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Breaking down the Chase grid with eight drivers and four races left

Don't blame Jimmie Johnson if he feels confident about his chances advancing from the semifinal "Round of 8" to one of the four drivers eligible for the championship at Homestead. He has earned any swagger he takes into this weekend at Martinsville.

Johnson has 18 career victories at the three tracks in the semifinal round -- eight at Martinsville, six at Texas and four at Phoenix. His average finish at those tracks: 7.5, 8.3 and 7.8. Any conversation about Johnson winning his seventh Cup championship can start in earnest now as he should have that chance in less than four weeks.

While Kevin Harvick does have eight career wins at Phoenix and Denny Hamlin has five at Martinsville, neither driver can boast of such a record across the three tracks. Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch are the only drivers other than Johnson who have won a Cup race at each track in the round.

Winning will be big because a driver with one bad race likely won't advance on points when field is cut from eight to four; only one spot is guaranteed by points if the three races are won by three Chase drivers.

Here's the outlook for the drivers, listed by their current NASCAR seeding, going into the semifinal round:

1. Joey Logano

Team Penske No. 22 Ford

Second-round wins: One

Second-round points: 3,089 (third)

Why he will advance: His six Chase wins in the last three seasons is tied with Harvick for the most since the elimination-style format started in 2014. He carries the momentum from the win at Talladega. Oh, and he hasn't made anyone mad in the Chase this year.

Why he won't: These three tracks do not rank among his top eight Sprint Cup tracks and the only one where he has a win is Texas. While third at Texas earlier this year, he was 11th at Martinsville and 18th at Phoenix.

2. Jimmie Johnson

Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet

Second-round wins: One

Second-round points: 3,100 (first)

Why he will advance: Didn't you read the introduction? He's won 18 times at the three tracks in this round. The only reason he's never had a chance at Homestead in this format is because he never made it to this round.

Why he won't: Only twice this year has he had three-race stretches of top-10 finishes -- once early in the year and then with a four-race stretch in the Chase prior to Talladega. If the Toyotas have another level to bring to the track the way Johnson went from pre-August to now, then he's in trouble.

3. Kevin Harvick

Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet

Second-round wins: One

Second-round points: 3,082 (sixth)

Why he will advance: His four wins this year ties him with Kyle Busch for the most among the remaining drivers in the Chase. One of those wins came at Phoenix, where he has won five of the last six races, and he did it in spectacular fashion by beating Edwards by inches. He has eight career wins at Phoenix and one at Martinsville.

Why he won't: Inconsistency could end up biting this team in the semifinal round. In the Chase, he has three top-10 finishes and three finishes of 20th or worse. He can't rely on just winning in the clutch every round -- the odds say he's due for a round where he won't win.

4. Matt Kenseth

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota

Second-round wins: None

Second-round points: 3,088 (fourth)

Why he will advance: He led 116 laps at the last intermediate track and 105 laps at the last flat 1-mile track. That bodes well for the races at Texas and Phoenix. Of all the Toyotas, he finished the last round with the most points.

Why he won't: Logano will take him out this year to repay for last year. Just kidding. The biggest question for Kenseth is whether he can win in the clutch in a three-race stretch at tracks where he has just a combined three wins and didn't record a top-5 this year.

5. Carl Edwards

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota

Second-round wins: None

Second-round points: 3,082 (seventh)

Why he will advance: Some of his best non-winning races this year came in races at tracks in the semifinal rounds. He led 65 laps on his way to finishing second at Phoenix and 124 laps on his way to finishing seventh at Texas. Edwards and crew chief Dave Rogers have considerable Chase experience, and don't discount that when things get tough. Plus, what are the odds of a rainstorm keeping him from advancing as it did last year at Phoenix?

Why he won't: He has recorded just one top-5 finish in his last 14 races. That inconsistency won't get it done in this round.

6. Denny Hamlin

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota

Second-round wins: None

Second-round points: 3,078 (eighth)

Why he will advance: He has won five times at Martinsville, including in March 2015, so he has a chance of a win or a great finish to open the round and build his confidence. After barely getting out of the quarterfinal round -- he needed a tiebreaker to advance --Hamlin and his rejuvenated team have an energized outlook.

Why he won't: Hamlin isn't exactly "Mr. November" as he seems to be the victim of mechanical gremlins or misfortune every year. He might have a false sense of confidence even at Martinsville -- he hasn't won the October race at Martinsville since 2009.

7. Kurt Busch

Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet

Second-round wins: None

Second-round points: 3,099 (second)

Why he will advance: He has been the epitome of consistently doing what it takes to advance. He hasn't finished worse than 15th in the Chase, and he's going to three tracks where he finished no worse than 13th earlier this year. Plus he's a Cubs fan and there's something in the air called destiny.

Why he won't: He has been the epitome of consistently doing what it takes to advance. In this round, a driver has to do more. He's going to three tracks where he finished no better than sixth earlier this year. Plus he's a Cubs fan and there's something in the air called being cursed.

8. Kyle Busch

Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota

Second-round wins: None

Second-round points: 3,084 (fifth)

Why he will advance: He won at Martinsville and Texas earlier this year and led 461 laps in the races at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. While he hasn't won a race since the Brickyard, he had a second, third, fifth and sixth in the four races leading into Talladega. Busch and Johnson appear as close to a lock to advance more than anyone else in this round.

Why he won't: Parts and pieces can break. Tires can blow. The team can beat itself.