The Chase doesn't start for another two weeks, but the final off-week for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has passed.  The next 12 weeks will be the most intense run of the season.  Drivers have two races to lock in their Chase contention, and then it's 10 weeks of bracketology in NASCAR as the drivers eliminate one another.

Here's a look at three drivers to watch at Darlington:

Green Flag - Jimmie Johnson

He really puts the dog days into summer.  For whatever reason, when the weather is at its hottest, Johnson is at his coldest.  Then the calendar turns to September, he flips a switch, and the run at another championship seems inevitable.  Well, it's September now and Johnson could start his next run with a win at Darlington, where he has three career wins and nine tops-fives in 16 starts.

Yellow Flag - Denny Hamlin

His 6.9 average finish at Darlington is the best in the field.  Recently in 2015, Hamlin has five top-fives in the last eight races.  The problem is that his other three races in that time have been outside the top-10, so he's Jekyll and Hyde right now.  He's a top contender for the win if he rolls off with a fast car.

Red Flag - Jeff Gordon

He should make the Chase, that's the good news.  The bad news is that the final attempt at a Drive for Five is slipping away from Gordon.  He's finished 17th or worse in four of the last five races.  Stats at Darlington can be deceiving as he has seven wins there, but five of them came in a seven-race stretch between 1995-98.  He's pushing too hard right now and that seems to be affecting his success.