NOTES: The defending race champion hasn't lost a step, grabbing the pole and a track record. His boss, Rick Hendrick, has the most wins in track history, nine. Johnson came from 37th on the grid to lead 34 of the final 35 laps in last year's race.
STARTING POSITION: Second
CAR: No. 12 Dodge
BEST 600 FINISH: Fifth (2003)
NOTES: He always has qualified well here in the 600-miler but had bad luck in the race until last year. He was second in the fall race last year at Lowe's Motor Speedway and has risen steadily in points this year after a rough start.
STARTING POSITION: Third
CAR: No. 24 Chevy
BEST 600 FINISH: First (1994, 1997, 1998)
NOTES: Ho-hum, another year of fighting for a points title and running up front pretty much every week. After a couple of down seasons (at least by his standards) Gordon has picked up his game again, and the Hendrick factor applies to him, too.
STARTING POSITION: Sixth
CAR: No. 20 Chevy
BEST 600 FINISH: Third (2001)
NOTES: Stewart won the fall race last year for his first win at LMS. He was fourth two weeks ago at Richmond and third at last week's all-star race here, and won't have the distraction of an Indy-Charlotte double, as he was tempted to try last week.
STARTING POSITION: 37th
CAR: No. 17 Ford
BEST 600 FINISH: First (2000)
NOTES: The defending series champion has a lot of cars to pass, but he has more time than any other race to do it. Besides, he always races far better than he qualifies; this year he has no starts in the top 10 but has finished there in eight of 11 races.