Why he'll win: Johnson's march to the championship will continue on Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which is his best track on the circuit. He's a five-time winner at Lowe's and he's showed over the last few weeks that he's peaking at the perfect time.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Edwards has been the driver to beat all season long on the 1.5-mile tracks, and he should be good for another top-five on Saturday night. This is a key race for Edwards, who trails Johnson by 72 points in the standings, because he can't let Johnson get too far ahead in the points.
Don't expect much from: Martin Truex, Jr. -- In his last 10 starts on 1.5-mile tracks, Truex has only recorded one top-five run. The DEI Chevys have struggled all season on these intermediate tracks, and that trend isn't likely to change on Saturday night.
My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: In 14 starts at Charlotte, JJ has won five times. That's as many victories at the track as teammate Jeff Gordon, who's made 31 starts. And at this time of year, nobody is better than Johnson.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- After last week's disastrous finish at Talladega (as well as this week's scuffle with Kevin Harvick), it will be interesting to see how Edwards bounces back. He has been strong all year on the intermediate ovals, and a win at Charlotte would put him right back into contention with Johnson.
Don't expect much from: Kevin Harvick -- In 15 races at Charlotte, he's got just three top-10 finishes, and though he's run well this year in the Chase, he has never threatened to win. I don't expect that to change on Saturday night.
My Pick: Matt Kenseth
Why he'll win: Kenseth's first career Sprint Cup victory came at Lowe's in the Coca-Cola 600. Eight years later, he's due for a return trip to Victory Lane. Remember how strong Kenseth ran in the second half of last year's Chase? Don't be surprised if it happens again.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Lowe's may be Jimmie Johnson's house, but it's Carl Edwards' last best chance to take a shot at a title. Coming off a devastating wreck at Talladega, Cousin Carl desperately needs to keep Johnson in his rear-view at Lowe's before heading to his Achilles' heel -- Martinsville -- next week. And after an off-track altercation with Kevin Harvick on Thursday, who knows what type of mindset he's in?
Don't expect much from: Regan Smith -- Many NASCAR fans would like to see Smith avenge the yellow line call at Talladega with an upset victory this weekend. Well, it's just not going to happen. In May, Smith finished 19th, one lap down, and started a disappointing 37th.
My Pick: Jimmie Johnson
Why he'll win: OK, this is starting to get old, but looking over the list of drivers who are on a roll or have a great past record at Lowe's, I keep seeing Johnson atop the list. He's already grabbed firm control of the Chase. He's just going to keep rolling along, proving that the regular season was meaningless as he nears a record-tying third-straight Cup title.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick -- I'm not saying keep an eye on them to win the race, but after a fight in the garage area on Thursday night over comments Harvick made about Edwards for starting "The Big One" at Talladega, keep an eye on these guys to see if any more unruly incidents happen.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- After getting banged up at Talladega, Hamlin won't be at the top of his game Saturday night.
My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: Why? Because it's Lowe's Motor Speedway and the Chase. Simple.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- He's had a rough week; first being called a pansy by Kevin Harvick after causing a wreck at Talladega, then getting thrown across the hood of a Nationwide car on Thursday after taking it up with Harvick. He'll be out for redemption.
Don't expect much from: Anyone hoping to get closer to Johnson in the championship standings this week -- It's just not going to happen.
My Pick: Greg Biffle
Why he'll win: He finished second at Lowe's in May and he's made a jump in performance in the Chase. Biffle also was third at Las Vegas and fourth at Atlanta, sister tracks to high-banked, 1.5-mile Lowe's, and he was fourth at Chicagoland and third at Kansas, the most recent 1.5 milers, a sign of high-class consistency on these type of tracks. He's headed for his first victory at Lowe's.
Keep an eye on: Jimmie Johnson -- Johnson has five wins in 14 starts at Lowe's, but the last was in 2006. Has he lost his magic at the track that also sponsors his No. 48? Hardly. He just needs a better car. His performance on the high-speed tracks has made significant improvement in the second half of the season with wins at Kansas and the Auto Club Speedway in California. Plus, it's the Chase, when Johnson is at his best.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- He may be cleared to drive, but it's pretty tough to bounce back quickly from an overnight stay in the hospital from his hard crash at Talladega. Hamlin was 24th at Lowe's in May. His best result is eighth and he has two other top-10s in six starts, so it hasn't been his strongest track either.
My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: All that aggressive driving has to pay off eventually, and Charlotte is a likely place for it to be Carl Edwards' turn. Second in the points and a little wild the past two races, Edwards has finished in the top-10 in six of his seven career starts at Charlotte. His average finish at the track of 7.6 is the best among active drivers.
Keep an eye on: Jimmie Johnson -- Jimmie Johnson is on top of the standings and is another driver who shines at Charlotte, winning five times in 14 career starts at the track. Johnson, however, has finished 14th and 39th in his last two Charlotte races. If he's going to be denied a third straight Cup championship, it's time for the shakeup to begin.
Don't expect much from: Kevin Harvick -- Expect his bad luck to continue. Harvick has 15 career starts at Charlotte, but has only finished the race on the lead lap five times. In his last 10 starts at the track, his best finish is 13th.
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