- Did you mean:
Hamlin survives by extremely small margin -- sound familiar?
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear Denny Hamlin got the nose of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota out just in front of Kurt Busch 's No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for a third-place finish in Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12 finale -- by a mere 0.006 seconds. Had he finished behind Busch, Hamlin would've been eliminated from the Chase -- and his day would've been much, much worse. "It was tough all day," Hamlin said after the race. "Really the first true, good Chase fortune I've had in 11 years. … I felt this was the best-case scenario for us." How close was @dennyhamlin to not advancing in #TheChase ? 0.006 at the stripe! https://t.co/gaKsWBxPaH — NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 23, 2016 Anybody else got a case of deja vu right now? Hamlin opened the season with a very similar finish -- for the win, too -- when he edged out Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr . at the finish line of the Daytona 500 by 0.010 seconds. RELATED: Hamlin wins thrilling Daytona 500 Talladega and Daytona: two similar finishes, two afternoons that could've been drastically different for Hamlin had the game of inches not fallen in his favor.
Backed by Junior Nation, Alex Bowman sees opportunity at Talladega
RELATED: Ailing Bowman presses on, nabs career-best finish With Dale Earnhardt Jr . slated to miss his first Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway since he broke into the big leagues full time as a rookie in 2000, many wonder which driver will replace the superspeedway ace as the one to beat in Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). How about, you know, the guy actually replacing him? Fresh off a seventh-place showing at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Alex Bowman is set to drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the third consecutive week and the seventh time this season as the driver recovers from concussion-related symptoms. This weekend is perhaps Bowman's most significant start of the year. Because it's at Earnhardt's own Talladega. RELATED: Earnhardt-Talladega streak to continue Sunday "He's got a couple fans out there," Bowman told NASCAR.com at Kansas. "Man, I'm excited about (racing at Talladega). Speedway racing is always stressful, but … ( Hendrick Motorsports ) brings such fast race cars to the race track and their speedway stuff is amazing. Always fast. Especially the 88. So, just really looking forward to having a chance to win. "I'm going to sit Dale down and have a couple-hour conversation with him about speedway racing. If there's a speedway racer left in this garage, it's him, for sure." The man's got a point. From a wins standpoint, Talladega ranks as Junior's best track with six, only closely followed by four wins at Daytona, another Earnhardt cornerstone -- and another superspeedway. Bowman's 'Dega stats don't match Junior's, of course, but he did pilot the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish just last year. And while it's almost jarring to hear a driver say that he is "excited" for Talladega, it's unsurprising coming from Bowman, who'll have the roar of the crowd on his side -- a fanbase that has named the man he's replacing NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 13 years running. "Junior Nation has been great," said Bowman, 23. "It's been really cool; they've just been really supportive. Every now and then there's one fan that hates me, but for the most part they've been awesome. Casey Mears fans hate me after (Charlotte), because apparently it was my fault that we blew a tire and wrecked him, but Junior Nation has been awesome." RELATED: Dale Jr. to join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville Not only does Bowman have full access to Earnhardt's Talladega insight, a wealth of knowledge so deep it likely needs its own Dewey Decimal System, he's sharing substitute driving duties with a four-time Sprint Cup champ and six-time 'Dega winner in Jeff Gordon . "It’s been really cool (to share a ride with Gordon). Jeff was my favorite driver growing up when I was a kid," Bowman said. "It's been really good to learn from him. He's an open book. All five of my teammates are complete open books. It's great to lean on them and learn as much as I can, but Jeff just has so much experience and has a really interesting view on a lot of things. "It's been a great time just listening and observing and learning everything I can from him." The lessons taken at "Gordon Drivers Ed, Inc." appear to be working, too. While the final results might not show the whole picture, Bowman, at times, has looked like the more competitive driver behind the wheel of the No. 88, and owns the car's best finish -- seventh -- since Earnhardt placed second at Pocono way back in June. Bowman says that some people joke with him and say "Oh, I'm glad to see you've finally learned how to drive." He's always known how to drive, it's just been more about opportunities. And if luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, "Bad Luck Bowman" -- a driver that once learned he'd been fired via Twitter -- knows the magnitude of the opportunity presented to him this weekend and in his remaining races. And you can be sure he'll be prepared. "I hope (this opportunity has put my name out there)," Bowman said. "We've talked to a lot of people and it always comes back to money. It's always 'Well, do you have any sponsorship?' 'Do you have any funding?' I don't, so it's just … the sport's such a business at this point that it really kind of limits what I can and can't get into and that's what's limited what I can and can't get into for the last four years. "I don't have anything lined up (for next year yet). I think my role that I had at Hendrick Motorsports before all this happened is still going to be the same. Still being a part of the team, still doing all the simulator stuff and helping as much as I can. I don't think that will change. Obviously, when Dale comes back and all that, I don't really know what that leaves for me as far as driving anything. "I don't know what the future holds there. I don't have anything going forward, really." In the short-term, at least, he'll have the full support of Junior Nation at Talladega. </p>
Food City -Bristol partnership roots run deep
RELATED: Bristol quick facts " Full weekend schedule BRISTOL, Tenn. – It began with a promotion to help former series sponsor RJ Reynolds sell product. Today, 25 years later, the Food City sponsorship of Bristol Motor Speedway 's spring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event is as strong as ever. It is the second-longest race entitlement in NASCAR – trailing only the Coca-Cola sponsorship of the 600-mile May race at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We started in 1992, followed up the Valleydale 500 ," Steve Smith , Food City President and CEO, said Thursday at BMS. "That was back when it was still Winston Cup. We worked with RJ Reynolds on a promotion ... that was the whole genesis of us getting involved in racing." Initially, it wasn't a long-term deal, but by the time the next season had arrived, officials with the grocery chain were ready and willing to return. "We signed the (initial) agreement and we had a great first race," Smith said. "Alan Kulwicki actually won our first race in 1992; I remember that well. We were off and running." Kulwicki, an owner/driver, went on to win the series title that season. Tragically, the following year he was killed in a plane crash while en route to BMS to defend his Food City 500 title. Smith said his company, founded by his father Jack, became involved at the right time in the sport, when the fan base was on the upswing, TV coverage was gaining traction and sponsorship dollars were flowing. "What happened with Bristol was really indicative of what was happening with NASCAR, it was just growing and growing," he said. "Five years later Bruton (Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. founder) bought the track and things just really started to escalate here with the amenities and the things that they did for the race fans. ... Folks love coming here, they love the racing environment, and they love, I think, the southern hospitality. "We try, as a sponsor, to do a lot of things to get them in here a little bit early, whether it's Food City Race Night or other events to really make it a full week of fun for the race fan." In addition to the Sprint Cup race sponsorship, the company also sponsors the August NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Bristol. While there have been times that spending money on race entitlement rights might have been questionable, Smith said "I don't think there's ever been a time when we really thought about dropping the race. "Now, we've negotiated pretty tough with Speedway Motorsports because obviously the fan base dropped a little bit, the viewership dropped a little bit, but when you've got folks like (former BMS General Manager) Jeff Byrd and (current GM) Jerry Caldwell that you know are going to do everything they can to give the race fan, our customers, that experience, it makes it pretty easy to continue to spend the dollars and continue to keep our associates that work in our stores involved in racing, and that's a big part of it, too." The return for Food City , he said, comes in many forms. No. 1 is name recognition. "We're a relatively small regional company -- we're in four states, 135 stores, 16,000 associates," Smith said. "It sounds like a lot but in the scheme of things compared to some of our competition, it's not. But it's a sense of pride for our associates, our customers who know we sponsor racing. "NASCAR fans are very loyal, they're loyal to the brands that are involved whether it's Food City or other consumer products sponsors. We think it helps us sell more products and bring more people in to our stores." In February of 2014, Food City and BMS officials announced a five-year extension for the naming rights of the track's spring Sprint Cup race. "At the end of the day, it's hard to put a financial statement together that proves that it's a great spend, but we've been doing good ever since we been sponsoring racing so we don't want to stop there," Smith said.
Talladega Chase race to be called Hellmann's 500
RELATED: Buy tickets for Talladega TALLADEGA, AL – Hellmann's mayonnaise, which has been a staple in American kitchens for generations, and NASCAR's Most Competitive Track – Talladega Superspeedway - announced today that Sunday’s (Oct. 23) much anticipated elimination race in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will now be known as the Hellmann's 500 . Hellmann's, a brand of Unilever, has been involved in the sport of NASCAR since 2004 and has a reputation for delivering fans with quality, delicious products. In addition to the new Talladega Superspeedway y (TSS) partnership, the Hellmann’s brand has a long-time relationship with six-time TSS winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . and JR Motorsports. NASCAR fans have embraced many of the attributes that resonate with the Hellmann's family of products – plain and simple, they are the real deal. Hellmann's flagship product, Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise, is the best-selling mayonnaise in the United States. "In honor of our long-standing partnership with NASCAR, Hellmann's is thrilled to show our dedication to the race car community by becoming the exclusive, title sponsor of the Talladega race," said Hellmann's Marketing Director Russel Lilly. "We've been a staple on the speedway for years, getting to know Dale Jr. and establishing his No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevrolet as the car to beat. Whether on the track or cheering from the stands, Hellmann's is a life-time fan of the sport of racing and we’re honored to be a part of such an iconic race." "Hellmann's is an incredible nationally known product that fits in perfectly with our facility and the fans who attend the events here," said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. "We have an incredible fan base who are here all week and love to cook up a variety of tasty dishes to eat while they are enjoying the best racing in the world. Take a walk on our property and you will see campers and tailgaters using a host of Hellmann’s spreads. We are glad to welcome them to our Talladega family with the Hellmann's 500 ." Sunday’s Hellmann's 500 at the mammoth 2.66-mile, 33-degree banked layout, will be the pivotal third and final race in the Round of 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . When the checkered flag falls in the pressure-packed event, the field of title contenders will be reduced from 12 drivers to eight. While he won’t be competing in the Hellmann's 500 , Earnhardt Jr. will be at Talladega and will be interacting with fans as part of the Fan Question & Answer session at the start-finish line as part of the track’s " Pre-Race Pit Pass Upgrade ." Weekend preparations for the Hellmann's 500 get underway Friday (Oct. 21) with two different practice sessions (1:00-1:55 p.m. CDT & 3:30-4:25 p.m. CDT). Foodland/ Food Giant Qualifying, which will determine the starting lineup for the Hellmann's 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, is set for Saturday (Oct. 22) at 3:00 p.m. CDT. A ticket to the Hellmann's 500 also gets fans into the traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert, which will feature country star Jerrod Niemann, Tim Dugger and DJ Michaelis. The Hellmann's 500 is set for a 1:00 p.m. (CDT) start Sunday (Oct. 23).
Chase by the Numbers: Martinsville
As drivers head into the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, here are some statistics to keep in mind at NASCAR's shortest track.
Heads up: Martinsville weekend
Here are the hot topics, trending news and key story lines to get you ready for this weekend's races at Martinsville Speedway . WEATHER Another beautiful race weekend is forecasted for Martinsville. The National Weather Service says Friday will be sunny with a high near 70, and Saturday will be even warmer with a high of 77 and sunshine. Sunday is downgraded to only "mostly sunny," with a high of 74. Overall, it should be a perfect fall weekend. KEY TIMES Sprint Cup Series: The first practice will be Friday at 11 a.m. ET, with another pair of practices coming Saturday at 9 a.m. ET (CNBC) and noon ET. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is at 4:40 p.m. ET Friday. Aside from the Saturday morning practice, all race coverage will be broadcast on NBCSN and NBC SportsApp this weekend. Camping World Truck Series: The Camping World Truck Series has a pair of Friday practices, at 12:30 p.m. ET and 2:30 p.m. ET, both on FS1. The race is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 with Keystone Light Pole Qualifying just before at 10:15 a.m. ET (FS1). CATCH DRIVERS LIVE We'll stream every driver press conference in the Martinsville media center at NASCAR.com/presspass . Notably, Jimmie Johnson speaks at 10:15 a.m. ET Friday, followed by Denny Hamlin is at 1 p.m. ET and Jeff Gordon at 1:30 p.m. ET. Click here for a full schedule. LAST TIME Jeff Gordon punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway in style, outracing Jamie McMurray in the final two laps as darkness fell at Martinsville Speedway . "We're going to Homestead!" Gordon bellowed after the win gave him a chance at the Sprint Cup title in his final season of full-time driving. It was Gordon's only victory of 2015. The storyline that grabbed all the headlines, however, was Matt Kenseth nudging then-race leader Joey Logano into the wall on Lap 454 of 500 . At the time, Kenseth was 10 laps down. The move was widely viewed as retaliation for Logano bumping Kenseth out of the lead at Kansas two weeks earlier, which effectively eliminated Kenseth from advancing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Kenseth was suspended for two races, and Logano did not advance to the championship round. YOU SHOULD KNOW • Jeff Gordon returns to his best track on the circuit as he gets behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who continues to recover from a concussion. Gordon won here a year ago, and has some of the best statistics among any driver at Martinsville: nine wins, highest average finish (6.8) and most laps led (3,779). Can the 45-year-old recreate that magic at his eighth subsitute race of this season? This is Gordon's final scheduled race of the season in place of Earnhardt Jr. • This is the first of three races in the Round of 8, before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is cut to the Championship 4 for the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale. • Somehow, this is the first time since the current format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup began in 2014 that Jimmie Johnson has advanced to the Round of 8. He started the Round of 12 with a victory at Charlotte; can Six-Time repeat that feat with an opening-round win to punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami? He's an eight-time winner at Martinsville, so it's no stretch to imagine. • The addition of extra timing lines in the pits has added another layer to monitoring drivers for speeding penalties. In Martinsville's tight pits, if figures to have a big impact.
NBCSN, NASCAR Productions Present 'NASCAR Seasons: 2001'
RELATED: Oral history of first race after 9-11 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Immediately following this Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage at Martinsville Speedway , NBCSN presents "NASCAR Seasons: 2001," a new 60-minute documentary that chronicles a NASCAR season and a year that will never be forgotten. Unfolding through Dale Earnhardt's tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500 , the enormous outpouring of emotions that followed, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s stirring victory at the July Daytona race, "NASCAR Seasons: 2001" also covers the sport's passionate reaction to the tragic events of the September 11th attacks. The story of this unforgettable year illustrates how NASCAR's legion of supporters came together at times of sorrow and jubilation to exhibit a tremendous sense of unity, and how the experiences of 2001 generated several advancements in safety that continue to evolve today. Produced in partnership with NASCAR Productions, the documentary candidly presents the events through rarely seen archival footage and new interviews with those who experienced the season firsthand. "NASCAR Seasons: 2001" premieres Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Dale Earnhardt Jr . contributes, openly discussing his memories from the year he lost his father and NASCAR lost a racing icon. The special features interviews with winner of the 2001 Sprint Cup Championship, Jeff Gordon , and fellow drivers Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton , Kyle Petty, Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler . In addition, the documentary includes interviews with former NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, and longtime NASCAR senior executive Mike Helton, as they recall the challenges, healing and ultimately the pride that surrounded the sport and its millions of fans. Below are excerpts from "NASCAR Seasons: 2001": Dale Earnhardt Jr . on his father's impact: "When mainstream media was covering the death of my dad, how much attention that got kind of blew me away. Because I don't even know if dad had an idea of what he was to the world, or what he was to this country." Kyle Petty on Dale Jr. returning to Daytona in July for the first race after his father's passing: "The way he handled himself and didn't shy away from it. 'It is part of who I am and who I am going to be for the rest of my life.' He became, in a lot of ways, a leader in the garage that day." Mike Helton on delaying the first race after September 11, 2001: "Sports and entertainment are good complements to a healing process. But there is a time and a place. I think we landed on you simply have to be aware of the fact that the magnitude of that day was one that deserved peace and quiet." Tune-in to watch the Goody's Fast Relief 500 this Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or listen live on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fans can also purchase tickets to catch all the on-track action in person by visiting www.nascar.com/tickets .
Why Joey Logano's jack stuck to his car
RELATED: Chase Grid " Race results At one point during Sunday's Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway , Joey Logano 's chances for Chase advancement were on the verge of being hijacked -- by a jack that stuck to his car during a pit stop, no less. And for a few tense moments Logano circled the track with the jack stuck under the left side of his car, reaching speeds of 150 mph down the backstretch of the gargantuan 2.66-mile superspeedway, trying to swerve and get it loose. Luckily for the No. 22 Team Penske outfit, Logano made it to pit road to get the unwanted stowaway removed from the underside of the car. So, what happened to cause Logano to take such a ride on the wild side? We asked pit coach Trent Cherry of Team Penske to clarify: "The left side peg was set deep on the jack plate," Cherry said. "When the car dropped on the left side, the peg slid off the back of the plate and got wedged in the jack." Ladies & Gents we present, the infamous No. 22 crew 'Dega jack, up close & personal... pic.twitter.com/tCrY2C0klG — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) October 24, 2016 So in layman's terms it's explained like this. The peg that is attached to the race car was on the back of the jack plate. The jackman probably understood that and knew that he could still jack the left side and be OK. But when the car dropped, the jack slipped off the back of the plate and fell into a wedged position preventing the jack from releasing from the car. Got all that? Pit road mistakes can make a big difference this time of year, but the No. 22 team rebounded from the mishap as Logano won the race. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
H2H: Chase tension hits a rapid clip at Martinsville
RELATED: Meet the Chase's final 8 " Martinsville entry list The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs grinds on, with four races to go and one more elimination before the Championship 4 is determined for next month's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . With Talladega Superspeedway behind us and the final three-race series staged and ready for the Sprint Cup Series' return this weekend to Martinsville Speedway , our Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics for the season's homestretch: 1. After a hectic day at Talladega, the Chase's Round of 8 is finally set. Any surprises at who's in, who's out? Cain: I think obviously not having this season's winningest drivers in the final eight is a major upset. I would have expected Martin Truex Jr . and Brad Keselowski to easily advance and frankly felt either might have visited Talladega's Victory Lane, not end their day in the track's garage. The four-car Joe Gibbs Racing sweep into the next round also defies odds, but more power to the team. They will have their hands full, however, with Chevy's Kevin Harvick and a certain six-time series champion, Jimmie Johnson . Albert: Agreed, the omissions of Truex and Keselowski counted as at least mild jolts, but at this phase of the process, there's only so much water that can go into the funnel. All of the final eight drivers have visited Victory Lane at some point this season, with all but one -- Kurt Busch -- making multiple trips. The only thing we're missing is a true underdog (see: winless Ryan Newman in 2014, a much more lightly regarded Truex in 2015), and that also qualifies as a subtle surprise. 2. NASCAR announced rules Wednesday designed to limit Sprint Cup drivers' participation in other national series starting in 2017. What's the net effect? Cain: The obvious upside to this is improved opportunity for up-and-coming drivers to truly show their wares against similar talent as they ascend the NASCAR ladder. More trophies, more winner's checks, more attention. They also will have to showcase their personalities more, however, to keep the story lines interesting in absence of the popular Cup drivers that more naturally fill newsfeeds. This is great opportunity, but it will require great work, too. Albert: Besides the increased opportunity overall, I believe the greatest impact will be felt once the playoffs roll around. With both XFINITY and the Camping World Truck Series just now dabbling in their first ventures into Chase waters, those series now have a greater chance to establish their regular drivers' stardom when it counts -- in the postseason. 3. Four races remain in the championship battle, with Martinsville Speedway next up on the schedule. Whether it's a Chaser aiming for a free pass to the Homestead finale or a non-Chaser hoping to play spoiler, who's your winning pick for the weekend? Cain: This is truly shaping up to be one of the most compelling Martinsville races in a long line of fantastic Martinsville races. Denny Hamlin is buoyed by the dramatic entry into this round of the Chase and has an enviable and proven track record here. But my pick is Jimmie Johnson , who will remind everyone of his massive talent and determination in pursuit of a record-tying seventh Cup in 2016. Albert: Record-tying seventh championship? Sounds like a storybook tale. But how about the chances of a Jeff Gordon sunset-riding repeat of his Martinsville victory in 2015? How about Denny Hamlin finally getting another shot at making good on his childhood promise to Coach Joe Gibbs that he'd drive to a title for him someday? The heart's pick at Martinsville goes with Gordon; the brain's vote takes Hamlin on the tricky sliver of a race track that still packs 'em in.
H2H: Chase's Round of 12 set to stir at Charlotte
RELATED: See the Chase Grid Story lines abound, and NASCAR.com's Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup enters the Round of 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . 1. What surprised you most from Dover weekend in terms of who advanced in the Chase elimination race and who did not? Cain: I was surprised by the results in several areas, but more so by drivers who did not advance as expected. Like many, I believed Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson would advance well beyond the Round of 16. In fact, I had him in my Championship 4. I do believe he will win another race before the season is over. And perhaps I was being sentimental in expecting Tony Stewart to advance, but I still remember the amazing Chase charge in 2011 and saw the motivation in the three-time champion's eyes after he won at Sonoma this summer. Albert: Austin Dillon 's advancement on the basis of pure consistency didn't send shock waves through the ol' surprise meter, but fate's cruel hand for Chip Ganassi Racing did. To see both Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray ejected from the Chase field at least qualified as a mild stunner. It's a solid dozen that remain, but Dover showed again how exacting this postseason format can be. RELATED: Larson, McMurray ousted from Chase after Dover woes 2. With the points standings reset for the Chase Round of 12, all drivers resume with a clean slate. Are there any incentives you would add to enhance the current format? Cain: A case could be made to give drivers who have won in the Chase a small points bonus in the ensuing round. But the equal reset given to all 12 drivers in the current format certainly increases the drama in a very different way from the Chase start, when regular-season wins are factored in. It's the first time since the Daytona 500 green flag that the top-tier drivers are ranked evenly, and it should make the next three races even more dramatic. Albert: It may not rate highly on the drama scale, but I've always maintained that the top points-earner during the regular season should be rewarded -- nominally if not handsomely. A first-round bye might be a stretch, but a bigger bounty of points would offer a larger incentive for consistent performance over the opening 26 events. Offering bonus points through each elimination round would be an inviting enhancement, but keeping them out of the championship race -- leaving the calculators at home -- has valuable merits. RELATED: Are added incentives for regular-season winners on horizon? 3. Among the remaining 12 Chase drivers, who's your pick to win this weekend at Charlotte and lock in early in the Round of 8? Cain: There's a certain six-time champion who I believe will collect his eighth win at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson has been close to wins already in the Chase only to fall victim to pit-road miscues -- something uncharacteristic of his Hendrick Motorsports organization. You've got to think that will be cleaned up, and I believe there's no one more motivated to remind naysayers why he is the modern era's very best. Albert: Is there any stopping the Truexpress? Wins in two of the first three Chase races have established the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota as a strong title favorite, and the team returns to the site of Truex's crushing victory in the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Placing former Charlotte winners Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson under the heading of "sleepers" ranks as a testament to Truex's formidable stature this season. Upcoming wild-card races at Talladega and Martinsville have the potential to derail the No. 78's march; don't count on that happening this weekend at Charlotte.