With just four races remaining, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are set to battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship as they remain the top two drivers to beat with the Chase for the Sprint Cup nearing its conclusion.
Johnson currently leads Kenseth by four points, with both drivers more than 20 points ahead of the rest of the field meaning that for Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch to have a shot at the title, Johnson and Kenseth would have to finish at the bottom of the leaderboard in one of the four remaining races.
As the No. 48 and No. 20 get set for a sprint to the finish, here's how they match up with one another.
Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson has eight victories at Martinsville, where the Sprint Cup Series races this weekend. Matt Kenseth has eight top-ten finishes and no wins. The key for Kenseth this weekend will be to avoid a bad finish while minimizing the amount of points that Johnson would pad his lead with if he were to pick up the victory.
Texas: Kenseth will have an opportunity to make up ground at Texas Motor Speedway Nov. 3. The intermediate tracks of approximately 1.5-miles in length have been Kenseth's strong point this season with four of his seven wins coming at tracks 1.5 miles or longer. Johnson has also been strong on intermediate tracks this year with a best finish of third, but he has not been as strong as Kenseth. Texas may very well end up being a make or break race for Kenseth's title hopes as long as he is able to post a strong finish ahead of Johnson's.
Phoenix: This race has ended up going a long way in deciding the season champion in recent years. A good finish in the penultimate race of the season can put drivers in a good position heading into the season finale. That held true in 2010 when Denny Hamlin missed out on a chance to gain points at Phoenix and it cost him the championship that year.
Johnson has finished in the top five in four of his past six Phoenix races. Kenseth's top-ten finish earlier this year at Phoenix broke a string of four consecutive finishes no better than 13th - but those where while he was still with Roush-Fenway Racing.
Homestead: Both drivers have mixed success here. Kenseth has a win and three top tens in the past six races at Homestead with Johnson having the same amount of top tens over the same stretch.
Organizations: With so much at stake for both teams, expect the absolute best to be under the hood for both cars. Hendrick Motorsports has shown that it's willing to do anything to win a title for the organization, even going so far as to swap pit crews like they did in 2010 during Johnson's most recent title run.
The No. 48 team has been here before, winning five championships. It knows what to do when the stakes are this high. But don't count out Joe Gibbs Racing's drive for its first championship since 2006. JGR has had elements in place to win a championship in the past but has not had things fall its way at the right time. If it's in position to win with a race to go, there will be no shortage of motivation for the No. 20 team.
Durability: Both drivers have three DNFs due to engine problems this season. Expect strong engine packages to be even better during the final four races.
Final Prediction: Johnson squeaks out a close title race ahead of Matt Kenseth.