- Kyle Busch: I look for him to rebound from his miserable 2009 season, snagging a few wins along the way. While I don't think he'll be as dominant as in 2008, he'll run stronger and more consistent than in years past. He does have a reputation for fading down the stretch, and until he proves otherwise, he'll do that once the Chase starts. Predicted finish: 12th.
- Ryan Newman: in his first season with SHR, he ran solid, but didn't have a win to show for it. He'll get his win this year. Flyin' Ryan will also get his share of poles. While he'll be more consistent, too many other good drivers are ahead of him. Predicted finish: 11th.
- Jeff Burton: like Bowyer and Kevin Harvick (more on him later), Burton ran much better as the 2009 season came to a close. The Mayor will run stronger this season, and get a win or two under his belt prior to the Chase. Predicted finish: 10th.
- Greg Biffle: I look for him to run better this year, perhaps get a win or two under his belt prior to the Chase. But the competition is much stiffer than in years past, and that's what will keep him from finishing further up. Predicted finish: 9th.
- Juan Pablo Montoya: make no mistake, he will get his first oval win this season, and look for him to win one of the two road course races. He'll be in a better position for the Chase, but I think he'll taper off during the Chase. Predicted finish: 8th.
- Carl Edwards: I look for him to bounce back and have his usual strong, Edwards-type of season, complete with multiple wins. However, I see him fading during the Chase. Predicted finish: 7th.
- Kevin Harvick: he will bounce back BIG TIME. This is his best opportunity to secure a huge, long-term contract either with RCR or perhaps Stewart-Haas Racing. IF he wins a few times early in the season, look for him to stay with RCR. Needless to say, everyone in the garage will be watching him as to where he goes. I look for him to break his long winless streak early in the season and have a HUGE year, make the Chase, and be a contender, but fall short. Predicted finish: 6th.
- Tony Stewart: Smoke will follow up on a strong inaugural season as an owner-driver with another strong, and more consistent, season. Look for him to be in contention all the way to Homestead. Predicted finish: 5th.
- Jeff Gordon: this may be his final season. Regardless of whether it is or not, you'll get a 100% effort from the four-time champion. The wily veteran has a few tricks up his sleeve and will show his hand as the season concludes. (It's strange to refer to him as a wily veteran; I still remember his early years like they were yesterday.) He'll be back in Victory Lane, and his win at Texas last season was a very popular win. Something tells me if he wins at Homestead, he'll hang up his helmet. Regardless, he'll be in contention for title #5, but fall short. Predicted finish: 4th.
- Mark Martin: I'm still shaking my head at the amazing year he had last year. With the one year extension he signed, he's hungry for that championship. He'll be in contention all the way to Homestead. Look for him to visit Victory Lane numerous times. Predicted finish: 3rd.
- Denny Hamlin: despite him going bonehead and tearing his ACL while playing basketball, he's the most serious threat to Jimmie Johnson's reign of titles. He will be a future champion; just not this year. Sorry, Denny. Jimmie's that much better. Predicted finish: 2nd.
- Jimmie Johnson: he's the gold standard of the sport. The 1960's Boston Celtics think JJ has a dynasty. Until someone dethrones him, he'll be in this slot every single year. Look for him to make it five in a row this year. He'll get his six or seven wins this year; two or so before the Chase and 4-5 wins IN the Chase. (As a side note, when he was driving the #92 Excedrin Chevrolet for Reggie Jackson in the Busch Series, I thought he would be a marginal Cup driver. Boy, was I WRONG!)
Those are my 12 drivers I think will make the Chase. As always, there are some surprises, some disappointments, and some thinks that make you go "Huh?" as you scratch your head. Feel free to chime in!
NOTE: THIS IS A REVISED CHASE OUTLOOK.