 500 and only his second since September 2005. His best finish at Homestead was seventh in 2005.
10. Kasey Kahne, 6,016. Kahne broke out of his top 10-or-finish-in-the-30s pattern with a 15th at Phoenix. Even with his two wins in 2009, this has been a tough year for Kahne because of all the upheaval at Richard Petty Motorsports. The clouds aren't about to part, either. Sunday's race will be his last in a Dodge. RPM is going to Fords in 2010, and Kahne and Ford have baggage.
11. Carl Edwards, 5,972. Edwards finished 16th at Phoenix, and his average finish in the Chase is 19.1. Last year it was 8.0 after he won at Homestead for his third win in the Chase and his ninth of the season. What a difference a year makes. Raise your hand if you thought Edwards would be winless with one race to go in 2009. No hands? I didn't expect any.
12. Brian Vickers, 5,826. Vickers crashed out of Phoenix and has one last shot at avoiding a distinction he likely doesn't want. Unless he scores a top 10 at Homestead, he will become the first Chase driver to fail to get a top 10 in the Chase. His record at Homestead isn't good: 31.7 average finish in seven starts with two DNFs and a top finish of 18th in 2004.

by Bill Marx / Sporting News


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