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NASCAR Driver Capsules, May 22

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 sixth straight week after Darlington. He leads second-ranked Carl Edwards by 44 points and third-ranked Matt Kenseth by 59 points.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 23 career starts, 6 wins, 11 top-5s, 15 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: first in spring 2003, spring 2004, fall 2004, spring 2005, fall 2005, fall 2009. Finished 11th in last year's spring race, but improved to third in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Coming off a record fourth win in the Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte last Saturday, Johnson not only has the momentum from that win but also the fact that he's led the points for the last six weeks. Charlotte is one of his best tracks, so you can expect another strong finish from him there in the Coca-Cola 600, the longest single race on the Sprint Cup schedule. Here's his thoughts: "On a short-track, I'm most concerned there that some just casual contact will really create a problem. We won't have that in the 600. I don't know why I'm really bringing it up other than the car is so durable. On short-tracks I have a little bit more concern about the Gen-6 car and being able to hurt it easier than you would expect to. On a bigger track like this I don't see any problems. The car has been very durable, very fun to drive and fast."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson finished fourth in the last points race, two weeks ago at Darlington.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 96.9 percent (7,865) of the 8,118 total laps contested in 23 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is an outstanding 7.3 and average finish is an equally outstanding 11.4. He has four DNFs there.

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards remained in second place for the third consecutive week after Darlington. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 44 points and is 15 points ahead of third-ranked Matt Kenseth.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 16 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 10 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in spring 2005, spring 2006 and fall 2011. Finished ninth in last year's spring race and was seventh in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though he's done fairly well over the years at Charlotte (including earning the pole for last Saturday's non-points Sprint All-Star Race), the 1.5-mile track has continued to confound him when it comes to winning a points-playing race there (he won the Sprint All-Star Race in 2011 there, though). Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race: "We have a fast race car for the Coca-Cola 600. We qualified on the pole for the All-Star event, we feel confident that our car is fast enough to perform well and fortunately we learned a lot at the All-Star race. Obviously it's one of the biggest races of the year but also special because of the Fastenal tribute paint schemes. All three of the Roush Fenway Racing Ford's will be painted in Fastenal colors honoring our troops. We hope we can get one of them into victory lane. Fastenal has been a huge supporter of RFR and all veterans that they employ so we're proud to be carrying this paint scheme. I love this race. It's a test to all of the people, the driver, crew, engineers so it's pretty grueling."

LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a good car at Darlington and challenged at times to be up front, but ultimately came home with a still respectable seventh-place finish.

ETC.: Edwards has completed 99.1 percent (5,652) of the 5,706 total laps contested in 16 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 18.2 and average finish is a strong 12.0. He has one DNF there.

20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After having most of the points he had lost due to penalty after his controversial win at Kansas reinstated upon appeal last week, Kenseth moved up one spot in the standings, from fourth to third after Darlington. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 59 points, is 15 points behind second-ranked Carl Edwards and leads fourth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by five points.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 27 career starts, 2 wins, 7 top-fives, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Spring 2000 and fall 2011. Finished 10th in last year's spring race and 14th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has been one of the hottest drivers during the first 11 races of the Sprint Cup season, including a series-leading three wins, most recently two weeks ago at Darlington. He's looking to keep the momentum going this Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600 and thinks his team learned a lot from Saturday's All-Star Race that can be applied in Sunday's race: "I hope so. I think a lot of adjustments and a lot of times we were on both sides of it three times. We only had it kind of right once, so I think we have a lot of stuff to look at and a lot to learn."

LOOKING BACK: Kenseth had yet another outstanding run at Darlington. While Kyle Busch dominated much of the race, leading 265 laps, Kenseth needed to lead just 17 laps, including the final lap for his third win of the season thus far.

ETC.: Kenseth has completed 94.3 percent (9.038)) of the 9,586 total laps contested in 27 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 17.8 and average finish is 14.2. He has five DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropped one spot, from third to fourth, after Darlington. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 64 points, is 5 points behind third-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads fifth-ranked Clint Bowyer by 10 points.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 26 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 11 top-10s and 1 pole. Best career finish: Third in fall 2004 race. Finished 19th in last year's spring race but improved to sixth in the fall race.

LOOKING AHEAD: There's just something about Charlotte Motor Speedway that doesn't agree with Earnhardt. He's managed just five top-10s in 26 career starts, and has never won in the Cup series at his home track. Maybe his luck will change this Sunday. Here's his thoughts on the race: "This weekend is a great time to acknowledge the sacrifices that the military make for us and give them the recognition they deserve. We're running a special camo paint scheme this weekend for the National Guard. Our sport does a great job of acknowledging and recognizing the military and its involvement in our sport has always been pretty huge. It's important to recognizing them and acknowledge them and give them credit for their sacrifices."

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a strong run at Darlington, but was forced to settle for a ninth-place finish.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 95.1 percent (8.865) of the 9,318 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 16.3 and average finish is 18.8. He has three DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer remained in fifth place for the second straight week after Darlington (and after most of Matt Kenseth's points were returned to him on appeal). Bowyer is 74 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, trails fourth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10 points and leads sixth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 23 points.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 14 career starts, 1 win, 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2012. Finished 13th in last year's spring race and won the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Prior to last year's fall race, Bowyer had struggled unmercifully at Charlotte. He finally broke through with a win there last October and hopes to repeat that performance in Sunday's grueling Coca-Cola 600. Here's his thoughts about Sunday's race: "The race itself is a whole other kind of deal. It's 600 miles long! That's like getting in my 5-hour ENERGY Toyota and driving from Charlotte Motor Speedway to more than halfway back (home) to Emporia, Kan. That's crazy! We strap in and race on and on and on and on ... then we ask our crew chief how many laps are left and they tell us that we just got to halfway! It's a long day and we have to be sure we are ready for it. We have to hydrate ourselves because it can be grueling inside the car. I joke about how long and grueling this race is, but it's a huge race to win. It's the biggest day of racing for the year in motorsports and to win on that day is a very big deal. We won here in the fall and I'd love to do that again this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Bowyer finished 11th at Darlington and wasn't really much of a threat in a race that was dominated by fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch, but which was won by Matt Kenseth.

ETC.: Bowyer has completed 99.1 percent (4,924) of the 4,970 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 16.9 and average finish is 16.4. He has zero DNFs there.

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After Matt Kenseth's points were reinstated on appeal, Keselowski dropped one spot from fifth to sixth, which is where he remained after Darlington. Only now he's tied for sixth with Kasey Kahne, who moved up one spot and into a tie with Keselowski. Both drivers trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 97 points, fifth-ranked Clint Bowyer by 23 points and lead eighth-ranked Kyle Busch by one point.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 7 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-five, 1 top-10 and 1 pole. Best career finish: Fifth in spring 2012. Finished fifth in last year's spring race and 11th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski has struggled considerably at Charlotte, but finally started to get the hang of the 1.5-mile track last season, when he finished fifth in the Coca-Cola 600 and 11th in the Bank of America 500 in the fall. He's still looking for his first win of the 2013 season, not to mention his first win ever at Charlotte. Might he be able to do both this Sunday? Here's his thoughts: "The Coca-Cola 600 is a brutal race, no doubt about it. It's a test of both man and machine. It can wear you down physically, as well as mentally, and you need to be prepared for it. While this is true for every race, a good-handling car will make the world of difference when you have to run 600 miles. The Miller Lite Ford has had a lot of speed lately, but we haven't done a good job of executing. We are due to have a good race and I think it will happen this weekend. I really feel that we can go win the 600."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski had one of his worst finishes of the season at Darlington, finishing a dismal 32nd, nine laps off the pace.

ETC.: Even though he's struggled for decent finishes, Keselowski has completed an impressive 99.8 percent (2,534) of the 2,538 total laps contested in seven career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 21.0 and average finish is 15.7. He has zero DNFs there.

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Kasey Kahne climbed one spot, from seventh to a tie for sixth in the standings with Brad Keselowski. Both drivers trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 97 points, fifth-ranked Clint Bowyer by 23 points and lead eighth-ranked Kyle Busch by 1 point.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 18 career starts, 4 wins, 7 top-fives, 10 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2006, fall 2006, spring 2008 and spring 2012. Finished first in last year's spring race and eighth in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Charlotte has been Kahne's most successful track in his Sprint Cup career, with four of his 15 career wins coming there. He's the defending champion of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 and is looking to make it two in a row there. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I get a little bit jittery because of the excitement and the feeling of just wanting to go whether that's the anticipation of qualifying or the race or even practice. Two minutes until practice starts, it's like 'man, just let us go early, I just want to get on the track.' So I get nervous and have more anxiety because of the excitement more than anything. I think that is one of the things that I strive for. I enjoy that, and I like it when you feel that pressure. It's a good thing."

LOOKING BACK: Kahne had a less than stellar race at Darlington, finishing 17th, the last driver on the lead lap.

ETC.: Kahne has completed 96.8 percent (6,237) of the 6,440 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is an outstanding 10.5 and average finish is 12.4. He has one DNF there.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch climbed two spots, from 10th to eighth, after Darlington. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 98 points, is one point behind the sixth-place tie between Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne, and leads ninth-ranked Aric Almirola by eight points.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 18 career starts, 0 wins, 8 top-fives, 11 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in Fall 2010 and fall 211. Finished third in last year's spring race and fifth in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: The younger Busch brother has a lot in common with drivers like Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr., all of which have failed to win even one Sprint Cup race in their careers at Charlotte (not including all-star races). Busch has been racing at a significantly improved level this season, compared to last season, and could have his best chance ever on Sunday of finally breaking through with a win there. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "It depends on what kind of car you have. I've been in races in the 600-mile race where it's felt really easy and short, and I've been in races where it's been a long, drawn-out, knock 'em, sock 'em kind of day. Hopefully, Dave Rogers (crew chief) and the guys can bring a really good M&M's M'Prove America Camry for me this weekend and it will be a smooth race for us. I like running the 600 miles. I think it brings a new aspect to our sport - its longevity. People will say, 'It's too long. It's boring. Whatever.' Well, you know, it's a part of the product and the history that we've had here on Memorial Day weekend for a long time, that you run that extra hundred miles. And car preparation goes into that. Will your car make it? Will your engine last? Are the drivers able to be competitive throughout the whole race? You'll have fatigue, sometimes, even at a 500-mile race. So, if you don't show signs of weakness, you should be pretty good."

LOOKING BACK: Busch had a bittersweet day at Darlington two weeks ago, dominating the event by leading 265 of the event's 367 laps, only to wind up finishing sixth at the end.

ETC.: Busch has completed just 93.0 percent (5,987) of the 6,440 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 15.0 and average finish is 15.3. He has four DNFs there.

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Aric Almirola dropped one spot, from eighth to ninth, after Darlington. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 106 points, is 8 points behind eighth-ranked Kyle Busch and leads 10th-ranked Kevin Harvick by two points.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 2 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-fives, 0 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: 12th in fall 2012. Finished 16th in last year's spring race (after winning the pole) and was a career-best 12th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola is looking to bounce back in a big way after his mediocre 20th-place finish at Darlington two weeks ago. He's still looking for his first career Sprint Cup win and Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 has had a tendency to be a breakthrough place for several drivers in years' past. Here's Almirola's thoughts about Sunday's race: "I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We got the pole here last year, so we have high expectations for this weekend as well. The race is an extra 100 miles, and you can really feel it. When you would normally get ready to get after it with 50 to go there are still another 100 laps to go. It's hard on the engine shop. It's hard on the cars. You make a lot of pit stops during a 600-mile race too, so the pit crew has to stay focused all night as well. It will be a challenge racing from day to night. The track is so slick in the middle of the afternoon. You get really frustrated, and it's hard to figure out what your car is doing and what you want it to do. You can really adjust your way out of where you need to be. It's important to really have an understanding of what you want your car to be like in the middle of the day to know it's going to be good at nighttime."

LOOKING BACK: While he's had an outstanding season thus far, Darlington was not one of Almirola's best races, as he wasn't a factor and finished 20th, one lap off the lead lap.

ETC.: Almirola has completed 99.6 percent (731) of the 734 total laps contested in just two career starts at Charlotte. His average start is an outstanding 9.0, while his average finish is 14.0. He has zero DNFs there.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick climbed two spots and back into the top-10 from 12th after Darlington, tied with Paul Menard. Both drivers trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 108 points, is 2 points behind ninth-ranked Aric Almirola and lead the 12th-ranked tied pair of Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle by four points each.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: 24 career starts, 1 win, 2 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2011. Finished eighth in last year's spring race and was 16th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick fell short of a win in last Saturday's non-points Sprint All-Star Race, so he's looking for a much better finish in Sunday's grueling Coca-Cola 600, which he won two years ago. Here's Harvick's thoughts on Sunday's race: "Man, the Coca-Cola 600 is a long race. For drivers, our bodies have adapted to running 400 or 500-mile events. This event is unique not only because we have to mentally prepare ourselves for that extra 100 miles, but the team also has to set the car up to go from day to night. It's a challenging race and a lot can change or happen. We were fortunate to win this race in 2011 and it came down to the last lap and fuel mileage, so you just never know how things are going to play out."

LOOKING BACK: Harvick had a strong car at Darlington, so it's no surprise he finished strongly as well, in fifth position.

ETC.: Harvick has completed 97.3 percent (8,286) of the 8,518 total laps contested in 24 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 18.9 and average finish is 18.0. He has one DNF there.

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Tied for 10th with teammate Kevin Harvick.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in 12 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "The Coca-Cola 600 has a lot of prestige associated with it. It's one of those races like the Brickyard or the Daytona 500 that everyone would like to win. It's the only 600-mile race on the schedule, which makes it really unique. Once the engines fire though, you kind of lose track of how long you are in the car. It goes by pretty quick and I don't really notice the extra 100 miles."

LOOKING BACK: Menard finished fourth in the Sprint Showdown. "The Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS was tight tonight and we just ran out of laps to be able to gain any ground on the leader," said Menard. "With just two 20-lap segments, it's difficult to work on the handling of the car and be able to make up much ground. The crew did a great job in the pits and we gained some information we can use in the Coca-Cola 600 next weekend."

ETC.: Menard is "looking forward" to signing a contract extension with car owner Richard Childress. "We don't have anything to announce yet," said Menard. "I haven't signed anything. Hopefully, we do that soon. We're going to work hard to get the deal done and when we do, we'll let you (the news media) know." Menard is in his third season with RCR.

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only four points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Five wins and 21 top-10 finishes including 15 top-five's in 20 starts. Also won eight poles. Finished seventh in the 600 last year.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon admits the Coca-Cola 600 is "a very long race. And I like long races because it suits my style. But the car has to be right. The race starts during the day and the track changes a whole lot when the sun goes down. You have to be ready to stay on top of the adjustments - almost get ahead of them instead of getting behind on them. You can't go into this race thinking 'oh, we're just going to cruise at the beginning and wait for the track to come to us.' That used to exist, but it doesn't anymore. You start charging from the drop of the green flag."

LOOKING BACK: Gordon finished 12th in the All-Star race. "We were a little off from the start so we used the rest of the race to experiment with some things," said Gordon. "We tried a lot of different things and different strategies trying to get ready for next week and the 600. It wasn't the run we had hoped for, but we did learn a lot of things that should help us in the 600."

ETC.: Gordon, who stands third on the all-time win list, is quick to laugh when people talk about his rookie season (1993) and all the wrecks he was involved in that year. But in his first 600 that year, he finished second to Dale Earnhardt. "I forget I ran well in that race," said Gordon, who has 65 career runner-up finishes to go with his 87 wins. "We must have hit on something that night. Actually, I probably just stopped hitting things."

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

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

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Finished fourth in both races in 2012. Won the pole for the fall event. Overall has eight top-10 finishes in 20 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle feels the 600 is one of the most challenging races on the circuit. "Certainly the time frame that we go through for a 600-mile race and how much the track changes - all those things create a huge factor (in the outcome)," said Biffle. "Charlotte has been one of the more temperature-sensitive race tracks that we race on; literally a five-ten degree temperature swing and the track will create a different speed. So that's the one thing that's really challenging. Normally, the guy who is fastest at the beginning won't be the fastest car at the end of the night."

LOOKING BACK: An unscheduled pit stop for a cut left-rear tire and later contact with the outside wall left Biffle in 15th place at the end of the All-Star race. "We had a great qualifying effort," said Biffle, who started third. "But the car was all over the place in the race. It was tight. It was loose. We just couldn't find the handle tonight."

ETC.: Biffle stood third in the point standings after seventh race of the season. But he has dropped 10 spots in the last four races. "We had a little cushion to work with (when he was third), but we had a shock failure at Richmond and then getting caught up in that wreck at Talladega, which you can never predict what's going to happen at Talladega, for sure," said Biffle. "At Darlington, we finished 13th and it wasn't the run we were looking for, but it wasn't that bad. At least that felt like we were getting back on track. We still have time to claw our way back up there and if we get a couple good finishes in a row or a couple top-five's or win one these races, I certainly think we're gonna be right back in the hunt."

56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 14 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Finished 10th in the fall race last year for only his third top-10 finish in 15 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said, "Charlotte is a tricky track for us and this Sunday's race is important to us. We've been running well and the points are coming to us. We are in striking distance of making the Chase again. Right now, the focus is on making our NAPA Toyotas even better and getting victories. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if we make the Chase. If we are not capable of winning, it's going to be hard to win a championship."

LOOKING BACK: After winning the pole for the Sprint Showdown, Truex had high hopes for the evening. But he never led a lap and finished fifth. "I never anticipated this happening," said a dejected Truex. "I really thought we were going to race our way into the All-Star race. I felt really good about our chances. The restart (on lap 21 of the 40-lap event) basically killed our changes tonight because the line I was in had slow cars on old tires. The line just would not go. This (the All-Star) race is a tough one to sit out." Truex had to finish in the top two to qualify for the main event.

ETC.: The fourth annual Catwalk for a Cause was held last week and the fashion show sold out with more than 450 in attendance including several drivers. The charity raised $60,000 for the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation's Special Needs Fund that benefits Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte.

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 20 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Won his first Cup race at CMS. Overall has two wins and eight top-10 finishes in 21 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is really looking forward to the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend. "Charlotte has always been one of my favorite tracks - ever since I won my first Cup race there," said McMurray. "We have had a lot of good runs there, and I think we can have another one on Sunday. We really had a good car last weekend so I feel good about how we are going to run in the 600."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray started second in the Sprint Showdown, but he quickly grabbed the lead on the first lap and led the rest of the way to earn a spot in the All-Star race. He finished eighth in the main event. "I was really happy with our car tonight," said McMurray. "I think if we ever could have gotten to the front (after starting 20th in the All-Star race), our car was extremely fast. It's just really tough in traffic, but overall we had a good car."

ETC.: Crew chief Kevin Manion, 40, has suffered from gout for the past 10 years. And he says it is one of the most painful diseases there is. "I've broken bones, I've cut myself wide open and had plenty of stitches, I've had my front teeth replaced, but it (gout) is the most painful," said Manion. "You know when you've got it. There's no question."

17 RICKY STENHOUSE, JR., Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 33 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: His best finish in two Sprint Cup starts is 11th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse has high hopes for this weekend. "We feel we are going to be a lot better than last week," said Stenhouse. "We feel we make a lot of headway in learning how the track changes from daylight to dark. Both Greg (Biffle) and Carl (Edwards) have been good at Charlotte the last few years, and we hope to put all three RFR cars up front Sunday night."

LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse began the evening by finishing second in the Sprint Showdown to qualify for the All-Star race. "That was really cool getting in through the Showdown," said Stenhouse, who finished 16th in the main event. "We learned a lot," added Stenhouse. "We thought we were gonna be a lot better. But we accomplished the things we set out to do and that's get in the race and run all the laps and learn as much as we can."

ETC.: Doug Yates, the head engine builder for Roush Yates Engines that will power all of the Fords in the 600, said his team "will run a couple of extra durability tests at the shop to make sure we have that 750 miles (for practice, qualifying and the race) we want for the teams to make sure they are covered (for the entire weekend). There is definitely extra attention in the shop."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 39 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Eight top-10 finishes in 24 starts. Has won nine poles.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman feels "if it is super-hot, it (the 600) is very demanding because this (Charlotte Motor Speedway) is a fast race track. It's very physical. Being comfortable in the car is one thing, but staying cool and staying hydrated is extremely important with the duration that we're in the race car. I always say the most important thing I do that day is to make sure the air conditioning is working. The 600 is the longest race and one of the most demanding, as well. It all depends on the characteristics of the weather - whether it's a 90-degree day or a 65-degree day." The long-range forecast is for temperatures in the 80's.

LOOKING BACK: Newman made it exciting during the fourth segment. On one restart, he passed three cars on the outside before diving low and bouncing off Kyle Busch. But Newman ended the evening in 13th place. "We battled a lack of grip, a lack of track position and handling issues all night," said Newman. "The guys kept adjusting on the Aspen Dental Chevrolet, but it seemed like every adjustment had adverse effects."

ETC.: Newman has five top-10 finishes this season, but he also has three DNF's (did not finish) and that is why he occupies the 17th spot in the standings. "If we can get rid of those valleys, it'll be a lot better for us," said Newman. "But, our peaks need to get better, too. We need to be talking about having sixth-place top-10 finishes instead of tenth-place, and second-place top-five finishes instead of fifth."

78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 53 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: One win and six top-10 finishes including five top-five's in 25 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said he has always broken down the 600 "into thirds - the first 200, then the next 200 miles and then the final stretch run to the end. That's when it really pays to have the car dialed in. The daytime portion of the race - it's okay if you want to lead laps and be up front. But it's at the end of the day when the track cools down and the mileage is taking its toll on some of the other teams. Now you're messing with best of the best and you have to go beat them at night." The race starts at 6 p.m. and usually ends around 10:30.

LOOKING BACK: Busch won the first and fourth segments of the Sprint All-Star race, but a slow pit stop before the 10-lap shootout cost him as he ended the night in fifth place. "Our four-segment average guaranteed us coming down pit road first for the final stop, but it didn't guarantee us leaving pit road first," said Busch. "We were one tick slow on our pit stop and one tick off on the chassis adjustment. That was the difference. You have to be perfect to win this race. We weren't. It was a A minus overall performance."

ETC.: Busch is quite pleased with the direction the team is heading as the series begins its summer run. "It was sure a blast to win two segments (of the All-Star race at Charlotte) and lead laps," said Busch. "I am very proud of how this team is coming together. Everyone knew we were here tonight. We were strong tonight and what we learned will translate into next week's 600. I am very optimistic going forward (in the team's bid to make the Chase for the Championship)."

22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 56 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Finished ninth last fall for his fifth top-nine finish in eight starts/

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano, who will turn 23 on Friday, calls the 600 "pretty tough" But he quickly adds that it is not hard to keep your focus for that long. "If you lose focus, you will wreck," adds Logano. "Dover and Bristol can be a little more physically demanding and Talladega and Daytona can be a little more mentally demanding, but overall, this is definitely one of the toughest races that we run all year long."

LOOKING BACK: Logano rallied in the final segment to finish second in the All-Star race. "I felt like we were a fifth to sixth-place car, but the guys on pit road gave me a great stop before the 10 to go and that put us in the second row," said Logano. "That was important. I had a good restart, pushed the 5 (Kasey Kahne) out there, but the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) was really, really fast. The only shot I had (to try and win the race) was to get a caution and try to get him on the restart by really pinning him down. Second is awesome, but then it sucks at the same time because tonight was all about the million bucks (that went to the winner)."

ETC.: Logano said he does not feel pressure in his bid to make the Chase from his 19th spot in the Sprint Cup standings. "There are still a bunch of races left (15) before the Chase," said Logano. "I really think we can start being a regular top-five and top-10 car and if we were able to win a couple of races, we would have a good shot. So I'm not worried about it. I'm just going to keep doing my job."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 57 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Three wins and 15 top-10 finishes in 38 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the season, Burton feels "You just can't ride around. If you don't push your car, you won't realize what it can and can't do. You must put your car in position to learn from it and know what you have as the intensity picks up at the end of the race. You have to run hard every lap if you want to accomplish your goals."

LOOKING BACK: After struggling during the first 20-lap segment, Burton rebounded in the second 20-lap segment to finish third in the Sprint Showdown. "We dug ourselves a hole at the start by handling loose, but the car definitely came alive in the final segment after the pit stop," said Burton. "Luke (Lambert, crew chief) made the right call on pit road and we were able to showcase some speed there at the end. We might even bring this car back for the 600."

ETC.: Burton is quick to point out how much the track changes as the 600 goes from the hot afternoon sun to late evening. "The temperature change definitely affects the track more here (Charlotte Motor Speedway) and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway than anywhere else for some reason," said Burton.

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 62 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: One win and 12 top-10 finishes in 28 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart has never gone into the 12th race of the season without a top-five finish on his resume. But that is the case in 2013. Stewart certainly hopes to get his first top-five finish of the year this weekend. His next top-five finish will be the 175th of his illustrious career. "The 600 is one of the toughest races of the year with it starting in daylight and ending late at night," said Stewart. "The key is keeping up the track. If we can do that, we can have a good night."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart struggled with an ill-handling race car all night as he finished 14th in the All-Star race. "Loose late exit, then tight the rest of the way through (the corner)," Stewart told crew chief Steve Addington. Following the race, Stewart told his crew, "Keep your heads up, guys. We'll figure this out. Just have to keep working at it.

ETC.: Despite a horrible start to the season, Stewart has no plans on making any crew chief changes to any of his three teams. "We've won races together and championships together, we're going to pull ourselves out of this together," said a team spokesman on Monday. "Every team goes through this at one point or another. We'll get through it." Stewart has only one top-10 finish in the first 11 races.

42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 77 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in 12 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Although Montoya did not earn a spot in the All-Star race, he believes the team showed that it can have a real good 600 this weekend. "We were really strong in the second segment (of the Sprint Showdown)," said Montoya. "We passed a lot of cars. We feel good about this weekend. We feel we learned a lot last week and we can put that to good use in the 600."

LOOKING BACK: A pit-road penalty for exiting pit road too fast ended any hopes Montoya had of finishing in the top two in the Sprint Showdown and qualifying for the All-Star race. Instead, he had to settle for a sixth-place finish in the Showdown. "There just wasn't enough time to recover after the penalty," said Montoya, who was 20th after serving his penalty. "I'm happy for Jamie (McMurray) and the 1 team (who won the Showdown). It's too bad we could get both of the EGR cars in the All-Star race tonight, but we learned a lot for the race next weekend."

ETC: With two top-10 finishes in the last three point races, Montoya feels the team's run of bad luck is finally behind them. "We've had good cars all year, but our finishes haven't been what they should have been," said Montoya. "If we can keep this momentum going, we still have time to put ourselves in the Chase."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 80 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "We had a really strong car last year (when he qualified second for the 600), and I think we can have one again this weekend. We had the All-Star race to learn some things about the car, and we are making some changes that will help. I think we'll be able to find the speed we need to have a good weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose finished 17th in the Sprint All-Star race. "We really got the car better during the night," said Ambrose. "But, we need to keep working on it. We made a lot of progress tonight and just needed more time to get it right. I think we took a chance for the final 10 laps, but it didn't work out for us."

ETC.: The team has decided to run the car they ran at Texas earlier this year this weekend. "We were fast with this car in Texas, so I'm confident we will have good speed this weekend," said crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. "We have continued to show speed at the mile-and-a-half tracks but haven't had the finishes to show for it. But each week our team has worked hard to bounce back from adversity and that is what the Coca-Cola 600 is all about."

55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 24th, 89 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Four wins and 24 top-10 finishes including 18 top-five's in 56 starts. Finished sixth in the fall race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Martin calls "the 600 one of the top races of the year, up there with the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. I love racing at Charlotte. The mile-and-a-half tracks are some of my favorite tracks. The 600 is long. It starts in the heat of the day and ends at night. It has a lot of challenges."

LOOKING BACK: During the second segment of the All-Star race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bounced hard off the wall into Martin, sending Martin spinning through the grass to bring out the third caution flag of the evening. Martin was able to recover, but the damage was severe enough that he ended the night in 21st place. "That was a pretty tough night all around," said Martin. "We were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got hit. I was hoping to get to race in the final segment, but something was really wrong with the right front so we decided to park the car (with three laps to go). We didn't want to mess up somebody's race."

ETC.: Martin is still having a hard time adjusting to the sudden and shocking death of long-time friend and rival Dick Trickle. "Dick made himself a mentor to many, Rusty (Wallace), myself, Alan Kulwicki - you know we wouldn't have been the racers that we were when we got here (NASCAR) had we not come under his influence," said Martin. "He was the one that told me, and this is kind of corny, but it isn't when you're 18 or 19 years old. He told me in order to finish first, first you must finish. That has always kind of stuck with me."

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 27th, 118 points out of the top 10.

CHARLOTTE RECORD: Finished second in both races in 2012. Will be seeking his sixth straight top-10 finish.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though he didn't run as well as expected in the All-Star race, Hamlin is looking forward to the Coca-Cola 600. "We've really run good at Charlotte in recent years, especially last year," said Hamlin. "In the 600, you have plenty of time to get your car right unlike the All-Star race. So I feel good about this weekend. I feel all of the JGR cars are going to have a good weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Hamlin finished sixth in the All-Star race. "Disappointing night - we just kind of ran mid-pack all day with the pit crew picking us up some spots there at the end," said Hamlin. "That's what got us our finish, but just disappointed with our run with our FedEx team. We should have had a little bit more than that. Just didn't have the front-end grip that we needed to compete with the front runners."

ETC: Hamlin knows it is now time to start running up front if he wants to have any chance of making the Chase. "We have to treat it (every race) like it's the last chance," said Hamlin. "It's game seven every single week realistically for use. We know realistically if we win two races, I'm going to find it very hard to believe that we won't be part of the Chase. I don't think anyone that has won two has not made it." Hamlin has 15 races to accomplish his goal of two wins and a spot in the Chase.
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