Jimmie Johnson

10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Contenders and Pretenders

Drivers and teams to watch as the circuit hits its mid-summer classic in Daytona
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese runs through the contenders and the pretenders for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.</p>
2012

Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (please don’t call it the Pepsi 400 — Firecracker 400, however, will be accepted) marks the halfway point in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

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NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

From the Bluegrass to the Beach
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<p> Jimmie Johnson leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona.</p>
2012

1. Jimmie Johnson  Lost a shot at the win during the final restart in Kentucky when he picked up trash on his tires. Managed to rebound to sixth after a quick backslide, his 13th top 10 of the season.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Was never a factor for the win at Kentucky, but ran consistently in the top 10 most of the evening before climbing to fourth at race’s end.

Confident Earnhardt Heads Back to Daytona

The Long and Short of It
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit as the series reaches its midway point at Daytona International Speedway.</p>
2012

The equipment and team help but Dale Earnhardt Jr. says a key reason for his success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season is crew chief Steve Letarte.

Since being paired together last year, Earnhardt has scored one victory, 11 top-five finishes and 25 top-10 finishes in 53 races.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Kentucky

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses in Saturday's Quaker State 400
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.</p>
2012

Over the past three weeks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has run on new surfaces twice at Pocono and Michigan. While Kentucky Speedway is not a new surface, Saturday night's Quaker State 400 is only the second Cup Series race on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. So while teams will have a slightly better idea of what to expect with the notes built from last year’s event, Kentucky Speedway still presents some unknowns.

NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

Filling in the gaps left by TNT
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<p> Jimmie Johnson finds his way back atop Athlon Sports' weekly NASCAR Horsepower Rankings, besting Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth.</p>
2012

1. Jimmie Johnson  It’s a toss up at the top, but J.J. has more wins and, as evidenced by his top-5 run at Sonoma, is a more well-rounded driver than Earnhardt or Kenseth.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.   That said, championships are not won on road courses, so Junior’s 23rd-place showing — to be fair, he ran around 15th most of the day — will not hurt his title quest.

Ambrose vs. the Road Course, Junior's Confidence and Martin's Vacation

The Long and Short of It
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long looks at Marcos Ambrose and his record on NASCAR's road courses, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s confidence level, Elliott Sadler's title hopes in the Nationwide Series and Mark Martin's Sprint Cup vacation.</p>
2012

To break one trend, Marcos Ambrose knows he’ll likely endure another when the Sprint Cup Series competes at Sonoma in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday in the first of two races at road courses this season.

Ambrose, who won at Watkins Glen last year for his first Cup victory, seeks to break a string of seven different winners on road courses. To do so, he’ll have to avoid the litany of trouble that lurks on the tight, 12-turn road course.

NASCAR Horsepower Rankings

At Long Last, the Son Rises
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<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally ascends to the top of Athlon Sports' Horsepower Rankings after breaking a 143-race winless skid with a victory at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
2012

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
We’ve said all along that Earnhardt’s consistency warranted the top spot, but a lack of any wins kept him from it. Well, the 143-race national nightmare is over, and Junior can now lead the way.

2. Jimmie Johnson
Replace the engine and start in the rear of the field? No problem for Chad Knaus and crew. They just handed the ball to J.J., who drove it to a fifth-place finish with blistered tires and an empty gas tank.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Michigan

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.</p>
2012

From the mountains of Pennsylvania to the rolling hills of Michigan, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400.

Racing on yet another repaved track, teams have two test sessions throughout the day on Thursday as they attempt to get acclimated with the new track surface, the higher speeds and how tires will react.

Joey Logano Wins at Pocono

Logano scores second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory
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<p> Joey Logano got by Mark Martin to win his first race of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pocono 400.</p>
2012

Of all the race tracks to add a little spice to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Pocono Raceway was not expected to be it. A 2.5-mile, flat tri-oval that’s seen its share of strung-out racing, the speedway was also recently repaved — a move that doesn’t lend itself to door-banging action.

Sometimes, though, the racing gods smile on the fans when and where they least expect it.

Pennell’s Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Trends at Pocono

Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Pocono 400
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Pocono 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.</p>
2012

This week has certainly been an interesting one in the world of NASCAR.

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