By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: After going back and forth between second and third place in the standings in the first four races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. climbed atop the Sprint Cup points after Fontana. He leads Brad Keselowski by 12 points and third-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 16 points.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 26 career starts, 0 wins, 10 top-fives, 14 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: second in fall 2008 and spring 2011. Finished third in spring race there race last year and was 21st in the fall race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ask Earnhardt which track he wants to win at the most (that he's never won at before), and the answer will likely be Martinsville. He loves the old-school style of racing there. His overall record at the half-mile bullring is outstanding. All he needs to improve is his first win there. In addition, Sunday marks Earnhardt's 600th start in the Cup series, of which he said: "I take a lot of pride in what I've accomplished over the years. I'm proud of the two (NASCAR) Nationwide championships, the wins in both series and having worked with a lot of talented people. And it's an honor to have the fan support that I do. I like that I'm able to do what I do for a living. Hopefully there's another 600 in there."
LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt earned his second second-place finish of the season this past Sunday at Fontana (other runner-up finish was in the season-opening Daytona 500).
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 98.8 percent (12,879) of the 13,034 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 13.7 and average finish is 13.0. He has two DNFs there.
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After holding the top spot in the Sprint Cup standings, Brad Keselowski fell back one spot into second place after Fontana. He trails new points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 12 pints and leads third-ranked Jimmie Johnson by four points.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 6 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-fives, 3 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: sixth in fall 2012. Finished ninth in this race last year and sixth in the fall there.
LOOKING AHEAD: For a guy who does outstanding at a short track like Bristol, Keselowski has struggled throughout his career at Martinsville (and Richmond, for that matter). Maybe it's something about racing in the state of Virginia, but Keselowski's short-track acumen definitely needs a boost at Martinsville. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Martinsville is a place where I have really mixed emotions about. Early in my career, that was a place where I really couldn't figure out, to be honest. Now the last few times we have been there, I feel like we have been exceptionally strong. We didn't qualify as well as we wanted to last fall and started in the back, but by the end of the race we came on really well. I think going back to Martinsville we are a lot smarter, I am a lot wiser as to what I need and I think this year I have to be honest - I am going in feeling like we can win the race and might be one of the favorites."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski had the best start to the season of any driver in the Sprint Cup series heading into Fontana, with two third-place and two other fourth-place finishes. But at Fontana, he struggled to a miserable, season-worst 23rd-place finish.
ETC.: Even though his success has been marginal there, Keselowski has completed 99.9 percent (3,021) of the 3,023 total laps contested in six career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 19.8 and average finish is 12.2. He has zero DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remains in third place in the standings for the second consecutive week. He trails new points leader and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 16 points, second-ranked Brad Keselowski by four points and leads both Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, who are tied for fourth, by 19 points.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 2 career starts, 7 wins, 15 top-5s, 19 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: first in fall 2004, fall 2006, spring 2007, fall 2007, fall 2008, spring 2009, fall 2012. Finished 12th in the spring race last year, and won there in the fall.
LOOKING AHEAD: Given how much success he's had there - it's his most successful track on the Sprint Cup circuit - don't be surprised if someday they rename Martinsville as Johnson Speedway. Johnson always seems to get more geared up to race at the short half-mile bullring than any other track. One stat that is most telling: in 22 starts, he's finished outside the top 10 just three times, and only once worse than 12th (35th in his first race there back in spring 2002). Here's Johnson's thoughts on Sunday's race: "Martinsville is just a quirky track. Once I figured out how to drive it, and frankly once Tony Stewart lapped me there in my sophomore year, it just made sense how to drive the track and I've had it ever since. From my first year at Martinsville, I never thought I'd have a stat to take down; let alone a stat that I'd ever have a chance to take down (a victory this week at Martinsville will give him 8 wins, which would be more than any other active Sprint Cup driver)."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson didn't have a bad day at Fontana, but he also didn't have a particularly great day, either, finishing 12th, one spot behind teammate Jeff Gordon.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 99.5 percent (10,980) of the 11,034 total laps contested in 22 career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 11.9 and average finish is an outstanding 5.5. He has one DNF there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle climbed one spot after Fontana and into a tie for fourth place with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards. The pair trail new points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 35 points, third-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 19 points and lead sixth-ranked Kyle Busch by just one point.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 20 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-fives, 3 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: seventh, fall 2007. Finished 13th in the spring race last year and was 10th in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle has to be cringing at the thought of the next race at Martinsville. Try as hard as he may, he just can't seem the handle around that short track, which is ironic given that Biffle grew up racing on short tracks similar to Martinsville. Here's Biffle's thoughts on Sunday's race: "Martinsville is obviously not one of my best race tracks, but over the last couple of years we've gotten a lot better with top-10 finishes. Now we need to step it up and get a top-five finish. Our brakes have been good, tractions been good and the cars are working better. Our goal is a top-five finish at Martinsville this Sunday."
LOOKING BACK: Biffle had a strong run at Fontana, one of his favorite tracks, finishing sixth.
ETC.: Even though he's struggled when it comes to good results there, Biffle has completed 97.7 percent (9,804) of the 10,034 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 20.2 and average finish is a mediocre 21.4. He has zero DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards climbed three spots after Fontana and into a tie for fourth place with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards. The pair trail new points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 35 points, third-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 19 points and lead sixth-ranked Kyle Busch by just one point.
MARTINSVILLE RECORD: 17 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-five, 5 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in fall 2008. Finished 11th in last year's spring race and was 18th in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards is much like teammate Greg Biffle. Both spent their formative racing careers primarily on short tracks - and winning a lot on them - but for some reason have just not had much luck at Martinsville Speedway. Here's Edwards' thoughts on Sunday's race: "I am late a lot, so I think it would do everyone around me a big favor if I was to put our Fastenal Ford in Victory Lane at Martinsville and take home the Grandfather clock. We have had a few good runs there, but for the most part, we have struggled. It would be huge for me personally to get a win there."
LOOKING BACK: Edwards had one of his stronger performances of the season at Fontana, finishing fourth. Had a few things gone more his way, he might have left there with his second win of the season.
ETC.: Edwards has completed 97.9 percent (8,351) of the 8,534 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Martinsville. His average start is 18.1 and average finish is 16.1. He has zero DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Climbing seven spots after Bristol, Kyle Busch jumped up four more spots into sixth place after his win at Fontana. He trails points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 36 points, is one point behind the fourth-place tie between Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards and leads seventh-ranked Kasey Kahne by four points.