Jimmie Johnson will take a slim four-point lead in the overall standings over Matt Kenseth to the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
Johnson is set to begin the race in second, with Denny Hamlin the only driver starting in front of him.
Kenseth is in the row directly behind Johnson and Hamlin.
The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car will start fourth, and he will be surrounded by teammates. Pole-sitter Hamlin is a JGR teammate, and so is Kyle Busch. Busch will start in third, which, coincidentally, is also his place in the Cup standings. He trails Johnson by just 26 points.
Kevin Harvick is also just 26 points back. Harvick will start in 10th.
In all likelihood, it will be one of these four drivers who emerges as the 2013 Sprint Cup Series champion. After all, this stop at "The Paperclip" means there are just four races left in the Chase.
Where: Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va. (0.526 mile oval, 500 laps)
When: Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. ET
TV Coverage: ESPN will start its broadcast at 1:00 p.m. ET
|12||Dale Earnhardt Jr||88||Chevrolet|
|13||Juan Pablo Montoya||42||Chevrolet|
|15||Martin Truex Jr||56||Toyota|
|20||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||17||Ford|
Drivers to Watch
Denny Hamlin may not be in the Chase, but winning races still means something, and Hamlin is in a great position to do that. He has been excellent at Martinsville over his career, and a win would definitely be a nice bit of momentum for him and his team.
Hamlin has just one top-10 since his return from a back injury suffered in California this year. That came with a ninth at Charlotte two weeks ago, but he was unable to keep that momentum rolling. He finished 38th after his engine blew in Talladega last week.
A win from the pole would be huge for this team moving into next season.
Johnson is in great position. He has the points lead, is starting in second and he will be racing at Martinsville. As USA Today's Jeff Gluck points out, Johnson's average finish at Martinsville is 5.3. This is his best mark on any track. Given that, it should not be a surprise that his eight wins at Martinsville are tied for his most at any track.
He also hasn't finished any worse than 12th here since 2002.
If Kenseth, or anyone else in the Chase, wants to make up any ground on Johnson, he would be wise to plan on going for the win on Sunday.
Kenseth's career at Martinsville is not nearly as good (or good at all, for that matter) as Johnson's. He's had just three top-five finishes in his 20 starts at this track.
Still, there is a lot of truth in this tweet:
Kenseth is eradicating demons from his closet in his first season with JGR. That includes him more than doubling his career total for laps led at Martinsville after leading 96 laps there earlier in the year. He also picked up his first win in 28 starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway earlier in the season.
Kenseth will push Johnson to be at his best to gain any points on him this week.