Two races, including Sunday's Southern 500 at Darlington, remain before NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. Here's a look at how the 16-driver field appears to be shaping up:
Multiple winners (7)
Jimmie Johnson (4): He's been inconsistent since winning at Dover in June, but he always seems to find his stride in the Chase.
Kyle Busch (4): He worked his way safely into the top 30 (he's 29th now) with a tear that included four victories in a five-week stretch.
Joey Logano (3): He won recently at Watkins Glen and Bristol (and was second at Kentucky and Indianapolis). He's hitting a peak at the right time.
Matt Kenseth (3): Engine problems doomed him at Bristol, but there's no reason why he won't be a factor in the Chase.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2): Like other Hendrick Motorsports drivers, he's had trouble finding the right combination recently.
Kevin Harvick (2): He's finished second an astounding 10 times this season, including last week at Bristol.
Kurt Busch (2): Was really hot during a four-race stretch this summer, with a victory (Michigan), runner-up (Sonoma) and two fifth-place finishes (Daytona, Pocono).
Single winners (4)
Brad Keselowski: His only victory was at Fontana, but he has quietly been consistently strong with seven consecutive top-10s.
Martin Truex Jr.: He had one of the season's more popular victories at Pocono, which was the third consecutive race he led the most laps.
Carl Edwards: He has contributed to a strong season at Joe Gibbs Racing, winning Charlotte's Coca-Cola 600.
Denny Hamlin: His Toyota has been getting stronger recently, with a second-place finish at Michigan and a third at Bristol.
In on points (5)
Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer: They're all inside the top 16 for now, but each would love a victory to cement himself in the Chase. Bowyer has a 35-point lead over Aric Almirola, who is 17th on the grid. Of course, if somebody such as Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle or Austin Dillon wins in the next two races, at Darlington or Richmond, Bowyer or Gordon could drop out.
David Scott, Charlotte Observer