With two races remaining in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, the series heads west to Phoenix International Raceway for the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 this weekend.

Both Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch made headlines this week, thanks to their performances at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson lost a lot of points because of an early crash and his 38th-place finish dropped his lead over second-place Mark Martin to 73 points.

In the meantime, Busch was going for a NASCAR triple after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR Nationwide races. But Busch fell just short when he ran out of gas a few laps short of the checkered flag in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, relegating him to a 11th-place finish. The younger Busch could only watch helplessly as his older brother, Kurt, drove to victory lane.

With the misfortunes of Johnson and the younger Busch, fans who like to boo winning drivers had a banner day at Texas. Whether they will see a repeat this weekend remains to be seen, but it's a safe bet that both drivers will play heavily into the storylines there.

Why? Johnson has won three of the last four races at PIR, taking the fall race in 2007, and sweeping both of last year's events.

Busch, who has four Cup wins this year, is making another attempt at the triple this weekend, planning runs in the Camping World Truck series, the Nationwide series and the Sprint Cup series.


Driver Kevin Harvick, who swept both of the 2006 Phoenix Sprint Cup races, will also compete in all three Phoenix races this weekend.
But look out for Mark Martin, who has something to prove at Phoenix. Martin was the driver in victory lane in April at Phoenix, the first of his five wins this season, second only to Johnson's six. After making gains in the points last weekend, Martin remains optimistic about his chances for the title.

"I don't know why everybody tries to cap this thing out and doesn't just wait and watch," Martin said. "There are still two races to go, and still things that can happen."

While a championship for Martin would be wildly popular with fans, the same can't be said for Johnson's attempt at a record-setting fourth consecutive Cup title. Johnson is the latest in a long line of drivers some fans love to hate, as evidenced by the loud cheering when he crashed last week.

Both Busch brothers have also been on the receiving end of lots of boos from fans, and I'm sure there were mixed emotions among those fans last week when they cheered the elder Busch for taking the win from his brother.

No doubt there will be plenty to cheer and to boo Sunday at Phoenix, and with just two races to go in the Chase, it should be exciting.

Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at esiska@yorkdispatch.com.