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Down to strength vs. strength vs. strength

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

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So now it's down to three – three races for three drivers to duke it out, and that doesn't even tell the entire story.

First up is Texas, where Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick finished first, second and seventh, respectively, earlier this season. Then it's on to Phoenix, where all three drivers are solid. And finally it's Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Denny Hamlin won last season, Harvick took third and Johnson fifth.

In other words, it's strength vs. strength vs. strength.

Each Thursday during the Chase, Yahoo! Sports breaks down the 12-driver field. Here's a look at how the field stacks up heading into race No. 8 of the Chase, Sunday's AAA Texas 500:

1. Jimmie Johnson
6149 pts.
Johnson

Last year's Lap 2 crash won't rattle Johnson, but it will have Chad Knaus and him putting a lot more emphasis on qualifying. Better to start up front than chance getting mixed up in the riffraff.
Last week's result: 7th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
6 15 3
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 10.1
Last time: 2nd
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (4.9)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (12.7)
Total avg.: 9.2
2. Denny Hamlin
6135 pts. (-14)
Hamlin

It's time for Hamlin to flex his muscle and take control from Johnson. Sweeping Texas would do just that, and you can bet that's exactly what Hamlin is thinking.
Last week's result: 9th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
7 13 2
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 9.6
Last time: 1st
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Texas (9.6)
Worst: Phoenix (11.6)
Total avg.: 10.6
3. Kevin Harvick
6111 pts. (-38)
Harvick

He didn't make up as much ground as he wanted at Talladega, but he made up ground nonetheless. Now it's time for Harvick to show why he's better than Johnson and Hamlin. Can he do it?
Last week's result: 2nd

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
3 15 2
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 12.9
Last time: 7th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (8.4)
Worst: Phoenix (15.0)
Total avg.: 12.1
5942 pts. (-207)
Gordon

He actually led the most laps the last time they were in Texas. But the 24 team was much stronger then than it is now. Can Gordon finally get that first win?
Last week's result: 8th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
1 11 0
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 15.9
Last time: 31st
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (9.5)
Worst: Texas (15.9)
Total avg.: 11.9
5919 pts. (-230)
Kyle Busch

Guess who finished third to Hamlin and Johnson at Texas in the spring? He may not win on Sunday, but expect Busch to play a role in who does.
Last week's result: 25th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
3 10 2
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 14.7
Last time: 3rd
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (13.9)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (25.2)
Total avg.: 17.9
5902 pts. (-247)
Edwards

It seems like forever ago when Edwards went to the intermediate tracks as the clear-cut favorite. That's certainly not the case anymore. In fact, he's not even the strongest on his own team.
Last week's result: 17th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
0 7 2
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 17.5
Last time: 33rd
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (6.5)
Worst: Texas (17.5)
Total avg.: 12.3
5832 pts. (-317)
Stewart

Smoke's intermediate-track program is strong, so don't be surprised to see him running up front. Remember: He's already won at California and Atlanta this season.
Last week's result: 31st

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
2 9 2
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 13.4
Last time: 32nd
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (11.7)
Worst: Texas (13.4)
Total avg.: 12.6
5825 pts. (-324)
Kenseth

Can we just pencil in a 15th-place finish now? Actually, Texas is one of Kenseth's better tracks. That said, a midpack finish sounds about right.
Last week's result: 16th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
0 5 0
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 9.9
Last time: 20th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Texas (9.9)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (19.8)
Total avg.: 16.0
5799 pts. (-350)
Kurt Busch

Remember when he won those two races at Charlotte? Yeah, not sure he does either. This has been a bad, bad Chase for Busch, who can't wait for the season to be over.
Last week's result: 16th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
2 9 2
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 13.1
Last time: 4th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Texas (13.1)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (19.6)
Total avg.: 15.4
5797 pts. (-352)
Burton

You know things are bad when Jeff Burton is kicking the side of his car. That's just him unloading the frustration of knowing that he's a lot better than where he sits in the standings.
Last week's result: 41st

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
0 6 0
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 15.1
Last time: 12th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (11.4)
Worst: Texas (15.1)
Total avg.: 13.7
5788 pts. (-361)
Biffle

It wouldn't be a surprise to see him win at Texas … or finish 35th. That's the kind of Chase it's been for him. And yes, Biffle is the best Roush-Fenway driver on the intermediate tracks.
Last week's result: 19th

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
2 7 0
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 20.1
Last time: 10th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (13.5)
Worst: Texas (20.1)
Total avg.: 16.3
5782 pts. (-367)
Bowyer

Despite a 150-point penalty, Bowyer is in the mix to make the trip to Las Vegas. (Only the top 10 are invited to the banquet.) The bet here is that he goes there with room to spare
Last week's result: 1st

2010 STATS
Wins Top 5s Poles
2 7 0
CAREER
AT TEXAS
Avg. finish: 15.3
Last time: 36th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (14.9)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (16.2)
Total avg.: 15.5