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Chase Watch Phoenix: Who will win and get in?

February 27, 2014, Staff report,

Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson are top contenders to win at Phoenix

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With his victory in the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the first driver to all but clinch a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The 11-time Most Popular Driver has two wins at Phoenix International Raceway, one of eight drivers to have more than one trip to Victory Lane there.

Two California drivers sit atop the winners' list at PIR and should be the favorites to win their way into the Chase on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are tied with four victories apiece at the Jewel in the Desert. Here are five drivers who could punch their ticket to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship playoff this weekend.

Kevin Harvick: With two wins in the last three races at the track, Harvick holds the second-best Driver Rating at the facility at 101.3 and is one of only two drivers to have a DR over 100. Half of Harvick's 22 starts have ended in the top 10, and he has seven top-five finishes.

Jimmie Johnson: Tied with Harvick for the most wins at the facility, Johnson has the highest Driver Rating (116.7) of any driver at the track. Johnson has not won here since November of 2009 when he claimed his fourth victory in five races on the 1-mile oval. He leads all drivers with 14 top-five finishes in his 21 starts.

Carl Edwards: A two-time Phoenix winner, each of Edwards's victories -- in the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2013 -- snapped a 70-race winless drought. It's only been 11 races since his last win at Richmond last fall, but after a strong Daytona 500 that saw him lead late, he’ll be one to watch this weekend at a track where he's third on the Driver Rating list at an even 100.0.

Jeff Gordon: Another two-time winner at Phoenix, Gordon has a record 20 top-10 finishes in 30 starts at the track. Gordon won from the Coors Light Pole in 2007, and his second victory in 2010 came from the 20th starting position so keep any eye on him even if he starts mid-pack. He’s fourth on the Driver Rating list at 99.4.

Tony Stewart: Although Stewart hasn't won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix since his rookie-of-the-year campaign in 1999, he's fifth in Driver Rating (99.2) and has added inspiration this weekend. His racing hero and the reason for the No. 14 on his car, A.J. Foyt, will be in attendance as part of the Phoenix International Raceway's 50th anniversary celebration. If you're headed to the race, the two legends will appear together on Saturday at 11 a.m. Phoenix time at the track's Roll Bar.

Go deeper:
Check out NASCAR's Phoenix Statistical Analysis for more stats and notes for Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500, Presented by Small Business Fueling America.

Heading into the second race of NASCAR's regular season, here is how the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings look:

Pos. Driver Chase berth
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Winner: Daytona
2. Denny Hamlin 2nd in points
3. Brad Keselowski 3rd in points
4. Jeff Gordon 4th in points
5. Jimmie Johnson 5th in points
6. Matt Kenseth 6th in points
7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 7th in points
8. Greg Biffle 8th in points
9. Austin Dillon 9th in points
10. Casey Mears 10th in points
11. Joey Logano 11th in points
12. Kevin Harvick 12th in points
13. Jamie McMurray 13th in points
14. Bobby Labonte 14th in points
15. Reed Sorenson 15th in points
16. Carl Edwards 16th in points


READ: Earnhardt Jr. wins
wild Daytona 500

WATCH: Dale Jr.
in Victory Lane

WATCH: Danica, a dozen
others in Daytona pileup

READ: Official Daytona 500
race results