This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series returns to Lowe's Motor Speedway for a Saturday night race under the lights.

The NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America (yes, that's the official name of the event) is the fifth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, marking the halfway point in the championship battle.

Jimmie Johnson calls it "his house" since his car is sponsored by Lowe's, and there's another reason, too: he wins there a lot. Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, lead all active drivers with five wins each at the Concord, N.C., track. Only Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip have been to victory lane more times at Lowe's, with six wins each.

As strong as Johnson has been at "his house," he's suffered a dry spell of late. After winning four consecutive races there in 2004 and 2005, a track record, Johnson has gone winless at Lowe's in the last three-plus seasons.

But Johnson has had a strong Chase so far, and sometimes it seems like all of the other drivers don't stand a chance. That's why I was surprised to learn that Johnson's closest competitors, Mark Martin in second and Juan Pablo Montoya in third, both have average finishes of 3.5 compared to Johnson's 3.8.

Montoya is the only driver to record a top-five finish in each of the Chase races, another surprising statistic. In fact, it's a huge surprise to me that Montoya even made the Chase, but he is proving that he does deserve to be in it.

The top five drivers in the standings this week are separated by only 105 points.


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First place Johnson leads Martin by 12, Montoya by 58, Tony Stewart by 84 and Gordon by 105.

This race will mark the first time for the double-file restart rule at Lowe's in a points race, something not lost on Gordon.

"We've used the double-file restarts at Lowe's in the All-Star events in the past," Gordon said, "and I expect it'll be the same this weekend -- intense and crazy."
And speaking of all-stars, this week NASCAR announced the inaugural inductees of the new NASCAR Hall of Fame currently under construction in Charlotte. The choices were not surprising: Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson. They will be inducted on May 23, 2010.

It's a shame that there were so few slots for inductees. While the selections are giants in the sport, the list of those who didn't get in is also stellar. That includes Bobby Allison, Buck Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Richie Evans, Tim Flock, Rick Hendrick, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, Raymond Parks, Benny Parson, David Pearson, Lee Petty, Fireball Roberts, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Darrell Waltrip, Joe Weatherly, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough.

Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at esiska@yorkdispatch.com. Read her blog, "Pitting Outside the Box," at the Blogzone at yorkdispatch.com.