Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup stands, plus five additional drivers of note.
By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson
remained in first place for the third straight week after Kansas. He leads second-ranked Kasey Kahne by 37 points and third-ranked Brad Keselowski
by 38 points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 22 career starts, 3 wins, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: first in spring 2007, fall 2007 and fall 2008. Finished sixth in the spring race last year, and was 13th there in the fall.
LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson continues rolling with a full head of steam. He's driving with the same kind of persona as he displayed during his five consecutive championship seasons. And now he goes to Richmond, which is one of his more successful and favorite tracks. Here are Johnson's thoughts: "Well, it's hard to believe we've got a huge gap (leads second-place Kasey Kahne by 37 points) like that in the points already. Just very proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We've been off to a great year and even had some trouble at Bristol and didn't finish as well as we did there and 37 points up on everybody is pretty awesome."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson had a strong car at Kansas, but it wasn't quite enough to beat eventual winner Matt Kenseth
, as Johnson finished third.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 94.3 percent (8,297) of the 8,803 total laps contested in 22 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 12.0 and average finish is 16.5. He has one DNF there.
5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Kasey Kahne jumped five spots in the standings after Kansas to second place. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 37 points, and is one point ahead of third-ranked Brad Keselowski.
RICHMOND RECORD: 18 career starts, 1 win, 4 top-five, 7 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in spring 2005. Finished fifth in last year's spring race, and was 12th in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne has had good success at Richmond, but one problem he seems to have there is he'll be on a good run and then get into trouble, usually not of his making. Here are his thoughts about Saturday night's race: "I definitely believe in momentum. I know I've tried to work hard over the years to get more consistent because that was definitely my weak spot since I've been in the Sprint Cup Series. I feel really good about where we're at right now, and the momentum is huge."
LOOKING BACK: Kahne finished runner-up at Kansas, the highest-finishing car in the Hendrick Motorsports stable. But there was an oddity: as strong as he finished, he failed to lead even one lap in the race.
ETC.: Kahne has completed 93.7 percent (6,756) of the 7,210 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 13.2 and average finish is 18.0. He has two DNFs there.
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After three weeks in second place, Brad Keselowski fell one position to third after Kansas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 38 points, second-ranked Kasey Kahne by one point and leads fourth-ranked Greg Biffle by nine points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 7 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-fives, 2 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: seventh in fall 2012. Finished ninth in this race last year and was seventh in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski has struggled at Richmond, but his ninth- and seventh-place finishes there last year were career bests, a good indicator that he's finally figured the 3/4-mile track out pretty well. Look for a strong finish there this Saturday.
LOOKING BACK: Like a lot of other drivers, Keselowski had a good car at Kansas, but it was no match for winner Matt Kenseth. Still, Keselowski finished a strong sixth there. Here are his thoughts on his finish: "Yeah, usually you're not happy unless you win, but on a day where you can fight through adversity like we did today and get a solid finish, that kind of is a win."
ETC.: Keselowski has completed 98.7 percent (2,763) of the 2,800 total laps contested in six career starts at Richmond. His average start is 10.7 and average finish is 18.7. He has one DNF there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle remained in fourth position in the standings after Kansas. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 47 points, is nine points behind third-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr.
by one point.
RICHMOND RECORD: 21 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 6 top-10s and 1 pole. Best career finish: Third in fall 2005. Finished 18th in the spring race last year and was ninth in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle grew up on short tracks in the Pacific Northwest that are very similar to Richmond. It would stand to reason that he'd have done better there than he has. But he's optimistic about Saturday night's race: "Short tracks have been a little challenging for us in the past, but it seems like we're doing better at short tracks than we are at these big tracks. So I'm excited about going to Richmond, we ran well there the two races last year."
LOOKING BACK: After an outstanding fourth-place run at Texas, Biffle had just a mediocre run at Kansas, a track he typically does well at, finishing 19th.
ETC.: Biffle has completed 97.4 percent (8,188) of the 8,403 total laps contested in 21 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 18.0 and average finish is 16.3. He has one DNF there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: After falling four spots after the previous two races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in fifth place after Kansas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 48 points, is one point behind fourth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads sixth-ranked Carl Edwards by one point.
RICHMOND RECORD: 27 career starts, 3 wins, 9 top-fives, 11 top-10s and 1 pole. Best career finish: First in spring 2000, spring 2004 and spring 2006. Finished second in the spring race there last year, and was 14th in the fall race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt does well at Richmond, but it's been seven years since his last win there. It's time for him to reach victory lane again there, not to mention being his first win since last June at Michigan. Here's his thoughts on Saturday night's race: "Hopefully we can have a good weekend at Richmond. I've had some really good cars, and won some races there. Then I've had some unexplainable poor runs; just had cars where I couldn't get around the track. I'm excited to get to the track and in the car for practice and see where we are at, see what kind of drivability we've got and how much comfort we've got."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing a season-worst 29th at Texas the week before, Earnhardt finished a fair 16th at Kansas.
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 99.1 percent (10,707) of the 10,803 total laps contested in 27 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 15.9 and average finish is 13.9. He has one DNF there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards dropped one spot to sixth place after Kansas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 49 points, is one point behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads seventh-ranked Kyle Busch by five points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 17 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in fall 2011. Finished 10th in last year's spring race and was 17th in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards is both hot and cold at Richmond. When he's hot, he drives to the front and challenges for the win (although he has yet to reach victory lane there in the Cup series). It's when he's cold there that causes problems. He needs to bounce back from a 17th-place finish at Kansas, especially after a third-place finish at Texas two weeks ago.
LOOKING BACK: After finishing third at Texas, Edwards dropped to a 17th-place finish at Kansas. Here's Edwards thoughts on his race: "That's very disappointing for our whole team because we had such a fast car and then the sun came out and we were not in good shape. The handling went away big-time. I've got to thank Ricky Stenhouse. I was holding him off and I slid up in front of him and he could have wrecked me, but he didn't."
ETC.: Edwards has completed 96.7 percent (6,587) of the 6,810 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 11.7 and average finish is 14.9. He has one DNF there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing 15 positions in the previous four races, Kyle Busch took a nose dive from second to seventh after Kansas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 54 points, is five points behind sixth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads eighth-ranked Matt Kenseth by five points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 16 career starts, 4 wins, 12 top-five, 13 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in spring 2009, spring 2010, spring 2011 and spring 2012. Finished first in last year's spring race, and was 16th in the fall race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch has been the most dominating driver at Richmond over the last eight seasons. He absolutely loves racing at the 3/4-quarter mile track, which reminds him a lot of some of the bullrings he grew up racing on in the West and Southwest parts of the country. Here's Busch's thoughts on Saturday's race: "I love going to Richmond, for some reason. I've just kind of taken to that place. I know what I need in my car to run well there. The guys have done a good job making good adjustments through practice and sometimes we try to dial ourselves out, but we get honed back in on what we know works there. By having a good notebook, I think that really helps. A couple guys have been there testing and what not - the speeds seem to be fast. It should be exciting when we get back there with this new 2013 M&M's Camry."
LOOKING BACK: Busch had a terrible day at Kansas, being involved in a wreck with Joey Logano and finishing 38th.
ETC.: Busch has completed 100 percent (6,409) of the 6,410 total laps contested in 16 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 12.7 and an outstanding average finish of 5.4. He has zero DNFs there.
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer dropped one spot from eighth to ninth place after Kansas, but was moved back to eighth after Matt Kenseth's penalty. Bowyer is 64 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, trails seventh-ranked Kyle Busch by 10 points and leads ninth-ranked Paul Menard
by seven points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 14 career starts, 2 wins, 2 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2008 and fall 2012. Finished seventh in last year's spring race and was first in the fall
LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer has taken to Richmond so well, so don't be surprised if he has another strong run and finish there this Saturday - maybe even his third win, perhaps. Here's his thoughts about what he's looking for: "Just momentum. We needed a turnaround after (Texas). Certainly you want to win it at home, but a good top-five finish (this past Sunday at Kansas) is a great way to get things bounced back with our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota."
LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had a strong run and finish at Kansas, ending up fifth.
ETC.: Bowyer has completed 100 percent (5,609) of the 5,610 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 14.1 and average finish is 9.6. He has zero DNFs there.
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Paul Menard remained in 10th place after Kansas, but moved up to ninth after Wednesday's penalty cost Matt Kenseth 50 points. Mcenard is 71 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, trails eighth-ranked Clint Bowyer by seven points and leads 10th-ranked Jamie McMurray by 13 points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-fives, 0 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 13th in spring 2012. Finished 12th in last year's spring race and was 23rd in the fall race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: One of Menard's worst race tracks is Richmond. But given the success he's had thus far this season, and is the top-scoring driver in the Richard Childress Racing stable, it's time
for Menard to turn misfortune to good fortune at Richmond. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "Racing at Richmond is significant because when we go back there in the fall it's the last race before
the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. We want to do well and learn all we can this weekend, so we can take that knowledge and apply it to the fall race. ... Hopefully we can keep our fenders clean this weekend and come home with another top-10 finish."
LOOKING BACK: After finishes of 19th at Martinsville and 17th at Texas, Menard bounced back with a 10th-place finish at Kansas.
ETC.: Menard has completed 97.5 percent (4,689) of the 4,810 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 27.4 and his average finish is 27.1. He has zero DNFs there.
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 13 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Only three top-10 finishes in 20 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is very optimistic about this weekend. "We have had two strong runs on the short tracks already this year (Bristol and Martinsville) so I hope we can carry some of that momentum into this weekend," said McMurray. "We had a Goodyear test at Richmond a couple of weeks ago and I felt we had a good car then. So I'm looking forward to racing at Richmond this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray struggled early, but he rebounded in the final half of the race to finish seventh for his second top-10 finish in the last three races. "We just started off way too loose," said McMurray. "I honestly thought we had one of the better cars in Happy Hour. But from the drop of the green flag, it was just extremely loose. We had to actually come in twice (during an early yellow flag) and lower the track bar and make some adjustments. Then I thought we finally had some track position and I got turned sideways on the restart and went all the way to the back again, but it was a good recovery. We just had a fast car at the end. Good job by our team."
ETC.: McMurray has never qualified for the Chase, but he believes this could be the year. "We made a lot of changes in 2011," said McMurray. "We hired a lot of new people and changed the way we go about a lot of things at the shop. I said at the beginning of 2012 that it wasn't going to be immediate. And it's taken some time. But (this year), we've at least been in position to contend. Our cars are better than they were in 2010 (when he won three races). We have been competitive at every race track this year. Even in 2010, we didn't have that."
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 16 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Two wins and 15 top-10 finishes in 24 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick is really looking forward to this weekend. "Richmond has been a great race track for us through the years," said Harvick. "It's always fun to go there and do a little short-track racing. I really enjoy the style of racing that Richmond produces. I'm definitely looking forward to getting back in the car there to see what kind of result we can walk away with."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick finished 12th at Kansas. "This was not the result we were looking for today," said Harvick, who ran inside the top 10 for most of the race. "We had a fast car, but it was just too loose at the end. We just didn't have the car that we had earlier."
ETC.: Harvick knows the team needs to start "putting together a string of top-10s" if it wants to move into the top-10 in the standings and secure a spot in this year's Chase for the Championship. "We've let a couple of top-10s get away from us," said Harvick, who has only one top-10 finish in the first eight races. "If we can just finish where we've been running, we'll be just fine."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 18 points out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished 26th in both races a year ago.
LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola is quick to point out "our team is on a roll right now. Everyone is really gelling together. We finished in the top-10 in the last two races, and now, we're eyeing a top-five. Todd (Parrott, crew chief) and the guys have brought me fast cars each week. Todd has a few wins there (Richmond), so I'm confident he'll put a good setup in the car. We learned a lot from our Richmond test and feel that it helped us figure out what we need for our short-track package."
LOOKING BACK: Almirola finished eighth at Kansas for his second straight top-10 finish. "It was a good day for us," said Almirola. "We thought we had a great car at the beginning of the race, but then the track changed on us and we lost our track position. And then the handling drastically changed on our car, so we had to battle back from that and made a lot of adjustments. Todd did a great job of rallying our guys, making good adjustments and making great pit calls to get some track position. Right there at the end, our guys gave us a great pit stop when it counted, and we got another top-10."
ETC.: Farmland Foods and Almirola presented $20,000 to Harvesters-The Community Food Network last week at Kansas. The donation is the first step toward Farmland's year-long goal of raising $100,000 for Harvesters. "Our team understands how important fighting hunger is in communities across the country," said team owner Richard Petty. "We are excited to kick off race weekend by helping present Farmland's check and raising awareness about hunger issues."
56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 36 points out of the top 10. Gained five spots last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said, "I expect another strong run this weekend at Richmond. It's all about keeping this ball rolling in the direction we've been heading over the last few weeks. It's a good track for the entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization so I'm hopeful one of us will leave there with a win on Saturday night." Clint Bowyer, who won the fall race last September, and Mark Martin
are his teammates.
LOOKING BACK: Truex finished fourth at Kansas for his second straight top-five finish. "We fought the car all day long - had to go to the back once for a pit-road penalty and fight our way up through there. All in all, I'm very happy with fourth place. Got a lot of questions this week about being second (at Texas) and how I seemed so disappointed. Of course I was - circumstances (leading the race and getting beat on pit road). Today is the complete opposite. It was a great day, we overcame a lot and the guys did a great job bouncing back after that pit road problem we had and we had a great race car. It (his mood) just depends on circumstances."
ETC.: The team believes all Truex needs is a little luck and he'll get back to victory lane. "If it is luck, then we want the fans to rally behind Martin and get him back in victory lane with their lucky charms," said Ty Norris, general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing. So the team has started a "Get Lucky with Martin Truex" program where the fans are invited to send in their lucky item. "I really hope this contest doesn't last very long," said Truex, who has now gone 211 races since his last Cup win.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth had moved up three spots, from 11th to eighth, after his win at Kansas. But after Wednesday's penalties for having an engine that failed post-race inspection, he drops to a tie for 14th with Jeff Gordon
. Before the penalty, Kenseth trailed points leader Jimmie Johnson by 59 points. After the penalty, he trails Johnson now by 109 points.
RICHMOND RECORD: 26 career starts, 1 win, 4 top-five, 10 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2002. Finished 11th in last year's spring race, and was fifth in the fall race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth will have a lot of ground to make up after Wednesday's penalty dropped him 50 points and from eighth to a tie for 14th. Still, Kenseth was hoping for success when he moved to Joe Gibbs Racing, but it's unlikely anyone could have imagined the season he has had to date, with two wins including this past Sunday at Kansas. Here's his thoughts (before the penalty was issued) on Saturday night's race at Richmond: "We've been incredibly strong. It is kind of cliche, but I really feel
like I'm living a dream -- this is a dream come true. This stuff -- every single track, we were a little off at California, but other than that we had cars I thought that if all the stars would have aligned then we could have won the race. We've been incredibly fast and I'm just so thankful to be wheeling them and glad we could hold on."
LOOKING BEHIND: Kenseth dominated Sunday's race at Kansas, leading 163 of 267 laps to win his second race of the season and to climb back into the top-10.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 97.6 percent (10,158) of the 10,403 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Richmond. His average start is 21.6 and his average finish is 16.5. He has one DNF there.
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 38 points out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished second in the fall race last year. Overall has two wins and 25 top-10 finishes including 16 top-five's in 40 races. Also has won five poles.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon admits "when you practice during the day and race at night, you have to guess (on your chassis set-up). Plus I feel like every time we race there (Richmond) something is changing. I feel like we are advancing the technology of the cars - gaining more down force and gaining more mechanical grip. You are always trying to figure out what combination is going to work best for the night race."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon finished 13th at Kansas in a back-up car after crashing during qualifying. "That last caution definitely hurt with us being on pit road when the caution comes out," said Gordon. "We were looking pretty good up to that point, but we weren't the only ones that it hurt. It probably cost us a good six positions. We weren't the best car, but made some great improvement throughout the weekend. The race pace just kind of came to us. Really kind of brought us to life compared to the competition."
ETC.: In talking about how outspoken Brad Keselowski has been recently, Gordon recalled an incident where he wished he could have taken his words back. "I made a comment about Michael Waltrip my rookie year (1992) when we wrecked us at Darlington," said Gordon. "I wish I could have taken it back because I thought it was disrespectful and looking back on the situation he didn't deserve some of the comments. Little instances like that you learn less is more."
55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 39 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished third last fall for his third straight top-10 finish. Won the pole for the spring race a year ago. Overall has one win and 30 top-10 finishes including 18 top-five's in 54 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Martin feels "real positive" about this weekend. "We won the pole for the spring race a year ago and finished third in the fall race," said Martin. "So I am confident we are going to have another good car for this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Martin rallied in the final half of the race to finish ninth at Kansas. "Rodney (Childers, crew chief) just did a great job on the pit box during the race," said Martin. "We missed it pretty good early but our best run of the day was the last run of the day. That's the way you do it. I'm really proud of the guys and how hard they fought. We've just got a little work to do to get a little better."
ETC.: Martin stands fifth on the all-time list when it comes to career starts (862 this weekend), seventh when it comes to pole positions (56) and 17th when it comes to wins (40). "I'm been very lucky," said Martin. "I've driven for some great teams. It sure would be nice to get the 55 in victory lane before the year is over." Martin said he is not ready to discuss his plans for 2014.
39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 40 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Has finished eighth in the last two fall races. Overall has one win and 13 top-10 finishes in 22 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman feels "the biggest thing at Richmond is its pretty high braking, so you have to keep a brake pedal in the car all night. But, like I've always said, using that brake pedal is one of the reasons I enjoy short-track racing so much. As a driver, it's important for me to be smart on the race track and keep my head about me. Track position at Richmond is typically pretty important. It's hard to make up a lot of ground there. It's also a place where strategy, as far as getting off-sequence on tires, has the potential to make a big difference."
LOOKING BACK: Newman struggled during the final 43 laps and finished 14th after restarting in the top 10 when the green flag came out for the final time. "We used good pit strategy to get some track position toward the end of the race, but we didn't have the speed we needed to keep it up there," said Newman. "We just struggled a little bit today with our Code 3 Associates Chevrolet."
ETC.: Newman knows "we need to not have any more DNF's (did not finish) if we're going to make the Chase. We've got four top-10s, and those have definitely helped us in points, but those two DNF's just knock you out of it. It's like getting three A's and two F's - you wind up with a C-plus average. We need to have an A-minus or B-plus average if we're going to make the Chase. We need to pull the average up."
17 RICKY STENHOUSE, JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 44 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Finished third, fourth and second in the last three Nationwide races at RIR.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse said, "We are coming off a weekend where we led laps and ran near the front so we need to carry that momentum this this weekend. Richmond is the typical short track racing which is a lot of fun. We will work on getting our No. 17 Zest Ford to turn in the center (of the corners) for good drive off which is important. We keep getting closer to the top-10 each week so hopefully we can get our first top-10 finish this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse led twice for 26 laps and was leading the race when he made his last scheduled stop on 216. But an ill-timed caution flag two laps later ended his hopes of winning his first Cup race as he went a lap down when the yellow flag was waved. Stenhouse was the recipient of the Lucky Dog award as the first car a lap down. But he had to start at the rear of the field when the green waved for the final time with 43 laps to go. Stenhouse rallied to finish a career-best 11th. "It was fun (leading the race)," said Stenhouse. "We can take a lot of positives from this weekend. We were fast in practice, fast in qualifying (starting third) and made the car better throughout the race. The Zest Ford Fusion was the car to beat there at the end, but the caution killed us."
ETC.: All three Roush Fenway Fords carried a "B-Strong" decal at Kansas and car owner Jack Roush said he would donate $100 for every lap his team led to "The One Fund Boston," an initiative formed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino to help the people most affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. "It was cool getting to lead some laps for Roush Fenway and for everyone in Boston," said Stenhouse. "At least we'll be able to donate a little something. I just wish we were able to lead the last few."
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 47 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in eight starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose believes "we have the opportunity to be really fast this weekend. We tested there (Richmond) and spend a lot of time working on this new car. After that test, we've been really good but just have had back luck. We've been pretty fast and consistent in qualifying, practices and the first half of the races. We have just been snake-bitten a bit on the results. We want to get a finish we deserve this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: For the second straight week, Ambrose saw a top-10 run disappear with a late-race incident. "I'm just disappointed," said Ambrose after his 20th-place finish. "We had such a good Stanley Ford, and were running around the top-10 all day, but when the sun came out it (the track) changed. I didn't expect it, but I spun off turn two and we got some damage (when hit by Sam Hornish, Jr.). We were able to stay on the lead lap, but that ended our hopes (of a top-10 finish)."
ETC.: Ambrose is a big fan of crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. "Drew is fantastic," said Ambrose. "We're lucky to have Drew. I'm lucky to have him. I get along with him great. The test at Richmond really helped us a lot, and Drew has given me great cars ever since."
22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 53 points out of the top 10. Lost 11 points to fall out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: One top-10 finish in eight starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Logano needs a top-10 run this weekend at Richmond to start his climb back up the ladder in his quest to make the Chase for the Championship. "We took a real hit in the points last week," said Logano. "But most weeks we've had good cars so I feel good about our chances to get back up there (in the standings)."
LOOKING BACK: Logano's bad week got even worse Sunday when he slammed hard into a spinning Kyle Busch on lap 104 of the Kansas race. "I hit a ton," said Logano. "But I'm fine. I saw the whole thing. He (Busch) got loose and slapped the wall with the right side. So I'm like, "All right, I'm gonna gun it and get by him,' and as soon as I committed to the low side I saw him start coming back down (the track). At that point, you're just lined up to him. I hit him a ton. We weren't having a good day as it was, but you don't want to end up in the garage like this (with a battered race car)." Logano finished 39th.
ETC.: NASCAR announced last Wednesday that crew chief Todd Gordon had been fined $100,000 and suspended for six races for a non-approved rear suspension. Logano was docked 25 points to drop out of the top 10 as was car owner Roger Penske. The team immediately said it was appealing the penalties which allowed Gordon to be at Kansas. Car chief Ray Fox and team engineer Samuel Stanley also have been suspended for six races as well as team manager Travis Geisler. Penske said, "I certainly don't think it's cheating. You are looking at the rules and you are working in a gray area. We all work in the gray area. We just looked at a particular rule that maybe NASCAR had a different view of. Now we'll get a chance to have an unbiased panel look at it (during the appeal)."
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 59 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished third and fourth in the two races a year ago, leading 133 laps. Will be seeking his fifth straight top-nine finish. Won his first Cup race at RIR on Sept. 11, 1999. Overall has three wins and 19 top-10 finishes including 11 top-five's in 28 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart calls Richmond "my favorite track. It's the perfect-sized track for a Cup race. The other short tracks we run - Bristol and Martinsville - they're cool in their own right, but there's a lot of congestion at those two tracks. But at Richmond, it just seems like that extra quarter-mile, and that three-quarter-mile shape, and how wide the groove gets there, allows for good racing."
LOOKING BACK: Stewart's frustrating season got even more frustrating at Kansas as he struggled all afternoon with an ill-handling race car. As a result, he finished 21st. Stewart has now finished 17th or worse in his last five races including four finishes of 21st or worse. "We just have a lot of work to do with this new car," said Stewart.
ETC.: Despite all of Stewart's problems this season, he is still convinced he will be part of this year's Chase for the Championship. "The key still is winning races," said Stewart, who has won at least two races every year since 1999 except 2008. "If we do that, we'll be okay." Of Stewart's 47 career Cup wins, only four have come before May.
78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet
Team: Furniture Row Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 60 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: One win and seven top-10 finishes in 24 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "every year I go to Richmond I feel like my luck is going to turn around. I won one race there in 2005, but I think I've thrown away more Richmond wins than I've won at Bristol (five) because of different things happening. Whether it's a pit stop debacle, an ignition problem or running out of gas, Richmond has been tough on me for having things happen in a race. So hopefully this will be a smooth race and we'll post a solid finish."
LOOKING BACK: Busch finished 15th at Kansas. "We're disappointed," said Busch. "This is not the finish that we expected after our practice sessions the past two days. We felt we could be contenders today, but as soon as the race started it was apparent that our Furniture Row Chevrolet SS didn't have the grip and speed that we had yesterday in practice. We were inconsistent - the car's handling was loose and then it was tight, then it chattered. A difficult day all around."
ETC: Busch spent Tuesday at the new Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas where he drove an Australian V8 Supercar. "Getting a chance to drive a V8 Supercar was high on my wish list, and the chance to do it at the Circuit of The Americas made this a dream opportunity," said Busch. The V8 Supercar Series, Australian's premier motorsports series, is scheduled to compete May 17-19 at the Texas facility. Busch will be racing in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte that weekend.
31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 62 points out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished sixth in the fall race a year ago.
LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, "Richmond is truly one of my favorite race tracks. It's a fun time of the year and the weather is warmer. I think Richmond is the perfect size race track (three-quarters of a mile in length). It's both big enough and small enough to produce good races. One thing we haven't seen lately is the top groove come in. Hopefully, the top groove will come in (this weekend). If it does, that will make the racing even better than it already is."
LOOKING BACK: Burton finished 18th at Kansas. "It is disappointing for the 31 team to come out of here with an 18th-place finish with a car that was running in the top-10 and top-15 all day," said Burton. "This American Ethanol team continues to make strides with our 1.5-mile program and we showcased that speed today before the final green-flag run where we weren't quite as quick as we needed to be."
ETC.: Burton said it is "fun" to watch son Jeb race. "I haven't seen Jeb race a lot because obviously I race almost every weekend," said Burton. "So, I never really got a chance to watch Jeb race until last year. Honestly, sitting in the grandstands off turn four (at Martinsville) was the first race I saw Jeff run from start to finish. It's fun to see him race. He really wants it."
10 DANICA PATRICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE SHE STANDS: 25th, 86 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Will be making her Sprint Cup debut. Best finish in three Nationwide starts was 18th.
LOOKING AHEAD: Patrick hopes she can have another solid run like she had at Martinsville a few weeks ago. "Tony (Gibson, crew chief) and the guys gave me a great car there, and we were able to be pretty aggressive with it," said Patrick. "I know Tony has some good runs at Richmond like he has had at Martinsville so I am hopeful of another good run this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Patrick finished 25th at Kansas after a very frustrating afternoon. Patrick complained about David Gilliland during the race telling her crew over the in-car radio "He tries to take me out every time. Tell his spotter that I'm coming after him if he does it again. In fact I might just do it right now." Later she was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for trash on the grille of her car that was causing the car to overheat. And to compound matters, Patrick got together with Marcos Ambrose when Ambrose got loose while trying to pass her.
ETC.: Gibson told Patrick after the race "Be proud of yourself. You drove a hell of a race today. You can't do anything about the grille there, so be proud of yourself. You hung in there all day. You did a great job on restarts. You had a good car. We know we should be been about 15th. We made some gains; we'll learn and go on." Later Gibson added, "The bright side is that we finished again and got a lot of laps in and we made some improvements and made a lot of gains (with the car). I felt like today was a positive day."
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 95 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Hamlin said it is a "50-50" possibility that he will be cleared to race this weekend. But the team expects Brian Vickers to be in the car on Saturday night. Richmond is one of Hamlin's better tracks with two wins and nine top-10 finishes including seven top-five's in 14 starts. Vickers has three top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers knows that "the JGR cars are real good at Richmond. Denny and Kyle (Busch) have won a lot of races there. So I feel good about how we'll run this weekend. We need to rebound after Kansas. We just had a bad day there."
LOOKING BACK: Vickers was behind the wheel at Kansas as Hamlin continues to recover from a fractured vertebrae. It was not a good day for Vickers as he battled an extremely loose race car and spun out on lap 174, bouncing hard off the turn-two wall. As a result, Vickers ended the day in 31st-place.
ETC.: Hamlin will be meeting with his doctors this week. "As far as Richmond (his home track), it's going to be 50-50 on whether they're going to feel comfortable letting me go at that point," said Hamlin. "I'm doing all the rehab and stuff you're supposed to do. You just hope that somehow your bones are healing the way they should be at this point." If the doctors don't give him the okay to race at Richmond, Hamlin said the team is looking into the possibility of at least starting the Talladega race on May 5. "You can hang out in the back and just wait on a caution (to change drivers)," added Hamlin.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation