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NASCAR Driver Capsules, July 17

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 14th straight week after Daytona. He leads second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 56 points and third-ranked Carl Edwards by 73 points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 11 career starts, 4 wins, 4 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Finished first in this race last year and was 19th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson has worked overtime during the first 19 races to set himself up for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Johnson typically takes a full week's vacation to clear his mind prior to the Brickyard 400 before getting ready for the stretch run to the Chase, as well as the Chase itself.

LOOKING BACK: Johnson didn't dominate like he did the week before at Daytona, but still had a strong run at New Hampshire. Even though he didn't lead any laps, he finished sixth. Here's his thoughts on the race: "We had a great race car. Once you get to the top 10, that's a different game trying to pass cars and work your way to the front there. Really, the lane that you were in on a restart had a huge impact on how many cars you could pass. A few times I was on the outside and made my way to third and then a few times on the inside and I slipped back. All in all a great day for the Lowe's team and just very proud of the effort these guys put in week in and week out. We are all going to enjoy this off week and then come back and get ready to go to Indy."

ETC.: Even though he has four wins at there, Johnson has completed just 89.2 percent (1,571) of the 1,761 total laps contested in 11 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 13.5 and average finish is 16.8. He has three DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer remained in second place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. However, he dropped from 49 points to 56 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, and leads third-ranked Carl Edwards by 17 points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 7 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2006 and 2010. Was 15 in this race last year and finished 13th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer left New Hampshire still looking for his first win in 2013. He heads to Indianapolis where he's had mixed success, more bad than good. Still, a winless Bowyer is a dangerous Bowyer, and he could pull off a huge upset with a win at Indy.

LOOKING BACK: After a third-place finish at Kentucky and fourth-place showing at Daytona, Bowyer dropped to a 13th place but still respectable finish at New Hampshire. But it was still a great day for the Michael Waltrip Racing team as Brian Vickers, driving a part-time schedule for the team in 2013 (while also racing full-time on the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing), won his first race in 75 starts at Loudon. Said Vickers after the win, "Man, I just thank God for the chance and the opportunity to come back and this team and Rodney (Childers, crew

chief), and just everyone believing in me and giving me a second chance."

ETC.: Bowyer has completed an outstanding 100 percent (1,120) of the 1,120 total laps contested in seven career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 20.4 and average finish is 12.3. He has zero DNFs there.

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After spending the previous nine weeks in second place, Carl Edwards remained in third place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 73 points, second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 17 points and leads fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick by one point.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2008. Was 29th in this race last year and finished 14th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards has ridden a roller coaster over the last eight races at Indianapolis, up and down, up and down. After finishing 14th and 29th in his last two starts there, he's due for a bounce back upward on July 28.

LOOKING BACK: After finishing a disappointing 29th at Daytona the week before, Edwards rebounded with an eighth-place finish at New Hampshire. Here's what he had to say about the track at Loudon: "Loudon has been hit or miss for us. It is fun to go there because the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group are based up there. A win would (have been) huge. ... It is a deceivingly tough track."

ETC.: Edwards has completed a near-perfect 99.7 percent (1,276) of the 1,280 total laps contested in eight career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 22.0 and average finish is 13.2. He has zero DNFs there.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick remained in fourth place for the fifth straight week after New Hampshire. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 74 points, is one point behind third-ranked Carl Edwards and leads fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 44 points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 12 career starts, 1 wins, 4 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in 2003. Was 13th in this race last year and 11th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: After finishing second at Indianapolis in 2010, Harvick has not had the results he'd like the last two races there. But given the season he's had thus far and the fact that this is his last season with Richard Childress Racing, expect Harvick to give everything he has to win at Indy on July 28.

LOOKING BACK: Harvick had another strong run this past Sunday at New Hampshire, one of his favorite tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, finishing seventh. Here's his thoughts on that race: "We struggled terribly today. We were able to make something out of it, but we've got a lot of work to do before we come back (for the fall Chase race)."

ETC.: Harvick has completed 99.4 percent (1,909) of the 1,921 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 15.6 and average finish is 10.2. He has zero DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in fifth place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 118 points, is 44 points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads sixth-ranked Kyle Busch by two points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2012. Was a career-best fourth in this race last year and 16th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has had very limited success at Indianapolis. He's still looking for his first win of the season, and a win at the Brickyard would likely rank right up there with his Daytona 500 win in 2004 as one of the biggest wins of his career.

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a marginal car and wound up with a marginal 14th place finish. He tried to challenge at times, but just didn't have a strong enough car to compete with the leaders.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed just 92.5 percent (1,924) of the 2,081 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 17.0, while his average finish is 20.3. He has three DNFs there.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch moved up one spot and into a tie for sixth place with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth after New Hampshire. The two teammates trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 120 points, are two points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by 31 points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in the 2012 race. Finished second in this race last year and was 10th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Despite all the controversy after the race at New Hampshire with Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch would like nothing more than to win at Indianapolis. He came so close in last year's race, only to lose to Jimmie Johnson. Could July 28 be Busch's turn to finally win at Indy? Time will tell.

LOOKING BACK: Busch led 53 laps Sunday at New Hampshire, but just couldn't catch Brian Vickers at the end. Here's Busch's thoughts on the race: "Our worst finish of finishing races this season is sixth. All the rest of them have been wadded-up in a pile or blown up or something like that. Daytona was 12th -- I crossed the line 12th, but I was wrecking. So, that was a good day. ... We just got to keep knocking these out. It's good to get an off week, rebound a little bit, go to Indy and start our last 18 weeks."

ETC.: Busch has completed 96.2 percent (1,232) of the 1,280 total laps contested in eight career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 21.1, while his average finish is 11.8. He has zero DNFs there.

20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth remained in sixth place after New Hampshire, but is now tied with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The two teammates trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 120 points, are two points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by 31 points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2003 and 2006. Finished 35th in this race last year and was fifth in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has had a phenomenal season to date, tied with Jimmie Johnson with four wins each. Kenseth has come close to winning at Indianapolis several times in the past, but never has sealed the deal. With the way he's been running in 2013, could this be the year he finally conquers the Brickyard - especially with the way he finished so disappointing in last year's race due to a wreck?

LOOKING BACK: There's no question Joe Gibbs Racing was prepared at New Hampshire, with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth both leading a significant number of laps. Unfortunately, neither one won. Busch finished second to fellow Toyota driver Brian Vickers, while Kenseth faded late in the race to finish ninth. Here's Kenseth's thoughts on his performance: "It was kind of uphill. I had a good car, probably the best car I've ever had here, probably a top-three to five car, for sure. Kind of lost our track position when Kurt (Busch) cleaned out (Ryan) Newman. I had to stop to miss that wreck. Lost all our track position again. Just wasn't good enough to get it all back."

ETC.: Kenseth has completed just 90.2 percent (1,878) of the 2,081 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 19.7 and average finish is 15.8. He has two DNFs there.

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle remained in eighth place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 151 points, is 31 points behind the sixth-place tie of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth and leads ninth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 16 points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 10 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in 2010 and 2012. Finished third in this race last year and was seventh in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle has never missed a lap in the 10 previous starts he's had at Indianapolis. And, with six top-10 finishes in those 10 starts, Biffle has become quite adept at getting around the legendary 2.5-mile track. With three top-five and two other top-10 finishes in his last five starts, he's been knocking on the door for a win at Indy. Could July 28 be his day to do so?

LOOKING BACK: After a 34th-place finish at Kentucky and a 17th-place finish at Daytona, Biffle wound up with a 15th-place finish this past Sunday at New Hampshire.

ETC.: Biffle has completed an outstanding 100 percent (1,601) of the 1,601 total laps contested in 10 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 15.3 and average finish is 12.1. He has zero DNFs there.

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski climbed back into the top-10 in the Sprint Cup standings, jumping four places after New Hampshire and into ninth place. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 167 points, is 16 points behind eighth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads 10th-ranked Kasey Kahne by six points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 3 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-five, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Ninth in 2011 and 2012.

LOOKING AHEAD: If Keselowski is to defend his Sprint Cup championship, he'll have to really pick up his game from this point forward. He still has yet to win his first race of the season, and Indianapolis would be a great stage to do so, particularly with the fact he has back-to-back ninth-place finishes there in his last two starts. Here's his thoughts on the rest of the season: "We do have some very good racetracks coming up for us and I'm confident that our speed will carry us through to the Chase."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski had the top-finishing Ford at New Hampshire, earning a fourth-place finish.

ETC.: Busch has completed an outstanding 100 percent (480) of the 480 total laps contested in three career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 12.7, while his average finish there is 12.3. He has zero DNFs there.

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Kasey Kahne climbed back into the top 10, gaining two places in the standings after New Hampshire to go into the off-week in 10th position. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 173 points, is six points behind ninth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads the 11th-ranked tie between Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon by two points.

INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 9 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2005. Finished 12th in this race last year and was 18th in the 2011 race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne started out like gangbusters in his first two career Cup races at Indianapolis, with finishes of fourth and second in 2004 and 2005. But since then, he's been up and down like a roller coaster. He's looking for his second win of the season, but given his mixed bag of performance there, one has to wonder if he may just want to get as best a finish as he can and move on to the next race. More importantly, however, Kahne has to do what he can to remain in the top-10 between now and Richmond to assure himself a spot in the Chase, rather than have to worry about whether he'll make it as one of the two wild card entries.

LOOKING BACK: All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished in the top-14 at New Hampshire, with Kahne finishing 11th, right behind teammate Jeff Gordon and three spots ahead of fellow teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

ETC.: Kahne has completed 91.5 percent (1,319) of the 1,441 total laps contested in nine starts at Indianapolis. His average start is an outstanding 8.7, but his average finish is 15.4. He has two DNFs there.

56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only two points out of the top 10. Stands first in the wild card standings with one victory.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said he "always welcomes an off weekend. We only have three throughout the whole season and our season goes - seems like the whole year. It's 11 months out of the year for sure. It's a long season. It would be nice to have a couple (of more) weekends off. For the guys (crew) that go on the road, it's just insane. They're lucky sometimes to have a Monday off, so I think more than anything those are the guys that need the break."

LOOKING BACK: It was a frustrating day for Truex in his attempt to jump back into the top 10 in the Sprint Cup standings. "Our NAPA Batteries Toyota was decent at the start of a run but then the handling would go away," said Truex after finishing 16th. "My lap times were decent according to Chad (Johnson, crew chief), but I felt like I was holding people up. This track is such a tough place to get a hold of. I'm scratching my head right now figuring what we need to do when we come back here (for the second race in the Chase on Sept. 22)."

ETC.: Truex wishes he was firmly in the top 10 in the point standings as the season heads into its final stretch before the Chase for the Championship begins. "It's definitely not the situation we want to be in," said Truex. "Obviously, with the strength of our team and the way we've run this year, I feel like we shouldn't be in the position (11th) we're in. So, really from here on out all we can do is just race the best we can. I feel good about our team and what we're doing."

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only two points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week. Stands third in the wild card standings.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon said he plans to use the off week "to relax and get ready for the next seven races (that will determine the Chase participants). This team never stops working and I'll do whatever it takes with them to prepare for what we need to go and do in these next seven races. We are right there (in the thick of the Chase)."

LOOKING BACK: Despite getting hit from behind by Paul Menard and spinning in turn two with only 44 laps to go, Gordon was able to rally and finish 10th at Loudon to boost his hopes of making the Chase. "I am pretty impressed with the team today," said Gordon. "I just appreciate the team working hard and hanging in there to the end. To come back and get a top-10 is pretty impressive."

ETC.: Gordon admitted he "wasn't happy" with Menard. "None of that is worth it for 20th or 18th or whatever we were racing for. But I am able to set aside what happens at the race track when I leave the race track. We all go through tough times and frustration. It's not fun. We don't like it. But I got to thank Paul Menard for the fresh tires. That actually kind of really changed things for us and we were able to pass a bunch of cars that didn't come in and get tires for that last run."

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, only five points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week to fall out of the top 10. Stands second in the wild card standings with one win.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart will spend the week off from the Sprint Cup Series racing his sprint car and making sure Eldora Speedway is ready for its first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on July 24. "I would love to run that race, but I just want everything to be good to go," said Stewart, owner of the high-banked Indiana facility.

LOOKING BACK: Stewart tried to run the final 100 laps without stopping for fuel, but the gamble backfired at the start of the green-white-checkered finish when ran out of gas. He limped home in 26th place after leading 84 laps. Stewart was second after getting passed by Brian Vickers with 16 to go when he ran out of fuel. "It's hard to calculate how much you're saving under the cautions," said Stewart. "Thought we were about three quarters of a lap to the good before that last caution. Obviously, didn't get as much gas saved as I thought we had. We weren't going to win the race, but if we hadn't run out of fuel, we were going to run second. I knew when he (Vickers) got by Kyle (Busch), we were going to be in trouble." The difference between second and 26th is 24 points.

ETC.: Crew chief Steve Addington knew it was "a risk" not to pit Stewart during the five caution flags at Loudon between laps 211 and 259, "but we can't win the race (if we pit). We thought if we stay out front that we can win the race," added Addington. "It just didn't work out. I don't know much more to say other than believing in my guys crushing the numbers saying we got the cautions we needed to get. We just came up short."

78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, only seven points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week to fall out of the top 10.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch plans to "take it easy" during the off week, but he also will be mulling over his future. "Contract negotiations and things are in discussion, but you try not to let that weigh any of what's going on right now," said Busch. "Right now the most important thing is living in the present. There are a lot of irons in the fire." Both Furniture Row owner Barney Visser and Richard Childress have talked to Busch about 2014.

LOOKING BACK: Busch led three times for a race-high 102 laps, but his victory aspirations were wiped out in an accident with 76 laps to go. "I just got hit from behind (by Matt Kenseth)," said Busch. "We were three wide for a moment and then I got around Matt. We had a great car, which was capable of winning this race." After the crew made repairs to his car, Busch returned to the race and finished 31st. "We took a hit in the points, but we're still in the Chase hunt - that's the good news. But once again we didn't have the finish worthy of our performance."

ETC.: Busch knows "we need to have more consistency and can't have these kind of finishes (like he had at New Hampshire) with only seven races remaining before the Chase. There are so many positive things happening with this race team and that's why it hurts even more to finish where we did at Loudon with a fast race car. But I am confident when we get to Indianapolis for the next race, the 78 Chevrolet will once again be fast."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 16 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is "looking forward" to spending some quality time with his family this week. "It's always nice to have a week off, especially this time of year," said McMurray. "The crew guys really need some time off. The last one they had was Easter weekend. And after this week, we have 17 straight weeks of racing. Everyone is really going to enjoy their time off."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 12th at Loudon. "Today was kind of a back-and-forth day for us," said McMurray. "Our car struggled on restarts, but really came to life after about 15 laps into a run. Our guys worked really hard to fix the car following the accident in final practice. This weekend was a test to the resolve of our team."

ETC.: With only 27 points separating eighth from 16th in the standings, McMurray knows every point matters in the battle to decide the final two Chase spots in the top 10. "There are still a lot of guys with a shot at making the top 10," said McMurray, "never mind the two wild card spots. With only seven races left before the Chase, it is crucial to put together a run of top-10s."

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 21 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said he has "no real plans" for the off week. "Just going to take it easy and get away for a couple of days," adds Almirola. "We still have a real shot at making the Chase so all of us on the 43 team just want to charge our batteries for this seven-race stretch run."

LOOKING BACK: Crew chief Todd Parrott decided to gamble and told Almirola he needed to save gas after stopping for fuel and four tires with 90 laps to go. Almirola did just that and the result was his first top-five finish of the season. "Our Smithfield Ford Fusion wasn't very good all day," said Almirola after his fifth-place finish. "We really struggled and Todd saw that track position was really important. That was a great call by Todd. And now we are right back in the Chase hunt. It is a great way to go into the off weekend."

ETC.: Parrott has been part of championship battles in the past when he worked for Robert Yates Racing and driver Dale Jarrett so he knows how the pressure will mount as the series gets closer and closer to the final race before the Chase. "The key is just taking one race at a time and trying to get the best finish you can," said Parrott. "We still have a real shot at making the Chase."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 25 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton is glad his team gets a few days off this week. But he can't wait to get back to the race track and continue the team's drive to make the Chase. "We don't think we are out of the Chase," said Burton. "I know everybody else in the world does, but we don't. We feel we can still do it. There's a lot of stuff that's going to happen between now and Richmond."

LOOKING BACK: Burton ran in the top 10 all day and at times seemed to have one of the two or three fastest cars on the track. But he ran out of laps in a late-race charge that left him in third place for his best finish of the season. "Obviously, we are happy with our finish," said Burton. "We would have liked to have been a couple spots better, but we had a good car most of the day. The cautions didn't really fall the way we needed them to. The way it worked out for us, we had to put tires on at a time when everybody in front of us only got fuel and that loss of track position hurt us. Had it gone green for 40 or 50 laps at the end then we were in the catbird's seat. But we are definitely happy with our finish."

ETC.: Burton believes his relationship with crew chief Luke Lambert has really improved in recent weeks. "We are starting to learn each other," said Burton. "The system that we have that we've been working really hard to put in, all that's helping. We have a lot of things going on; it's not one thing, but I think the main thing is just having time together and understanding each other."

22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 36 points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week.

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano does not have the weekend off as he will be competing in the Nationwide Series event at Chicagoland Speedway. "Chicago has been a really good track for me on the Nationwide side," said Logano. "I've got one win and one pole so that's a pretty good track record. The 22 team has been strong all year and I think we will have a shot to win again this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: On lap four, Logano had a left-rear tire blow sending him hard into the first-turn wall. He was forced to go to the garage area for repairs. Logano returned to finish 40th. "We had a tire failure," said an upset Logano. "It is the same thing that happened to the 1 (Jamie McMurray) car in practice (Saturday). It is something they (Goodyear) need to look into because that is two cars this week that had the same problem. That is two weeks in a row we are going to have probably 43rd-place finishes. I am just mad right now."

ETC.: Logano will appear in an all-new episode of the hit comedy "Lab Rats" on Disney's XD-channel at 9 p.m. on Monday. Logano will appear as himself and drive a race car on the show. "I grew up watching Disney when I was younger, so it was really cool to get the chance to work with Disney XD and be a part of the show," said Logano. "I'm not sure how well my acting skills will play out on the screen, but it was fun to do either way. I'll be interested to see how it all comes out."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

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

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman was officially informed last week that he would not be part of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. "I got a call from Tony (Stewart) on Wednesday (July 10) about 20 minutes to seven (in the evening)," said Newman. "His stress was the importance of our friendship and that to me will never change. That was my first knowledge of what I won't be doing. At this point I do not know what or where I will be."

LOOKING BACK: Newman's hopes of a top-10 finish were wiped out on lap 226 of the 302-lap event when he was clipped by Kurt Busch after Busch was hit from behind by Matt Kenseth. The multi-car accident left Newman in 39th place. "I guess (Kenseth) had a little influence on it (the wreck)," said Newman. "We were kind of in a bad spot having a little bit older tires. Just a lot of disrespect from a bunch of guys on restarts. This really hurts (in his bid to make the Chase)."

ETC.: Following the New Hampshire race, Kyle Busch called Newman "the biggest stupid idiot out here. And he's a big ogre and he can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody's butt, so no sense in getting into a fight with him. Glad he is out of a job." On Monday, Newman responded in an interview with Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. "I'm sure if I rearrange his face I might fix it," said Newman. "It is what it is. We know he's not very bright. He's a heck of a talent, but not very bright. If he's going to run his mouth, he better be able to back up running his mouth. It seems like he has way more to lose than I do."

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 36 points out of the top 10.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said the team will use the off weekend "to regroup. Indy (the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is next on the schedule, and we won there a couple of years ago so we are looking for better results in a couple of weeks. We know we need to finish a lot better (than 17th) to have any shot at the Chase."

LOOKING BACK: Despite getting tangled up with Jeff Gordon late in the race, Menard was able to finish 17th at Loudon. "It was a tough day for the Libman/Menards crew," said Menard. "We struggled with handling issues for the majority of the day and never seemed to hit on the right setup. I have to give my team credit though, they never gave up and made a variety of adjustments all day to try and get the car to handle better." Menard refused to comment on his run-in with Gordon.

ETC.: Menard knows his best shot at making the Chase is win a race or two between now and the start of the Chase for the Championship. "We're not that far out of 10th place," said Menard, "but we have a lot of guys to pass to get there. We can do it. But a win would really help us climb over some people."

17 RICKY STENHOUSE, JR., Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 47 points out of the top 10, 11 points out of the top 20. Lost three spots last week.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse plans to "just get away for a couple of days" during the week off. As for his race team, Stenhouse feels "we are getting closer and closer to that first top-10 (on the Sprint Cup Series). We are about to begin the second go-around at some of the tracks, and we feel that is going to help us."

LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse's day ended on lap 237 of the 302-1ap event when Danica Patrick had her brakes lock up turning her into Stenhouse and Travis Kvapil to trigger a multi-car accident. Stenhouse, who is dating Patrick, ended up 34th. "We struggled a lot today which was pretty disappointing," said Stenhouse. "Then we get caught up in a wreck. Just not a good day."

ETC.: Earlier this season when Stenhouse trigged a multi-car accident that involved Patrick, she became quite upset and gave Stenhouse the silent treatment on the flight home. But Sunday Stenhouse took the accident caused by Patrick in stride. "It is just a product of Loudon," said Stenhouse when asked about the wreck. "It is hard racing. It's not the first time you get crashed. I have crashed people as well. It is part of it. It is the first crash we have had in a long time so we are pretty lucky that we have been making it to the end of these races."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 83 points out of the top 10, 47 points out of the top 20.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose is looking forward to his week off and spending a lot of time with his two girls. "It will be fun to just get away with the family," said Ambrose. "We always have a good time together. We get so few weekends off that all of us in this sport really enjoy the ones we do have."

LOOKING BACK: Only 15 laps into the race Ambrose was clipped by Kevin Harvick, turning Ambrose hard into the front stretch wall. Ambrose suffered a broken track bar and was forced to go to the garage area for repairs. He returned to the race 24 laps down. As a result, he ended the day in 33rd-place. "We didn't really get a chance to see what car had for us before we got wrecked," said Ambrose. "Our car actually came around pretty nicely, and we were able to get some good notes for the fall."

ETC.: This year has not gone as well as Ambrose had envisioned. After five top-five finishes in 2011 and three in 2012, Ambrose has none in 2013. And after 12 top-10 finishes in '11 and eight in '12, he has only three in '13. "We've still got a chance to finish this year on a high note, but we've got to start finishing in the top 10 on a regular basis to do it," said Ambrose.

42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 83 points out of the top 10, 63 points out of the top 20.

LOOKING AHEAD: Montoya couldn't be happier to have a week "to rest and just relax. The last four or five weeks have not gone as we had hoped. Our luck has not been good and we have missed it a couple of times," added Montoya. "Hopefully this week off will give us a chance to put all the bad luck behind us."

LOOKING BACK: Montoya was forced to go to a back-up car after a left-rear tire blew out just two laps into practice on Friday. And things didn't go much better on race day as Montoya struggled with an ill-handling race car all day. "We couldn't right the right balance," said Montoya after his 24th-place finish. "But we came out of in one piece and learned a lot for the race here (Loudon, NH) in September."

ETC.: Montoya does not have a contract for 2014. He wants to remain part of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. But he is a free agent and has been listening to anyone who might have a ride open next year. "The important thing now is to do the best I can for the Target team," said Montoya.

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 162 points out of the top 10, 126 points out of the top 20. Gained one spot last week.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin hopes the week off means an end to his recent run of bad luck. After three top-10 finishes in his first four races back after missing four races because of a compound fracture in his lower back, Hamlin has not finished better than 21st in the last five races to end any thoughts he had of making the Chase.

LOOKING BACK: It was a very frustrating afternoon for Hamlin. A pit-road penalty for a missing lug nut dropped him from sixth to a lap down early in the race. Then after rallying to run again in the top 10, he was forced to pit for fuel and tires with only five laps remaining. As a result, Hamlin finished 21st. "We had a much better car than where we finished," said Hamlin. "Just not our day."

ETC.: With Hamlin struggling big time, more and more people are saying he needs to take the rest of the year off to rest and heal properly. But Hamlin continues to ignore this advice. "My job is to win races and do the best I can for this team and our sponsors," said Hamlin. "I still believe we can do that."

55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th in the car owner standings, only three points out of the top 10.

LOOKING AHEAD: Michael Waltrip has said repeatedly that he wants Vickers to drive the 55 car on a full-time basis in 2013. But as Vickers said after the win at Loudon "Nothing is a guarantee in life. I've learned that the hard way. Even when you think it's done, it's not done, but it (the victory) goes a long way (to making it happen). This is where I want to be." The final piece to the puzzle is finding a sponsor for the team. "We have a lot of faith and confidence in Aaron's," adds Vickers. "I like working with them. I'd love to see them come back, but that's their decision."

LOOKING BACK: Vickers, making only his eighth start of the season, ran down and passed Tony Stewart with 16 laps to go to score his first win in 75 races and third of his career. "Man, this thing was good today," said a jubilant Vickers in victory lane. "We had a mishap in the pits and got us a lap down, but we got it back. I didn't think about winning until the end, when we started running down the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 14 (Stewart). Then I got real hungry. I'm just got to thank everyone at MWR for believing in me and giving me a second chance."

ETC.: Three years ago Vickers was forced to leave the Red Bull Racing Team because of blood clots. Later, he ended up having heart surgery. And then when the Red Bull closed its doors at the end of the 2011 season, Vickers was left without a ride. "You wake up one morning and you're just not sure (about his racing future)," said Vickers. "To get a call from Ty (Norris, the MWR Executive Vice President) asking me if I was interested in running eight races (in 2012) - I said 'absolutely'. To work with Rodney (Childers, crew chief) - I've known Rodney since I was eight years old. Everything that I've gone through over the last so many years from the blood clots - to end up in victory lane in the 55 car is just amazing."
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