By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in first place for the 18th straight week after Michigan. He leads second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 41 points and third-ranked Carl Edwards by 51 points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 23 career starts, 1 wins, 7 top-5s, 13 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2010. Finished second in this race last year and was 22nd in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: With the exception of a 22nd-place finish in spring and a 35th-place finish in summer 2010, Johnson has been one of the most successful drivers at Bristol in the last 4 1/2 seasons. In the last nine races there, he has one win, a runner-up, two third-place finishes, a fourth, an eighth and ninth. Here's his thoughts on Saturday night's race: "Short tracks are fun. I'm looking forward it. The night race in Bristol is awesome. I tell many, many friends if they are going to pick one that is the one that they need to come see and be a part of for a lot of reasons. I'm excited to go back. We run well there. I'd like to find a little bit more and really be a car racing for the win and go to Victory Lane again. I have high expectations and expect to go there and run really well."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson took a huge hit in the points after Michigan. He came to MIS leading Clint Bowyer by 75 points, a margin that was cut to only 41 points after Johnson left Sunday's race prematurely with a blown engine. He ultimately finished 40th, the lowest of all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 97.8 percent (11,262) of the 11,513 total laps contested in 23 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 15.7 and average finish is 14.3. He has one DNF there.
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer remained in second place for the sixth consecutive week after Michigan. But his margin behind series leader Jimmie Johnson shrunk from 75 to just 41 points, while his lead over third-ranked Carl Edwards is 10 points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 15 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in summer 2007 and spring 2008. Was seventh in this race last year and fifth in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer comes into Saturday night's race at Bristol with an excellent chance to further cut the gap between himself and points leader Jimmie Johnson. But to make even more progress, Bowyer needs to win his first race of the season, plain and simple. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "(Bristol is) one of my favorite racetracks - it always has been. Whether you get caught up in something or not, whether you get a bad finish or a good finish - it's just a coliseum. There is no better way of displaying our product of racing then they do it at Bristol. Period. It's the best you can ever have of our kind of car racing - on a short track in that bull ring like that. For a fan you don't get a better bang for your buck anywhere."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing sixth at Watkins Glen, Bowyer finished fifth at Michigan.
ETC.: As much as he loves short track racing, especially at Bristol, Bowyer has never won there and has had mixed success over the years. Bowyer has completed just 92.3 percent (6,933) of the 7,513 total laps contested in 15 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 20.3 and average finish is 16.2. He has two DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards remained in third place for the sixth consecutive week after Michigan. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 51 (down from 80 points before Michigan), is 10 points behind second-ranked Clint Bowyer and leads fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick by 13 points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 18 career starts, 2 wins, 4 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2007 and summer 2008. Was 22nd in this race last year and was 18th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards is closing in on locking in his berth in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup. But with the upcoming reseeding of the Chase standings after Richmond, Edwards needs another win or two in the three remaining pre-Chase races to significantly improve his seeding starting the Chase. Here's his thoughts on the race: "I love racing at Bristol, it's exciting for a number of reasons. We won there in the Truck series, the Nationwide series and the Cup series and we really got nothing to lose the next three races. We just want to go for wins and Bristol would be a good place to get one. It's a Saturday night race, there's a lot of energy around it and there's nothing like standing in victory lane on Saturday night in Bristol, so that's our mission."
LOOKING BACK: After a strong fourth-place finish at Watkins Glen, Edwards finished 10th this past Sunday at Michigan. He was looking for significantly better, but he also could have wound up significantly worse. He also failed to give himself a better birthday present, given his 34th birthday was August 15.
ETC.: Edwards has completed 95.2 percent (8,583) of the 9,013 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 18.5 and average finish is 14.6. He has one DNF there.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick remained in fourth place for the ninth straight week after Michigan. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 64 points (down from 101 last week), is 13 points behind third-ranked Carl Edwards and leads fifth-ranked Kyle Busch by 43 points (up from 14 points last week).
BRISTOL RECORD: 25 career starts, 1 wins, 9 top-fives, 12 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2005. Was 15th in this race last year and finished 14th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick is all but locked into the Chase, but he could use another win or two before the playoffs begin three weeks from now. He couldn't pick a better place to do so than Saturday night at Bristol. Here's his thoughts: "We ran really well there (Bristol Motor Speedway) in March, we just kind of got a little bit off on pit strategy at the end, but all-in-all the performance was pretty good. Overall, Bristol is a pretty crazy track. It doesn't matter if it's the old track or new track, it just seems like that night race brings a lot more excitement."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick had one of his best runs of the season this past Sunday at Michigan, finishing second to Joey Logano.
ETC.: Harvick has completed 98.2 percent (12,290) of the 12,513 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 17.8 and average finish is 12.6. He has two DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch remained in fifth place for the second consecutive week after Michigan. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 107 points, is 43 points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads sixth-ranked Matt Kenseth by 18 points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 17 career starts, 5 wins, 8 top-fives, 12 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2007, spring and summer 2009, summer 2010 and spring 2011. Finished sixth in this race last year and was second in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Bristol is without question Kyle Busch's best Sprint Cup track. After coming so close to a sixth win there this spring (finished runnerup), he goes for win No. 6 there this Saturday night. Here's his thoughts on the race: "I'm not exactly sure what makes me so good at Bristol. I've just had a lot of success there, but I've also had some misfortune there, too. Ever since I got through my rookie year, I've just taken a liking to the place. Of course, I've been able to get some help from my brother (Kurt). He's always been really, really good there. But, when they changed the track to this current surface in 2007, I just really took to it right away. It's just a fun racetrack no matter what series I'm running there."
LOOKING BACK: After winning the week before at Watkins Glen, Busch had a terrible outing at Michigan, finishing 31st. He's looking for a big bounce back this Saturday night.
ETC.: Busch has completed 97.6 percent (8,310) of the 8,513 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 18.2, while his average finish is an outstanding 9.8. He has zero DNFs there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After spending the previous two weeks in seventh place, Matt Kenseth moved up one spot to sixth after Sunday's race at Michigan. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 125 points (down from 149 last week), is 18 points behind fifth-ranked Kyle Busch and leads seventh-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by nine points.