By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
Capsules for all drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson climbed back into first place for the first time since the Week 25 race at Atlanta. He essentially swapped points and places with former series leader Matt Kenseth: Johnson trailed Kenseth by four points heading into Talladega this past Sunday and emerged leading Kenseth by four afterward. Johnson leads third-ranked Kevin Harvick by 26 points.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 23 career starts, 8 wins, 16 top-5s, 20 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2004, fall 2006, spring 2007, fall 2007, fall 2008, spring 2009, fall 2012 and spring 2013. Finished first in this race last year and was first again in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson comes into his most successful track this Sunday at Martinsville. His track record there is uncanny, with an unheard of 5.3 average finish. If he does as well as he usually does there on Sunday, he could begin to pull away from the rest of the Chase for the Sprint Cup pack and start closing in on his sixth career Sprint Cup championship. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Martinsville has been good to us in the past. We've got to go there and race. There is going to be a lot of strong competition. We will make sure we get buttoned up and ready to go for this weekend's race and go up there to that paperclip and see what we can do."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson was competitive at Talladega but like many other drivers, chose not to go for the win in the closing laps for fear of getting caught up in a big wreck. In essence, Johnson and the others played it safe and still wound up with a decent points day there.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 99.5 percent (11,480) of the 11,534 total laps contested in 23 career starts at Martinsville. His average start there is 11.4 and his average finish is an uncanny 5.3. He has one DNF there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After being on top of the Chase standings through the first six races, Matt Kenseth dropped one spot after Sunday's race at Talladega and into second place. He trails new points leader Jimmie Johnson by four points, and is 22 points ahead of third-ranked Kevin Harvick.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 27 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in spring 2002. Finished 14th in this race last year and was again 14th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has gone from the hunted to the hunter, falling four points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson. Unfortunately, Martinsville has never been a very good track for Kenseth, while Johnson has shined there time after time. Kenseth will have to dig deep to keep pace with Johnson, lest the latter start pulling away towards a sixth Cup championship. Here's Kenseth's thoughts on Sunday's race: "I don't think (losing the lead) will affect my team. I think I have one of the greatest teams out here obviously and I feel like we can go everywhere else, and honestly we can race with anybody when we're at our best. Hopefully, we'll be at our best the next four weeks and we'll give them a run for their money."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led 32 laps at Talladega but got shuffled back late in the race, ultimately finishing a disappointing 20th and losing the lead in the standings as well.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 99.0 percent (13,401) of the 13,534 total laps contested in 27 career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 21.2, while his average finish is 15.8. He has two DNFs there.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick remained in third place in the Sprint Cup standings for the third consecutive week and now finds himself tied with Kyle Busch, both 26 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson. Harvick and Busch trail second-ranked Matt Kenseth by 22 points and lead fifth-ranked Jeff Gordon by eight points.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 24 career starts, 1 wins, 3 top-fives, 10 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2011. Was 32nd in this race last year (engine problems) and 13th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: If Harvick is to make one last attempt to win his first Sprint Cup championship, he has to win at Martinsville. Anything less won't be enough. He also has to hope series leaders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth have bad days, which is easier said than done. Here's Harvick's thoughts on Sunday's race: "Racing at Martinsville is definitely a challenge. You have the tight turns and you also have to worry about the tires falling off. It creates the ultimate challenge of keeping track position, dealing with the fall off of the car, deciding whether you want to be good on the start or end of a run, and when to get tires. There are a lot of challenges in strategy but also in balancing your car at Martinsville. So, not only does the race track itself create a lot to challenges with the tight racing quarters, but you deal with challenges in the strategy as well."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick finished 12th at Talladega, on the heels of a win at Kansas and solid sixth-place finish at Charlotte.
ETC.: Harvick has completed 97.5 percent (11,736) of the 12,034 total laps contested in 24 career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 13.7 and average finish is 16.6. He has one DNF there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing