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NASCAR's "Chase for the Cup" to debut in Southern California this Weekend with a Packed Field

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Mark Martin (left) returns to California this weekend to show the others how it's done. Photo by Stephen Borodkin for LAist.

For the first time ever, one of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup races will be hosted at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana this weekend with the Sprint Cup Pepsi 500 on Sunday.

This is the tightest competition ever, at this point in the 6-year history of the Chase format. With four of the ten Chase races run, veteran driver Mark Martin leads in the points standings for the Cup championship. Tailgating him in the points is three-peat reigning Cup champ and El Cajon native Jimmie Johnson, followed closely by Chase newbie Juan Pablo Montoya, and perennial contenders Tony Stewart, Kurt Bush and pole-sitter Denny Hamlin. All are within a 100-point range of the leader. The points pile-up going into the Pepsi 500 should ensure some good racing. A win is worth 190 points.