By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remains in first place in the Sprint Cup standings for the third consecutive week. He leads second-ranked Brad Keselowski by five points and third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 10 points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 22 career starts, one win, seven top-fives, 13 top-10s, one pole. Best career finish: first in March 2010. Finished ninth in this race last year, and second in the August race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson is looking to pick up where he left off at Bristol in August, when he finished second. He's tried to earn a second win there but just hasn't been able to do it. Perhaps Sunday will be his day. Here are Johnson's thoughts on Sunday's race: "I think the mechanical aspects will help the cars at Bristol. The last time there, we were very curious about the grinding and what would happen and what wouldn't. The track just changed in some ways and we will just go back and get in a rhythm and see what happens. For the longest time we were not competitive at that track. Now we're in the mix and I'm really happy about that."
LOOKING BACK: Three races thus far into the 2013 season and Johnson has been outstanding, winning the season-opening Daytona 500, finishing second at Phoenix and leading 66 laps en route to a sixth-place finish this past Sunday at Las Vegas.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 97.7 percent (10,764) of 11,013 laps in his 22 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 15.9 and average finish is 14.0. He has one DNF there.
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Brad Keselowski remains in second place for the second consecutive week, five points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson and five points ahead of third-place Dale Earnhardt Jr.
BRISTOL RECORD: Six career starts, two wins, two top-fives, two top-10s and zero poles. Best career finish: first in August 2011 and March 2012. Finished first in this race last year, only to suffer to a career-worst 30th-place finish in August.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski has had the best start to the season of any driver in the Sprint Cup series, including points leader Jimmie Johnson. Keselowski has finished no lower than fourth in any of the first three races, a trend he hopes to continue at Bristol, where by the way he won at last March. Here's what Keselowski had to say about his start thus far in 2013: "I feel like we've had a shot at winning all three. That's something to be really proud of. We certainly had the speed to do it the last two weeks, and the execution to do it at Daytona. (We) just caught a bad break and just didn't quite execute it (at Las Vegas). I want to win really bad, but I guess the consolation is starting out the year with three solid finishes and a top five and just kind of backing up where we finished last year with solid runs."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski led just 12 laps but still wound up with a very strong third-place finish at Las Vegas. In his first three races, the defending Sprint Cup champion has finishes of fourth at both Daytona and Phoenix and third at Las Vegas.
ETC.: Keselowski has completed 97.8 percent (2,933) of 3,000 laps in six career starts. His average start is 14.8 and average finish is 13.7. He has zero DNFs at Bristol.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropped from a tie for second to third place after the Las Vegas race. He is 10 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, five points behind second-ranked Brad Keselowski and 17 points ahead of fourth-place Denny Hamlin.
BRISTOL RECORD: 26 career starts, one win, seven top-fives, 12 top-10s and zero poles. Best career finish: first in August 2004. Finished 15th in this race last year and was 12th there in August.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has struggled at times in recent years at Bristol, uncharacteristic of the way he used to wheel around the half-mile bull ring in Eastern Tennessee. Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race: "I love racing at Bristol and short track racing in general. I look forward to going there every trip. It's always a tough race, and hopefully, we will come out on top."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing second in the season-opening Daytona 500, and fifth at Phoenix, Earnhardt was seventh at Las Vegas. He did not lead any laps but stayed close to the leaders most of the race.
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 98.9 percent (12,865) of 13,013 laps in his 26 starts at Bristol. His average start is 21.3 and average finish is significantly better 11.8. He also has one DNF.
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Hamlin remained in fourth place for the second consecutive week. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 27 points, third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 17 points and leads fifth-ranked Carl Edwards by four points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 14 career starts, one win, four top-fives, seven top-10s, zero poles. Best career finish: First in August 2012. Finished 20th in this race last year and came back to win the August race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin has a double dose of motivation to do well Sunday at Bristol. First, he's coming off a frustrating 15th place finish at Las Vegas. Second and more importantly, he won the last time he was at Bristol, in August.
Hamlin and teammate Kyle Busch are already learning things from teammate Matt Kenseth, who joined the organization this season and won this past Sunday at Las Vegas. Here's what team owner Joe Gibbs says about Kenseth's interaction, particularly with Hamlin and Busch:
"Obviously, Matt has just been special. I mean, he came over, I think he brings a lot to (the organization). I think Denny and Kyle both really respect him. I think that's helped a lot. I think (Kenseth) kind of likes working with them, so we've got three guys that really, I think, can get after it and drive a race car. I'm really happy, too."
LOOKING BACK: Hamlin struggled at Las Vegas, leading just three laps before finishing a disappointing 15th.
ETC.: Hamlin has completed 95.3 percent (6,681) of 7,013 laps in his 14 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 20.6 and average finish is 14.8. He has one DNF there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards jumped six spots in the standings, from 11th to fifth, after Las Vegas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 31 points, fourth-ranked Denny Hamlin by four points and leads sixth-ranked Mark Martin by three points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 17 career starts, two wins, four top-fives, seven top-10s, two poles. Best career finish: First in August 2007 and August 2008. Finished 39th in this race last year and was 22nd in August there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards typically does well at Bristol, but not last season, when he finished a career-worst 39th in the March race and 22nd in the August race. He's looking to continue the momentum he has from a win at Phoenix and a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas.
LOOKING BACK: Edwards ran a strong race but failed to lead even one lap at Las Vegas. Still, he finished with a top-5 to go along with the win he had the week before at Phoenix. Here are his thoughts about the Las Vegas race: "We wanted better, but I think if I would have done a better job on my restarts then we would have been better. We were sliding all over the place out there. I am sure we wore out some steering boxes and that was a good race. That was as hard as we could drive."
ETC.: Edwards has completed 95.0 percent (8,084) of 8,513 laps in his 17 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 18.4 and average finish is 14.4. He has one DNF there.
55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota