Media Tabs Johnson

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If media voters prove accurate prognosticators, look for the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship battle to mimic recent history.

The defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series champion, Kurt Busch, won the 2004 title by eight points over Jimmie Johnson – the closest finish in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup history. And while both drivers remain title candidates, Johnson has been selected as the media favorite in the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10.

A total of 213 votes were cast in the balloting, which began Feb. 3 and ended Feb. 13. Drivers received 10 points for first place, nine points for second place, eight points for third place, seven points for fourth place, six points for fifth place, five points for sixth place, four points for seventh place, three points for eighth place, two points for ninth place and one point for 10th place. Eight drivers in the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10 competed in the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

Johnson received 1,765 points and 87 first-place votes. Trailing him by only 25 points in second is Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, who received 1,740 points and 65 first-place votes. Third place in the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10 belongs to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who received 1,355 points and 25 first-place votes. Only eight points separate Tony Stewart and Busch for fourth and fifth place, respectively. Stewart received 1,030 points and seven first-place votes while Busch received 1,022 points and five first-place votes.

As for the rest of the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10, sixth-place Ryan Newman received 844 points and nine first-place votes. In seventh place is Kasey Kahne, the defending Raybestos Rookie of the Year. Kahne, who received 707 points and one first-place vote, didn’t make the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, but he has been voted to the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10.

In eighth place is 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth. Kenseth received 657 points and no first-place votes. Behind Kenseth, in ninth place, is Jamie McMurray, the second driver who didn’t make the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, but has been voted to the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10. McMurray received 546 points and two first-place votes.

Tenth in the 2005 NASCAR Preseason Top 10 media voting is Mark Martin, who’s beginning his final fulltime season. He received 453 points and four first-place votes.

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