The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is down to the final eight, and the Eliminator Round begins Sunday at Martinsville Speedway with a spot in the Championship Round on the line.
The Contender Round concluded last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, and while Martinsville is far different as a half-mile track, it is almost equally unpredictable, which should make for an extremely interesting race, especially with so much on the line.
As the 2015 NASCAR season nears its conclusion, here is everything you need to know about the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500, including a breakdown of the top contenders to come away with a victory.
Where: Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia
When: Sunday, Nov. 1, at 1:15 p.m. ET
Ticket Info: ScoreBig.com
|Schedule for Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500|
|Saturday, Oct. 31||9 a.m.||Practice||CNBC|
|Saturday, Oct. 31||12 p.m.||Final Practice||CNBC|
|Sunday, Nov. 1||1:15 p.m.||Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||NBCSN|
|NASCAR at Martinsville Entry List|
|9||Sam Hornish Jr.|
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|78||Martin Truex Jr.|
|88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
Drivers to Watch
Although Jeff Gordon has yet to win a race in his final season as a full-time driver, he remains in the hunt for his fifth career championship, and a strong performance at Martinsville could go a long way toward achieving that.
No active driver has enjoyed more success at Martinsville than Gordon, as the pilot of the 24 car has eight victories, 28 top-five finishes and 36 top-10 results in 45 career starts there.
In addition to that, he seems to have a great deal of confidence entering the stretch run:
Even though Gordon hasn't taken the checkered flag in 2015, he believes he has all the pieces needed to make a run at the title, according to ESPN.com's Bob Pockrass:
What I'm most proud of what we've done this year is that when those times were tough and we were at one another's throats and we weren't happy, we were discouraged or frustrated. We fought through it, we continued to communicate. We actually bonded and grew from it.
That's why we're one of the strongest teams that exists out there. I think we're one of the strongest teams when it comes down to sticking together, fighting through adversity, executing to a high level.
Martinsville may represent Gordon's best chance to pick up a win considering his history there, and his recent form suggests he is among the top contenders to enter Victory Lane.
A win would be huge in terms of cementing a spot in the Championship Round, and with everything seemingly coming together at the right time for Gordon, he may very well accomplish that goal Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson didn't make it out of the Chase's first round, but there is no question that he is still a threat to win whenever he takes the track.
That is especially true at Martinsville, where JJ has won eight times and registered 22 top-10 finishes in 27 starts. While most of the focus will be placed on the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Johnson undoubtedly has a chance to spoil the party by stealing a win.
Drivers who aren't in the Chase don't have much to lose, so Johnson will have the benefit of aggressiveness at Martinsville. That isn't always a positive thing on short tracks, but he has proved over the years that he knows how to handle Martinsville.
Johnson will likely place some focus on helping out Gordon in his pursuit of a championship, but that isn't likely to prevent him from going for a win in his own right.
Although many are overlooking Johnson now that he is out of the Chase, he has as good of a chance as anyone to pick up a victory Sunday.
Like Johnson, Denny Hamlin is no longer in the Chase, but he has a chip on his shoulder and a long history of success at Martinsville.
Hamlin missed out on the Eliminator Round last week at Talladega, and he was none too happy with the tactics Kevin Harvick employed to move on:
While those sour grapes could potentially lead him to make life miserable for the No. 4 team, he also has plenty of incentive to go for a win now that he is out of the Chase and isn't racing for points.
Martinsville has been kind to Hamlin over the years, as he has five wins and 15 top-10 finishes there in 19 starts. In addition, his frustration suggests that he is ready to play the role of spoiler.
Hamlin would have been among the top contenders to take home the title had he made it into the Eliminator Round, but now that he is out of the running, look for him to do everything in his power to crash the party at Martinsville.
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