NASCAR Driver Capsules, July 10

The SportsXchange

Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup standings, 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 13th straight week after Daytona. He leads second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 49 points and third-ranked Carl Edwards by 71 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 22 career starts, 3 wins, 8 top-5s, 15 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in summer and fall 2003 and summer 2010. Finished seventh in this race last year and was runner-up in last year's fall Chase race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson has two top-five and one other top-10 finish in his last four starts at New Hampshire. Racing on the one-mile flat track definitely suits his driving style. Here's Johnson's thoughts about sharing the lead for most wins thus far this season (four each) with Matt Kenseth: "Yeah, every point counts, without a doubt. Clearly locking in, I think three wins locked us into the Chase. Clearly we've got nothing to worry about from that standpoint. Now it's trying to get each and every point we can to carry in. Happy to get four wins and, hopefully, we can get a couple more and get ahead of (Kenseth)."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson dominated last Saturday's Coke Zero 400, leading 94 of the 161 laps en route to his fourth win of the season. He also opened a substantial lead in the standings over his nearest chasers.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 98.9 percent (6,407) of the 6,475 total laps contested in 22 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 11.1 and average finish is 9.5. He has zero DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer moved up to second place from third after Daytona. Bowyer is 49 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, and leads third-ranked Carl Edwards by 22 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 14 career starts, 2 wins, 4 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2007 and fall 2010. Was third in this race last year and finished fourth in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer returns to New Hampshire with some unfinished business. In last season's two races there, he appeared ready to add to his previous two wins at the one-mile flat track, but came up just a little bit short both times. He's looking to get back in the win column there again this Sunday.

LOOKING BACK: After finishing third at Kentucky, Bowyer continued his momentum with a fourth-place finish at Daytona. While the race itself was fairly standard for Daytona, Bowyer was a bit surprised at all the late wrecks: "It's Daytona. You knew it was going to happen. You know, I just kind of made a deal with myself to take it easy. If you get wiped out it doesn't matter who caused it or whose fault it was, if you get wiped out before halfway in one of these restrictor plate races it's your own fault. You knew better than to put yourself in that situation. I just kind of made that a rule for me on these things and it's been paying off."

ETC.: Bowyer has completed 99.7 percent (4,157) of the 4,168 total laps contested in 14 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 12.6 and average finish is 15.1. He has one DNF there.

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards dropped to third place after spending the previous nine weeks in second place. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 71 points, second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 22 points and leads fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick by two points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 17 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in summer 2006. Was 18th in this race last year and finished 19th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards has struggled at New Hampshire throughout his career, which is perplexing, given that he loves racing on short tracks - and cut his racing teeth on them. He's looking to turn things around this Sunday.

LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a weekend he'd rather forget at Daytona. Not only did he finish a disappointing 29th, he also dropped from second to third in the Sprint Cup points standings, while also falling 71 points behind points leader Jimmie Johnson after threatening to overtake Johnson in the standings in recent weeks.

ETC.: Edwards has completed a near-perfect 99.9 percent (5,065) of the 5,068 total laps contested in 17 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 15.2 and average finish is 14.5. He has zero DNFs there.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick remained in fourth place for the fourth straight week after Daytona. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 73 points, is two points behind third-ranked Carl Edwards and leads fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 38 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 24 career starts, 1 wins, 5 top-fives, 12 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in the fall 2006 Chase race. Was eighth in this race last year and 11th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick is looking forward to returning to the one-mile flat track at Loudon, where he has enjoyed considerable success at in his career. Still, he feels he's come up short in recent races and looks to change that this weekend. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I enjoy racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, we haven't run as well as we would have liked the last few years. Obviously, everything is new with this particular car and hopefully we can start off on the right foot this weekend. We have a race at New Hampshire during the Chase, so I'm hoping we can get a solid result and collect some good notes to build off of and have a good run during the second race there this season. It's really another one of those places we will have to go to first before we will really know how this new car is going to perform."

LOOKING BACK: Even though he didn't lead any laps, Harvick had a very strong run at Daytona, finishing third behind winner Jimmie Johnson and runner-up Tony Stewart, making it a 1-2-3 Chevrolet finish.

ETC.: Harvick has completed 99.2 percent (7,021) of the 7,075 total laps contested in 24 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 14.1 and average finish is 13.7. He has zero DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved up one spot to fifth in the standings after Daytona. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 110 points, is 37 points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads sixth-ranked Matt Kenseth by eight points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 27 career starts, 0 wins, 7 top-fives, 11 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in fall 2004 Chase race. Finished fourth in this race last year and 13th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has ridden a roller coaster of ups and downs over the years at New Hampshire. He's still looking for both his first race win there, as well as his first win of 2013. Sunday would be a great day to accomplish both. Here's his thoughts: "New Hampshire is track I enjoy racing on. I've really loved running there. It is so challenging to pass with how the car has to roll the center. You work so hard trying to get that to happen all day. I enjoy short-track racing, and the corners and the speeds there kind of lend itself to that style. It's just a little bit frustrating that I haven't won there because I feel like it's a track that I should be capable of doing that."

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a good race at Daytona. Although he didn't lead any laps, he still managed to stay out of any late wrecks and brought home a strong eighth-place finish.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed just 94.1 percent (7,483) of the 7,948 total laps contested in 27 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 16.4, while his average finish is 16.1. He has four DNFs there.

20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth dropped one spot in the rankings, falling from fifth to sixth after Daytona. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 118 points, is eight points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads seventh-ranked Kyle Busch by seven points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 26 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 12 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in fall 2004 Chase race. Finished 13th in this race last year and 14th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has had a number of struggles at New Hampshire over the last five seasons, with just one top-10 finish in that time. Of course, those were with Ford-powered Roush Fenway Racing. Given that he already has four wins this season with his new team, Toyota-powered Joe Gibbs Racing, might Kenseth's luck take a turn for the better this Sunday?

LOOKING BACK: After winning at Kentucky, Kenseth saw the opposite end of the spectrum at Daytona. He was collected in a late-race crash and finished a disappointing 33rd. He's still at a loss for what happened. When asked what he saw that led up to his late-race wreck, Kenseth replied, "Really not much. I saw the side of the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car get turned and I tried -- I was already around the top so I slowed down as much as I could and just got hit and was just kind of a ping pong ball. So, I'm not sure what started it, or really what hit me and got it. I just saw the wreck and tried to slow down and miss it. But there's just not much I could do."

ETC.: Kenseth has completed 99.0 percent (7,571) of the 7,648 total laps contested in 26 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 21.1 and average finish is 14.0. He has one DNFs there.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch remained in seventh place in the standings after Daytona. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 125 points, is seven points behind sixth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by 17 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 16 career starts, 1 wins, 4 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in the summer 2006 race. Finished 16th in this race last year (after starting from the pole) and was 28th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: The younger Busch brother has struggled in his last four starts at Loudon, with finishes of 36th, 11th, 16th and 28th, respectively. That's a far cry from what he did in the previous four races there: seventh, fifth, 11th and ninth. He's definitely keyed in on getting back into the win column this Sunday. Here's his thoughts: "Loudon is tricky for me. For some reason, I never figured it out with our last car. With the COY as I called it (car of yesteryear), we were pretty decent there, so I'm hoping that our 2013 Toyota Camry has some of the same characteristics there like that car did. I remember 2006, one of the last races we ran with the COY - I won that one. So, it's been one of those places that's just kind of tricky sometimes to figure out for me - just the flatness of the corners, how hard do you get into the corner, how much brake do you use, how much do you let the car roll, how hard to get back on the gas - there's so many different things you've got to work through at Loudon."

LOOKING BACK: Busch led 29 laps last Saturday at Daytona, but when it came to the checkered flag, he fell back to a 12th-place finish.

ETC.: Busch has completed 97.6 percent (4,652) of the 4,768 total laps contested in 16 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 12.1, while his average finish is 16.7. He has zero DNFs there.

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After falling back three spots in the standings at Kentucky, Greg Biffle regained one of those spots, moving up to eighth place after Daytona. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 142 points (a drop of 21 points from Kentucky), is 17 points behind seventh-ranked Kyle Busch and leads ninth-ranked Kurt Busch by 15 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 21 career starts, 1 wins, 5 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2008 Chase race. Finished ninth in this race last year and was 18th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle has had a rough spell of late, but is looking to turn his luck around at Loudon. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I'm looking forward to New Hampshire, I love that race track. I've won there before and we had a test there about three weeks ago. The test didn't quite go as hot as we wanted. We didn't feel like we had quite the speed that we wanted and the test rained out there second afternoon. We got some information that we came back and worked on. We are excited about NH this weekend and think we'll have a pretty good car."

LOOKING BACK: Although it wasn't quite as bad as his 34th-place finish a week before at Kentucky, Biffle never was really much of a factor this past Saturday at Daytona, ultimately finishing a fair 17th.

ETC.: Biffle has completed 96.3 percent (5,947) of the 6,175 total laps contested in 21 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 15.5 and average finish is 16.3. He has two DNFs there.

78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kurt Busch climbed five spots in the standings, from 14th to ninth, after Daytona. It's the first time he's been in the top-10 this season (and the first time in the top-10 since late in the 2011 season). He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 157 points, is 15 points behind eighth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads 10th-ranked Tony Stewart by two points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 24 career starts, 3 wins, 7 top-five, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in summer and fall 2004 and summer 2008. Finished 24th in this race last year, and was 25th in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: After flying under the radar for much of the season, Kurt Busch is now front-and-center among contenders for the Chase. He's gotten Furniture Row Racing into the top-10 for the first time and he intends on staying there. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "New Hampshire is a fun track. It's been good to me in the past. I won there three times in Cup and also won a truck race there. It's a track with a delicate balance, but the race is usually won on how well you can roll the center of the corners. Some years turns one and two are more of a struggle and turn three is always the bumpier corner entry. But it seems like if you can get rolling through the middle it tends to give you a better shot at winning."

LOOKING BACK: Busch came oh so close to earning a top-five finish at Daytona, but ultimately settled for a sixth-place finish there.

ETC.: Busch has completed 95.4 percent (6,750) of the 7,075 total laps contested in 24 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 13.0, while his average finish there is 14.8. He has one DNF there.

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Tony Stewart climbed back into the top 10, gaining a whopping six places in the standings after Daytona. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 159 points, is two points behind ninth-ranked Kurt Busch and leads 11th-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by six points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 28 career starts, 3 wins, 14 top-fives, 17 top-10s and 1 pole. Best career finish: First in summer 2000, summer 2005 and the fall 2011 Chase race. Finished 12th in this race last year and was seventh in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: New Hampshire is one of Stewart's favorite and most successful tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit. For whatever reason, he always seems to elevate his game a few notches more when he competes on the flat one-mile oval. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "It just has long, sweeping corners. The corners in comparison to where we normally race, we're used to having a lot of banking, but New Hampshire is pretty flat. It's one of those tracks where you're either fighting entry-loose, entry-exit and nice in the center, or you're fighting tight in the center and you're good on entry and good on exit. It's a juggling act trying to get the car balanced for all three sections of the corner."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart ran a strong and smart race at Daytona. If he would have had maybe another lap or two, he may have caught winner Jimmie Johnson. Still, Stewart came home with an outstanding runner-up finish.

ETC.: Stewart has completed 94.9 percent (7,825) of the 8,248 total laps contested in 28 starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 11.2, while his average finish is 11.4. He has two DNFs there.

56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only six points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week to fall out of the top 10. Stands first in the wild card standings with one win.

LOUDON RECORD: Five top-10 finishes in 14 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex remembers his dad winning at New Hampshire in 1994. "It was one of the coolest moments for me as a kid," said Truex. "I was watching my dad win on the big stage. That is why it would be so special for me to win at Loudon. We've had great cars all year, so I feel good about this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Suddenly on lap 98 of the 160-lap event, Truex went spinning to trigger a four-car accident that left Truex in 41st place. "I'm not real sure to be honest with you," said Truex when asked what happened. "I watched the replay (after being released from the infield care center) - I couldn't really even tell if he (Denny Hamlin) hit us or not, or if it was just an error (on his part). It was strange. It felt like my left rear tire blew out - it happened so fast. You can see before he even touched us I was turning sideways and totally unexpected because our car had been really good all night. This is going to hurt pretty bad (in the points)."

ETC.: Truex loves going to Loudon as it brings back memories of the days he spent at the track with his father. "One year his car was parked right across from my hero, Dale Earnhardt," recalls Truex. "What kid wouldn't think it's cool to see his dad running against the Intimidator? It was the coolest thing. As I grew up, that's all I ever wanted to do was race because my dad did it."

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, nine points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week. Stands second in the wild card standings with one win.

LOUDON RECORD: Won the July race a year ago. Finished fifth in the fall event.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne said, "It's fun to race at tracks that are a little different so I like New Hampshire. It's a flat, one-mile track and you drive the car a lot different there with the breaking and the way you pick up the throttle. I feel like turn three is probably the toughest part of New Hampshire because it's rough getting into the corner, which makes it easy to lock up your brakes, get loose or slide the car over the bumps. Overall, it's a pretty cool track."

LOOKING BACK: With five laps to go, Kahne was racing side-by-side with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the lead. Then Johnson and Marcos Ambrose touched with Ambrose bouncing off into Kahne. The contact shot Kahne head-on into the inside wall. "I got slammed and shot to the left," said Kahne, who ended up 32nd. "It's kind of how these races go. You don't have a lot of control over what happens. I was racing for the win and the next thing I know I'm into the wall."

ETC.: Kahne feels he needs another win to firm up his chances of making the Chase. "Two wins would just about make it a sure thing," said Kahne. "We've got some good tracks coming up beginning with Loudon, where we won a year ago. So if we can us another win, it would make things a lot easier going into Richmond (the last race before the Chase)."

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 11 points out of the top 10.

LOUDON RECORD: Will be seeking his fourth straight top-six finish.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski said, "Loudon has become a pretty good race track for me. Our flat-track program at Penske Racing has been pretty solid as a whole. It's one of the tracks where Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) has experience as a driver. It's very hard to emphasize how much of a difference that can make. After testing up there two weeks ago, I feel really good about our package for the race. It should be a good weekend for the Miller Lite Ford team."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski was running second with 27 laps to go. "I thought we were in a good spot there, but we got three-wide (on the restart) on the backstretch and got shuffled back," said Keselowski. "Still thought we might have a shot a top-10 finish, but had to spend the last lap dodging wrecks and lost a lot of spots (as he ended up 21st). Definitely frustrating because we were better than a 21st-place car," added the defending series champion.

ETC.: Keselowski has been nominated for two awards during this year's ESPY Award Presentation that will be held on Wednesday, July 17 at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles. After winning five races and the Sprint Cup championship a year ago, Keselowski received a nomination for Best Driver. Keselowski and his team are also in the running for the Best Championship Performance award. "Just to receive a nomination along with some of the biggest athletes in the world is one of the biggest honors I have received," said Keselowski.

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 12 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Will be seeking his fourth straight top-six finish. Overall has three wins and 21 top-10 finishes including 16 top-five's in 36 races. He leads all drivers in both top-five's and top-10's.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon feels he doesn't have "any choice but to go out there and race hard and be aggressive. We've had some great runs recently. We need to make sure we have the good finishes to go along with them. Even though flat tracks weren't my favorite types of track growing up, I've always enjoyed racing there (Loudon). We're run well the last couple years, and we just did the tire test a few weeks back. We're definitely excited about the race this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Gordon's hopes of challenging for the win ended with 11 laps remaining when he got caught up in a multi-car accident. "Had a really strong car" said Gordon. "Just sitting there hoping the outside lane would start to make progress. We all tried to avoid it. Matt (Kenseth) got sideways and then I didn't have anywhere to go. Got his right-front and that just sent the car into the wall. You have to survive (to go for the win) and we didn't." Gordon ended up 34th.

ETC.: With only eight races left before the Chase for the Championship begins, Gordon still believes "we have so much potential that if we just live up to our potential that there is no doubt that we can get in the top 10. We just had such an inconsistent year and so many crazy things thrown at us that I am pretty happy to be as close (to the top 10) as we are."

20 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 16 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week to fall out of the top 10.

LOUDON RECORD: Finished eighth last fall. Got his first Cup win on June 28, 2009 at NHMS. Has four top-10 finishes in nine starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano, naturally, has fond memories of his win four years ago. "To finally get your first Cup win, even in a rain-shortened event, was amazing," said Logano, who at 19 years, one month and four days became the youngest driver to ever win a Cup race. "I also remember coming here as a kid. The first Sprint Cup Series race I ever went to was at this track. So I have a lot of memories here. But I'd really like to win another race - a full-distance race - and make even more memories here."

LOOKING BACK: Logano's right-front tire blew on lap 70, sending Logano hard into the wall. "It was a big hit, but a bigger hit in the points," said Logano, who finished 40th. He had just moved into the top 10 a week ago. "I don't think I ran over anything and in looking it over it looks like a shoulder failure to me. It's just very frustrating. We just got into the top 10 and then something like that happens."

ETC.: Logano believes this is the week he needs "to really step up and become a leader for the team and make sure everyone keeps their spirits up. We were all pretty bummed with what happened at Daytona, but even after the race, the guys were positive and we all said, we've come back from a few points down already this year and we will do it again. There is plenty of time to get right back to where we were."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 17 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Finished 10th in both races last year. Has finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven races including a win in June of 2010. Overall has three wins and 15 top-10 finishes in 22 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman knows "It's extremely important for us to have a strong run (this weekend) in the Cup car from a points perspective. We need to do all we can to try and win that race to keep us alive in the wild-card standings toward making the Chase. New Hampshire is sort of a 'home' track for me because of the number of victories and poles (six) I've had there. So, I'm looking forward to the weekend. It couldn't come at a better time, nor in a better place."

LOOKING BACK: Newman finished 10th at Daytona, but moments after crossing the finish line he was involved in a multi-car accident that left him with a badly-damaged race car and a foul mood. "The best part of that finish was that we were able to get a top-10," said Newman. "Honestly, other than that, I don't have much to say. I hate that we destroyed another race car on the final lap. That just seems to be norm for us when it comes to restrictor-plate racing."

ETC.: Newman scored the first win of his Cup career at Loudon in his very first race at the flat, 1.058-mile track, yet he remembers telling people "New Hampshire was my least favorite race track. But it's far from that, now. It's still not my favorite race track, but I really look forward to going back there each year. New Hampshire has always been a good place for me. We've had lot of success there over the years."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 24 points out of the top 20. Gained two spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 20 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said he and the team are really looking forward to this weekend. "We are coming off a seventh-place finish at Daytona and back-to-back top-10 finishes," added McMurray. "I feel like we have some positive momentum right now with our team. I hope that continues for the folks at McDonald's. Another top-10 run would really boost everyone's morale."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray led twice for 10 laps and ran in the lead pack for most of the race as he finished seventh at Daytona for his second straight top-10 finish in his push to make the Chase. "Tonight was a great night for our team, a good finish and a good night in the points," said McMurray. "We always have strong cars here at Daytona and I will be the first to say you need to be lucky here. Tonight some of that played in our favor."

ETC.: McMurray won three races in 2010 including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. "I think we are better than we were in 2010 when we were able to win all those races," said McMurray. "Once we are able to put it all together, we will win more races this year."

17 RICKY STENHOUSE, JR., Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 33 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Will be making Sprint Cup debut. Has two top-five finishes in three Nationwide Series starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse said, "I'm really looking forward to New Hampshire this weekend. We tested there last month and really fell good about what we learned. Our team is determined to get a top-10 this weekend, especially after we were so close last weekend at Daytona." Stenhouse is still looking for his first top-10 finish in the Sprint Cup Series.

LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse finished 11th at Daytona after somehow missing the last-lap wreck that occurred right in front of him. "I thought I was going to get shuffled back to about 15th (on the final lap)," said Stenhouse. "Then all of a sudden, a few of them got turned down the race track and I think the 10 (Danica Patrick) spun right in front of me, and then all of a sudden we ended up across the finish line and nobody was in front of us. It was a crazy finish."

ETC.: Crew chief Scott Graves said the team is "bringing a new car" to Loudon this weekend. "We tested it at Loudon a few weeks ago and feel good about how it is going to perform on Sunday. The test was good as it gave Ricky some extra seat time. We feel that Loudon could be the track that we finally get it (a top-10 finish)."

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 36 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Best finish in five starts is 18th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "I've always enjoyed going to New Hampshire. I love that area. It's beautiful country. The track has always been one of my favorites. This weekend we just need to have a good finish. The Roush teams went there to test, and we're going to lean on those notes."

LOOKING BACK: Amirola was clipped by David Stremme to trigger a five-car accident with 32 laps remaining in the Coke Zero 400. As a result, Almirola ended the evening in 38th place. "I was actually being really patient back there and was kind of minding my own business riding around right on the yellow line kind of expecting a crash, but hoping that I'd be out of harm's way where I was at, but unfortunately, I wasn't," said Almirola. "That really hurt us in the points, which is disappointing."

ETC.: Almirola is not ready to give up in his attempt to make the Chase. "Last week was really disappointing for us in the points," said Almirola. "We are going to have to really focus and get some top-five's, top-10's and win a race to be able to get in the Chase now. We haven't lost sight of our shot to make the Chase." Adds crew chief Todd Parrott, "a solid finish this weekend is really important to us."

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 39 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Finished 12th last fall for his best finish in 12 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "I really enjoy going to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The track hasn't been very good to me in the Sprint Cup Series, but I still like racing there. It's a fun track to drive. We're doing double duty this weekend, competing in the Nationwide race on Saturday. Our goal is to learn things in that event, which we can apply to Sunday's race."

LOOKING BACK: Menard was running third when the engine suddenly came apart on lap 23. As a result, Menard finished 43rd and last in the Coke Zero 400 to severely damage any hopes he had of making the Chase. "We had a really fast Rheem/Menards Chevrolet tonight, and it's really unfortunate our evening ended so early," said Menard. "It is a tough break for our team, but we'll keep our heads up high and go to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend hoping for better results."

ETC.: Five weeks ago, Menard stood ninth in the Sprint Cup standings. And he was still 11th two weeks later. But after three straight weeks "of some real tough luck," Menard has dropped all the way to 20th. "We've got to rebound big time in the next few weeks," adds Menard. "We've got to put together a run of top finishes, and we know we can do it."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 42 points out of the top 10, only three points out of the top 20.

LOUDON RECORD: Four wins and 13 top-10 finishes including eight top-five's in 36 starts. His four victories rank him first at NHMS.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton believes "I am one of the few drivers that think it is harder to pass at Loudon than before (it was re-configured a couple of years ago). It used to be when you had position, the spot was yours. Now you gain that track position and the fight for the spot has just begun. I think it is much harder to pass now than it was with the old track. I do enjoy going to New Hampshire, though. I feel really comfortable there."

LOOKING BACK: Burton finished 16th at Daytona and then seconds after crossing the finish line he was involved in a multi-car accident. "This wasn't the finish this Kwikset team deserved tonight," said Burton. "We played it safe there for most of the race and were just getting wound up to go to the front when that caution waved with five to go. That set up the green-white-checkered finish and it just wasn't enough time to get to where I know that car could have run."

ETC.: Burton collects helmets. "I've got a lot of helmets throughout the years," said Burton. "I try to keep at least one helmet from every year. I've got my first go-kart helmet that I wore when I was seven years old. I've got my very first helmet from when I drove a stock car. I've got my very first enclosed helmet that I ever wore. I've got helmets from most years - there may be a year here or there that I don't have. I haven't really taken inventory. But I've always tried to keep at least one a year."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 70 points out of the top 10, 31 out of the top 20.

LOUDON RECORD: One top-10 finish in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though Ambrose has struggled at Loudon, he can't wait to get to New Hampshire. "Last weekend really showed we can run up front and compete for wins," said Ambrose. "I feel the same this weekend as well. It's a completely different track, different style of racing, but I think our team is really strong right now. We have a lot of confidence that we can run up front each weekend."

LOOKING BACK: On the restart with seven laps to go, Ambrose jumped to the high line and got a great push from Clint Bowyer. As Ambrose closed on the leader, Jimmie Johnson, Johnson jumped to the outside to block the fast-closing outside line. A half-lap later, Ambrose cut to the left of Johnson, but the two touched sending Ambrose hard into Kasey Kahne to bring out another yellow flag. "We had a really fast Stanley Ford and were in position to win it," said Ambrose. "I went low and the 48 (Johnson) just went to block the move. The contact with Kahne cut our (left-rear) tire (forcing Ambrose to the pits to have the tire replaced). It's a shame because we would have been leading the race if not for the cut tire. It's disappointing because we had a chance to win it tonight." Instead, Ambrose ended up 26th.

ETC.: Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer believes "the keys to Loudon are track position and more track position, so qualifying and pit stops will be very critical. Being such a flat track, handling through the corners is very important. With narrow pit stalls, pit selection will help our pit stops, so we'll need to put up a good lap in qualifying to be ahead of the game when we take the green on Sunday."

42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 95 points out of the top 10, 56 points out of the top 20.

LOUDON RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 12 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Montoya said, "New Hampshire has been a good track for me in the past. It's a track where the Target team has been consistently good and we usually unload fast. It's a flat track and you have to learn to use the various grooves. There's a lot of braking and it can be tricky to figure out but I've always enjoyed racing there."

LOOKING BACK: Montoya was in the wrong place at the wrong time Saturday night as he got caught up in a multi-car accident with 62 laps to go. As a result, Montoya ended the night in 39th place. "Somebody made the mistake and we ended up paying for the mistake," said Montoya. "Kind of sucks because everybody on this Target team has been working really hard and we had a great car. We were just taking our time. It just sucks."

ETC.: Montoya knows the odds are against him in his bid to make the Chase. "We've got to win one and probably two races and get in the top 20," said Montoya. "But we are not giving up. We have to put together a string of top-10's including a couple of top-five's to get ourselves in the top 20. And we realize one win probably won't be enough, but right now we just want to win a race."

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 161 points out of the top 10, 122 points out of the top 20. Lost one spot last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Won the fall race after finishing second in the July event. Has finished in the top three in five of the last seven races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin can't wait to get to Loudon. "That has been one of our best tracks the last couple of years," said Hamlin. "Our luck has to change, and if it does, we feel really good about how we'll run this weekend. Right now, our only goal is to win races. We've got some good races coming up beginning with Loudon."

LOOKING BACK: For the second straight week, Hamlin was involved in a hard crash that left him shaken up just over two months after missing four races because of a compressed fracture in his lower back. After leading once for 20 laps, Hamlin was involved in a four-car accident on lap 99. But he was able to recover from this incident to run just outside the top 10 when his car suddenly got loose as Hamlin shot across track into the outside wall. As he spun around, he was slammed into by A J Allmendinger with the contact lifting the rear wheels of Hamlin's Toyota off the ground. Hamlin ended the day in 36th place.

ETC.: Hamlin's body has taken a real beating the last two weeks, but he still says he has no plans on "sitting out" the rest of the season. "We've hit the wall really hard and took some real shots the last couple of weeks, but we're okay," said Hamlin. "There is nothing like a win or two to make you feel good. We still plan on finishing the season out."

55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 29th, 185 points out of the top 10, 146 points out of the top 20. Lost three spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Martin will skip the New Hampshire race with Brian Vickers driving the 55 car. Vickers finished ninth in the fall race for his second top-nine finish in the last three races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers said, "Loudon always makes for an interesting race. It's a one-mile flat track that has progressive banking. You can run the apron and there ends up being a lot of side-by-side racing. It's very difficult to complete a pass. Not being able to pass can be really frustrating. If you've got a good race car, it's a really fun track."

LOOKING BACK: Car owner Michael Waltrip drove the car at Daytona and he rallied from an incident on pit road to finish fifth. Waltrip said, "I asked my crew when the checkered fell to remind me why I do this. What's fun about it? Because when you're doing it, it's so intense and heck, me and my teammate (Clint Bowyer) got together on pit road and then he gave me a heck of a push on that last lap and got me clear of a couple guys. I got in a crash on pit road of all places, with my teammate of all things. The guys just did an amazing job of repairing the car and then I had a couple of good runs, got lucky and put the car in the right place. It's just bumper cars at the end."

ETC.: Waltrip admitted he might just decide to watch Daytona and Talladega on the TV in the future. "I just know that 200 miles per hour pushing and shoving - this is fun for the fans and it's going to be fun to watch back on TV," said Waltrip. "I wasn't having any fun doing it - I was too nervous. I'd much rather watch. I had a ball last (Friday) night watching (the Nationwide Series race). Why don't I just watch all of the time? I've got that option. I don't know what's wrong with me."
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