Currently, Jimmie Johnson tops the list with 13.5% expected chance of winning the cup this year. Prior to last year, Jimmie was on a record breaking streak, winning from 2005 to 2010. (He trounced Cale Yarborough's three-peat streak from 1976 to 1978.) Tony Stewart straddled Jimmie's run by winning in 2004 and 2011 (with different car owners). Currently, Tony is third on the list with 8.5%.
Carl Edwards, the runner up last year, is second on that list with 9.7%. I think he is a good pick to win the whole thing, but to do that he needs to take more risks to win races. (Check out my piece entitled Carl's Curse of Consistency for more thoughts on this topic.) Kevin Harvick, my pick to win the Daytona 500, is placed fourth with 7.5%, tied there with Kyle Busch. Jeff Gordon (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001 winner) is just behind them at 6.8%.
I personally think the consensus odds are overly favorable towards Jimmie Johnson at 4 to 1. Sure he's was a perennial winner, and he has a good chance this year to do it again. But I think there are better choices. Carl Edwards I think is a good choice given his consistency. I personally think Tony Stewart should repeat again -- he's my personal pick at 7 to 1 odds.
Lastly, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s expected winning probability is 3.2%. That ranks him number 12.
Below is the top ten drivers in terms of expected winning chances for the 2012 Sprint Cup. The expected chances are extracted from published odds adjusted for house-take.
1. Jimmie Johnson (13.5% expected chance to win)
2. Carl Edwards (9.7%)
3. Tony Stewart (8.5%)
4. Kevin Harvick (7.5%)
5. Kyle Busch (7.5%)
6. Jeff Gordon (6.8%)
7. Denny Hanlin (6.8%)
8. Kasey Kahne (6.1%)
9. Matt Kenseth (5.2%)
10. Brad Kenselowski (5.2%)