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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – NASCAR's new championship format came with fan-friendly brackets that likely had fans advancing Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. deep into the playoffs.
Instead, both drivers were eliminated last week and the third round begins Sunday at Martinsville Speedway with a few surprises.
Among them? Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman, two drivers few predicted would still be eligible at this stage of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Both capitalized on poor performances by Earnhardt and Johnson in the last round of the Chase to advance, and Newman really raised his game. He's led at least one lap each of the last three races and scored three top-10 finishes.
Now he and Edwards are hoping the same consistency will move them into the final four.