By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at Martinsville

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The 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup is coming down to its final battles, and this weekend brings the championship contenders to Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR’s oldest circuit and the shortest track in all of Sprint Cup (.526-mile).

Sunday’s running of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger will mark the seventh race in the 2013 Chase, and the plot has thickened now that Jimmie Johnson has assumed control of the points lead.

His edge over Matt Kenseth is only four points, but Johnson would seem to have a prime chance to build upon it after pummeling the field at the “paperclip” back in April.

Johnson has notched eight victories at this track, and another big day for him would mean trouble for the other Chasers that still have a legitimate shot at this point: Kenseth, Kyle Busch (-26 points), Kevin Harvick (-26 points), and Jeff Gordon (-36 points).

But based on past performance, Gordon could be up for a victory as well. His career success at Martinsville, like Johnson’s, is staggering. We’ll see if the two Hendrick Motorsports teammates are fighting each other for the win Sunday.

With a hat tip to NASCAR, here’s how each of the 13 Chase drivers have done over their careers at Martinsville:

Jimmie Johnson (Leader – 2,254 points)
· Eight wins, 16 Top-5s, 20 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 5.3 in 23 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.9
*Series-high 7,849 Laps in the Top 15 (92.0%)

Matt Kenseth (second, -4 points)
· Three Top-5s, eight Top-10s
· Average Finish: 15.8 in 27 races
· Average Running Position: 16.9, 16th-best

Kyle Busch (third, -26 points)
· Eight Top-5s, nine Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.1 in 17 races
· Average Running Position: 13.5, seventh-best

Kevin Harvick (fourth, -26 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.6 in 24 races
· Average Running Position: 14.0, ninth-best

Jeff Gordon (fifth, -36 points)
· Seven wins, 26 Top-5s, 33 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 7.0 in 41 races
· Average Running Position: 6.2, second-best
*Series-high 968 Fastest Laps Run
*Series-high 600 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (sixth, -52 points)
· 10 Top-5s, 14 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 13.4 in 27 races
· Average Running Position: 11.0, fourth-best

Greg Biffle (seventh, -53 points)
· Four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 20.8 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 21.2, 21st-best

Clint Bowyer (eighth, -57 points)
· Three Top-5s, nine Top-10s
· Average Finish: 13.2 in 15 races
· Average Running Position: 13.0, sixth-best

Kurt Busch (ninth, -62 points)
· One win, two Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 21.7 in 26 races
· Average Running Position: 18.8, 19th-best

Carl Edwards (10th, -68 points)
· One Top-5, five Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.1 in 18 races
· Average Running Position: 16.1, 14th-best

Ryan Newman (11th, -72 points)
· One win, seven Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 14.3 in 23 races
· Average Running Position: 14.8, 10th-best

Joey Logano (12th, -74 points)
· One Top-5, two Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.1 in nine races
· Average Running Position: 17.8, 18th-best

Kasey Kahne (13th, -101 points)
· Three Top-5s, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish: 19.8 in 19 races
· Average Running Position: 20.1, 20th-best

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.