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48 vs. 20: Second-closest title race in history

November 03, 2013, Zack Albert,

See how the 2013 Chase stacks up against other championship battles since 1975

RELATED: Full Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage

For all the ground covered and for all the chances for title hopes to be dashed, one would think stock-car racing's playoffs might be a runaway. Instead, it's a seven-point lead for five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and 2003 champ Matt Kenseth all even, making it the second-closest Chase in history with two races left.

Johnson and Kenseth enter Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) as the series' winningest drivers this year -- Kenseth with seven victories in 2013, and Johnson with six, meaning that Kenseth would hold the tiebreaker if the season were to end in a deadlock.

Such a finish wouldn't be unprecedented: Tony Stewart edged Carl Edwards for the 2011 Sprint Cup crown on a tiebreaker as he won the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale.
Two rounds to the finish, with two evenly matched heavyweights on their "A game," making the turn for home atop the standings. A look inside NASCAR's closest season finishes:

With two races remaining
Year Points margin Leader Second place Eventual champion
2011 3 Carl Edwards Tony Stewart Stewart
2013 7 Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth ??
2012 7 Jimmie Johnson Brad Keselowski Keselowski
1979 8* Richard Petty Darrell Waltrip Petty
2006 17 Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth Johnson
With one race remaining
Year Points margin Leader Second place Eventual champion
1979 2* Darrell Waltrip Richard Petty Petty
2011 3 Carl Edwards Tony Stewart Stewart
1990 6* Dale Earnhardt Mark Martin Earnhardt
2010 15 Denny Hamlin Jimmie Johnson Johnson
2004 18 Kurt Busch Jimmie Johnson Busch

*pre-Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup




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