As the Round of 8 begins with the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville on Sunday, Jimmie Johnson appears to be the most likely to get to Homestead. He has a combined 18 wins at the three tracks -- Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix -- in this segment.
Still, Johnson is quick to point out there are no guarantees in his quest to get to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.
"Sure they're great tracks. And sure we expect to be competitive," Johnson said. "But if you have a bad race in one of the three and you don't win, you're not going to make it.
"You need three clean ones or a win. Or three top 3s or three top 5s to advance on points, I believe. So it's no layup by any means."
At Martinsville, Johnson has eight wins and 2,747 laps led, both tops among active full-time Cup drivers. But he knows he has to perform at the .526-mile track come Sunday.
"There's a reason we run the race and a reason we play the game, said Johnson, who has just one DNF in 29 Martinsville starts. "Stats are cool, but they don't mean that's what is going to happen in the future."
That's something Johnson learned first-hand. In 2015, he went into Dover, where he has 10 wins and armed with a nice points cushion and only to be eliminated after a mechanical failure.
"Last year going into Dover with 27 points up and thinking I would easily transfer out of the 16 to the Round of 12 and a $5 part breaks," Johnson said.
"So you just cannot take anything for granted."
This is the first time Johnson has gotten this far since this elimination-style Chase format was introduced in 2014. So is he looking ahead to his seventh title that would tie Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr., for the record?
"This Chase is such a different feeling than Chases I've won in the past the way the format was," said Johnson whose last title came in 2013. "I still feel I have this massive hurdle to get over to get to the final four.
"So with that said, I have not gone there. My chances are a lot better than three weeks ago, for sure. But this format just requires such a different mindset and a different way to make it to the final four."
Johnson is in a who's who group of contenders with Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. Counting Johnson, five have won Cup titles and the other three have been in contention at Homestead.
So the California native is right; it's a different Chase than the one under which he reeled off five titles from 2006-10 and added one more in 2013.
"The biggest reason why it's different ... at this point there would be two or three cars you would have to worry about in the Chases I've won the way the format was," Johnson explained.
"Now there is eight guys on the table and it goes down to equal points at Homestead. So you just can't build a feeling or, I think even pick a favorite. I mean it's impossible. It's fun to do; it creates conversation but it's impossible to pick a favorite at this time."
Let's rank all eight based on how they have fared at Martinsville:
1. Jimmie Johnson: He has an average finish of 7.52 with eight victories and 2,747 laps led in 29 starts. His last win came in 2013 en route to his sixth championship. He finished ninth in the spring race.
2. Denny Hamlin: The Virginia native boasts an average finish of 9.52. He has won there five times and led 1,315 laps. His last win came in 2015. He ran 39th in the April race.
3. Kyle Busch: Winner of the spring race, Busch has an average finish of 14.50 in 22 races. That includes 11 top 10s.
4. Joey Logano: He is seeking his first victory at the track. He had his best run of second in 2010, and has an average finish of 14.60 in 15 starts. Earlier this year, he finished 11th at the track.
5. Matt Kenseth: Like Logano, Kenseth is winless at the tiny track. He has had two runner-up finishes - in 2002 and 2013. His average finish is 15.09 in 33 starts, including a 15th-place in April.
6. Carl Edwards: He has an average finish of 15.46 in 24 races and has yet to sniff Victory Lane. In April, he finished sixth, his first top 10 in nine events. His best finish - third - came in 2008 while with Roush-Fenway Racing.
7. Kevin Harvick: His average finish in 30 starts is 15.90. His lone win came in the 2011 spring race as a member of Richard Childress Racing. In five starts with Stewart-Haas Racing, he has three top 10s.
8. Kurt Busch: Despite two wins, the elder Busch has an average finish of 21.22 in 32 tries. Since picking up his first Martinsville win with SHR in 2014, he has had no top 10 finishes. This will be his sixth start with SHR.