Counting Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 from the Pocono Speedway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, there are six races left on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule before The Chase begins.
Heading into the second race of the season at the Pocono Speedway, another strong showing from the leader may be a necessity to maintain his advantage.
Here's how you can watch the race.
Where: Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Steam: WatchESPN
Radio: Motor Racing Network
|9||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||78|
|23||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||17|
Drivers to Watch
The 22-year-old rookie from Elk Grove, California, captured his first pole position on Saturday, and he looks to parlay that momentum into his first win on Sunday.
Larson handled the turns of the Pocono Raceway with ease during qualifying. He set a track record with a speed of 183.438 mph to earn the choice spot on the grid.
Heading into the event, he seems to be confident but still fully aware of the magnitude of his accomplishment.
"I felt I hit all three corners about as good as I could and barely edged out Joey (Logano) – which feels great because he's been fast in qualifying," said Larson, per Seth Livingstone of Nascar.com. "I had butterflies in that last round. I knew we had a shot at the pole after the second round, but I was nervous."
Despite the fact that Larson has had consecutive top-10 finishes, he may have been flying under the radar heading into qualifying. When the race begins on Sunday, he'll be front and center on everyone's mind.
There's nothing like momentum, and Gordon has plenty of it. Bob Pockrass of Sporting News gives two reasons why Gordon's confidence should be high on Sunday: "His six wins at Pocono lead the series. He also leads the series in momentum thanks to his 90th career win last weekend at Indianapolis."
Just when it seems as if contenders like Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are ready to overtake Gordon in the standings, he comes up with just enough to hold them off.
Last week at the Brickyard, Gordon came through with his fifth win at the historic venue. What made the win even more impressive was the fact that he had to do it with a bad back. Gordon has been struggling mightily with back pain since May 25 at the Coca Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"I don't think my back is ever going to be the same after what happened at Charlotte," Gordon said during the press conference for Sunday's race, per The Associated Press (h/t FoxNews.com).
"I don't know what exactly transpired there, but it's not the same. And I have to be much more careful. I'm just having to treat it more with ice and (stimulation) and be more careful and do more stretching. Is it going to flare-up again? It could. But I'm just trying to be more cautious with the things that I do that I feel like contribute to that."
Because of his condition, this season is crucial for Gordon. There's no telling how long he'll be able to continue racing after this year.
It could be his last realistic shot at winning another Sprint Cup championship.
It's been a while—at least by Johnson's standards—since the six-time Sprint Cup champion has made a splash in a race. He hasn't had a top-10 finish since June 28 at Kentucky Motor Speedway. Johnson's last win came on June 15 in Michigan.
Not only has Johnson not been factoring in the final push for the lead lately; things have been downright disastrous. A wreck doomed him to consecutive 42nd-place finishes in New Hampshire and Daytona. He settled for a 14th-place finish at the Brickyard last week.
That's not very Johnsonesque.
Things have to be looking up this week. Because we're talking about J.J., don't be surprised if he comes up big on Sunday.