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NASCAR Driver Capsules, May 2

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 02 2013 09:23:45 AM CDT
Racing generic, winners flag

Caren Firouz/Reuters

Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup stands, plus five additional drivers of note.

By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore

48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in first place for the fourth straight week after Richmond. He leads second-ranked Carl Edwards by 43 points and third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 46 points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 22 career starts, 2 wins, 5 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: first in spring 2006 and spring 2011. Finished 35th in the spring race last year (engine problems), and was 17th there in the fall.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson continues to have the best car in the Cup series and is among the favorites to win again at Talladega this Sunday. Talladega also holds good memories for crew chief Chad Knaus, who early in his career worked as a fabricator and mechanic for Stanley Smith Motorsports in Chelsea, Ala., in 1991. Here's Knaus's thoughts: "I honestly love going to Talladega. It's a great racetrack and one I remember from my childhood. I used to come here with Stanley Smith years and years and years ago, and we would focus so much effort into this racetrack. Superspeedway racing is probably what got me my start in motorsports, so I really do look forward to coming back to Talladega."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson typically does well at Richmond, but just didn't have the right car this past Saturday, settling for a 12th-place finish.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 93.6 percent (3,906) of the 4,172 total laps contested in 22 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 10.2 and average finish is 17.7. He has a career-high eight DNFs there.

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards climbed four spots, from sixth to second place, after Richmond. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 43 points and is three points ahead of a third-ranked tie between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 17 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-fives, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fifth in fall 2005. Finished 31st in last year's spring race and was 36th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Without question, Talladega has been one of Edwards' worst tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit. But there's cause for optimism in this Sunday's Aaron's 499 because Edwards is in second place in the standings and has lots of momentum. The key is to stay out of trouble there. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "We'd love to get our first superspeedway win as a team. (Crew chief) Jimmy Fennig was able to win two of these speedway races with Matt Kenseth last year, so I feel like I have the best guy on the box that I could have. We've got a fast race car, our mission is to be there on the last lap in position to win. ... As long as we don't wreck five cars like we did in Daytona I think it will be a success. We want to come out of there in a good spot in points, second is nice and we don't want to fall any lower than that."

LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a strong outing at Richmond, finishing sixth and allowing him to climb four positions in the standings, to second place.

ETC.: Edwards has completed just 88.4 percent (2,858) of the 3,232 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 14.9 and average finish is 21.8. He has five DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved up two positions after Richmond and into a tie for third place with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne. The pair trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 46 points, are three points behind second-ranked Carl Edwards and lead fifth-ranked Clint Bowyer by seven points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 26 career starts, 5 wins, 9 top-fives, 13 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2001, spring 2002, fall 2002, spring 2003 and fall 2004. Finished ninth in the spring race there last year, and was 20th in the fall race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt returns to the same place where he suffered a concussion on the final lap of last fall's race. The concussion knocked him out of the next two races and ended his hopes for a strong overall finish in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Talladega is by far Earnhardt's most successful track with five career Cup wins there, but remember that he hasn't won there in nine seasons. It's time to do so again. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Talladega is a lottery because the guy who wins has done something right and earned it. You just really don't have quite as much control over your own destiny here as you do at other racetracks. And I think that will always be the case. But some guys are making it work. Somebody's going to win the race, and I want to be that guy."

LOOKING BACK: You have to give Earnhardt credit. He kept fighting his car and the track at Richmond, yet when it counted the most, he managed to finish with a 10th-place showing. Not bad for a night that could have been worse.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 92.3 percent (4,546) of the 4,924 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 15.6 and average finish is 15.0. He has five DNFs there.

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Kasey Kahne fell one spot after Richmond and into a third-place tie with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. The pair trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 46 points, are three points behind second-ranked Carl Edwards and lead fifth-ranked Clint Bowyer by seven points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 18 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-five, 4 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in fall 2006 and second in fall 2009. Finished fourth in last year's spring race, and was 12th in the fall race there (including winning the pole).

LOOKING AHEAD: Even with winning the pole last fall, Talladega has not been very hospitable to Kahne over his Sprint Cup career. He's hoping to change that this Sunday. Here are his thoughts: "I race. That's all I really want to do is race cars. I've been able to my whole life, and I enjoy it. I love every bit of it. To be able to think about racing each week, whether we're doing appearances or testing or whatever it may be during the week and then you get to go and race a Sprint Cup car on Saturday or Sunday from here until the end of November, I'm loving what's going on."

LOOKING BACK: After finishing runner-up the week before at Kansas, Kahne struggled to a 21st-place finish Saturday night at Richmond.

ETC.: Kahne has completed just 87.9 percent (3,006) of the 3,420 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 23.6 and average finish is 20.3. He has two DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer climbed four spots, from ninth to fifth after Richmond. He is 53 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, trails the third-ranked tie of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne by seven points and leads sixth-ranked Brad Keselowski by six points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 14 career starts, 2 wins, 4 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2010 and fall 2011. Finished sixth in last year's spring race and was 23rd in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer would love to earn his first restrictor plate win at Talladega this Sunday. Here are his thoughts about racing there: "Talladega is like rolling the dice at a craps table - how do you do it, when you do it - are you going to get on a roll? I mean, that's exactly the way it is. Everybody has a shot at winning. Everybody has the same dice. You just have to have a lucky roll, lucky push and just get up there. That's really what it's come down to."

LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had a very strong run and finish at Richmond, finishing runner-up to winner Kevin Harvick. It was Bowyer's second top-five showing in a week, having ending up fifth at Kansas.

ETC.: Bowyer has completed just 84.4 percent (2,245) of the 2,660 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 18.7 and average finish is 16.1. He has three DNFs there.

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Brad Keselowski continued his downward spiral in the standings at Richmond. After three weeks in second place, he fell one position to third after Kansas and three spots after Saturday's race at Richmond, dropping to sixth place. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 59 points, fifth-ranked Clint Bowyer by six points and leads seventh-ranked Kyle Busch by six points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 8 career starts, 2 wins, 3 top-fives, 6 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2009 and spring 2012. Finished first in this race last year and was seventh in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Some drivers never figure out Talladega, but that's not the case with Keselowski, who has won there twice already in his career, including his first-ever Cup race there back in 2009. Even more, he has top-10 finishes in six of his eight starts there. Look for another strong finish this Sunday. Here's his thoughts on the race: "You really have to pay attention to how the race unfolds at Talladega. There are times when you need to be patient. There are times when you need to keep your head about you and race smart. But you are going to have to be aggressive at the end. Those are three elements of restrictor-plate racing that I work on throughout the race."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski had a terrible showing at Richmond, finishing 33rd, including hitting the wall that cost him a few laps. He needs a big bounce back this Sunday.

ETC.: Keselowski has completed an impressive 97.0 percent (1,480) of the 1,526 total laps contested in eight career starts at Talladega. His average start is 18.9 and average finish is an impressive 12.2. He has one DNF there.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing 15 positions in the previous four races, Kyle Busch took a nose dive from second to seventh after Kansas, the same position he remains in after Richmond. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 65 points, is points behind sixth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by six points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 16 career starts, 1 wins, 3 top-five, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2008. Finished second in last year's spring race, and was third in the fall race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch is looking to give himself a belated 28th birthday present (his birthday is May 2), but he knows a good finish at Talladega isn't easy: "The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble. You pretty much stay around the bottom since there is a lot of grip there, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single file at the bottom, sometimes it's hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that's when it starts to get crazy."

LOOKING BACK: Busch started out strong at Richmond and ultimately led 40 laps of the 406-lap event. But he struggled in the second half of the race and dropped like a rock to an eventual and disappointing 24th-place finish.

ETC.: Busch has completed 89.9 percent (2,736) of the 3,044 total laps contested in 16 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 20.9 and average finish is 22.1. He has a career-high five DNFs there.

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle dropped the most of anyone in the top-10 after Richmond, falling four positions, from fourth to eighth. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 71 points (after being just 47 points behind heading into Richmond), is six points behind seventh-ranked Kyle Busch and leads the ninth-ranked tie between Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick by one point each.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 20 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 5 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in fall 2009. Finished fifth in the spring race last year and was sixth in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle has struggled at Talladega throughout his Sprint Cup career. Every time he goes there, he hopes to change his run of bad luck. Maybe that will finally happen Sunday. Here are his thoughts about the race: "I'm really looking forward to Talladega. We've been working really hard on our restrictor-plate program. We did a tire test for Goodyear at Daytona and so we think we learned a little bit of speed secrets. You never know what will happen at Talladega. It's a lot wider racetrack and we are probably going to be three or four wide. For sure it will be an exciting finish."

LOOKING BACK: Biffle had arguably his worst performance of the season at Richmond, finishing 36th. After wrecking, he ultimately finished 15 laps off the lead lap.

ETC.: Biffle has completed 93.3 percent (3,542) of the 3,796 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 16.3 and average finish is 19.0. He has a career-high five DNFs there.

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Paul Menard moved up one spot to a tie for ninth place in the standings with Richmond winner and Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick. The pair are 72 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, trails eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by one point and leads 11th-ranked Aric Almirola by 13 points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-fives, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in fall 2008. Finished 17th in last year's spring race and was 28th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard goes from one of his worst tracks (Richmond) to yet another poor track for him (Talladega). Of his five DNFs there, four have been due to being caught up in one of Talladega's infamous "Big Ones." Here are his thoughts for this Sunday's race: "Going into Talladega, there is always an unknown factor. We need to make sure we stay out of trouble and bring home the CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet SS in one piece at the end of the day. With the Gen-6 car it's going to be hard to make moves and passes at Talladega. We're going to have to be a little more creative with strategy and how we work the race. I'm going to have to be more patient, because you can't just pull out and pass with the new car like you used to be able to do. Our goal this weekend is to continue to complete laps and be consistent. If we can do that and be there at the end I think we'll be in good shape."

LOOKING BACK: For one of the first times this season, Menard was not the highest-finishing driver in the Richard Childress Racing stable (teammate Kevin Harvick won) at Richmond. Still, he didn't have that bad of a night, finishing 13th.

ETC.: Menard has completed 83.1 percent (2,053) of the 2,472 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 19.8 and his average finish is 22.5. He has five DNFs there.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick moved up two spots, from 11th to a tie for ninth with Paul Menard after Richmond. Harvick and Menard both trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 72 points, are one point behind eighth-ranked Greg Biffle and lead 11th-ranked Aric Almirola by 13 points.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 24 career starts, 1 win, 6 top-five, 10 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in spring 2009. Finished 25th in last year's spring race, and was 11th in the fall race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick has become quite the proficient driver at Talladega. He has developed a knack for not getting into trouble in most races - in other words, he avoids many of the multi-car big wrecks that invariably occur there. Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race: "I like restrictor-plate racing, but our luck hasn't been that great lately on that style track. Last season, we thought we were going to have a chance to win coming to the checkers during the second races of the season at Daytona and Talladega, but we wound up coming in on a wrecker. We just haven't gotten the finishes we thought we would at those tracks, even though we've had good runs. We're coming off a win at Richmond, so I'm hoping we can carry that momentum into the race this weekend."

LOOKING BEHIND: Harvick led just three laps at Richmond, including the most important one, the final lap, as he won his first race of 2013 (and first win since Phoenix last fall).

ETC.: Harvick has completed 97.8 percent (4,446) of the 4,548 total laps contested in 24 career starts at Talladega. His average start is 22.0 and his average finish is 15.4. He has one DNF there.

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 13 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Still looking for his first top-10 finish. In six starts, his best finish is 12th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola believes "Talladega is a bit of a crapshoot. You go in knowing you have a one in 43 chance of winning the race, but also have a one in 43 chance of ending up on your roof and done for the day. We're right in the thick of it for a Chase position. Although some think it's still early for that, but every race is important. Right now, we're taking advantage of all of them."

LOOKING BACK: Almirola rallied in the final half of the race to finish eighth at Richmond for his third straight top-10 finish, a career best. "That was incredible," said Almirola. "Great day by our guys who never gave up. That is what it takes in this series. At one point we were almost a lap down. We were in big trouble and Todd Parrott (crew chief) made so many adjustments and kept making it better and better and better. There at the end we were a solid top-seven car and I'm really proud of the whole team."

ETC.: Crew chief Todd Parrott is "very proud of the season we've put together so far. If we keep putting ourselves in position for top-10s and keep improving, we'll start posting top-five's and really be in contention to win each week. That's our goal. Talladega is difficult because you really don't know what you are going to get until the last few laps. We just have to give Aric a fast car and try to be in the right place at the right time at the end."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 26 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots to fall out of the top 10.

TALLADEGA RECORD: One win and six top-10 finishes including five top-five's in 21 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "Finishing good at Talladega seems to always be just a matter of luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time. The last race there we led more laps than anyone and ended up 34th at the finish after getting wrecked with about five laps to go. If we can come out of Talladega with a good finish for our McDonald's team, I will feel real good about the next several races and where we are in the point's picture. I know we will have a good car this weekend, we just need to have good luck along the way."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray gambled and lost at Richmond. He elected not to pit during the last caution flag of the race and was second at the start of the green-white-checkered flag finish. But he quickly got pushed out of the groove and fell all the way to 26th. "We took a chance at the end and it didn't work out," said McMurray in the understatement of the week. "We were just never able to stay consistent tonight. I am really happy for our teammate (Juan Pablo Montoya) and all of the guys on the Target team," added McMurray. Montoya finished fourth.

ETC.: When it comes to the 2014 season and whether or not he has a contract with Ganassi, McMurray is quick to say, "I don't really have a comment on anything for next year. I'm focused on what we're doing now. I've really tried hard not to talk about the length of my contract or when you resign one. I feel like the media takes a lot of that and runs with it and seems to use imagination to make more than what is fact."

20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 30 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Won the fall race after finishing third in the spring event.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth said, "The key to success at the superspeedways is always to have a fast car. We had a really great car to start off the year in the Daytona 500, and led a lot of laps, so I feel really good heading into Talladega this weekend. There haven't been any rules changes since Daytona so I think it's going to be a track position race."

LOOKING BACK: After winning his second straight pole position for the first time in his career, Kenseth led three times for 140 laps. But his car wasn't as strong in the second half of the race as he ended the night in seventh place. "It was up and down," said Kenseth. "In the beginning, we were real strong and in the middle of the race we probably had a fifth to sixth-place car or something like that. That last restart, just being on the outside and the 78 (Kurt Busch) drove up through there and knocked my whole side off and put me in the marbles. If he's going to run you all over and clobber you, he's got to expect something back. I thought that (pushing him out of the way on the last lap) was pretty mild."

ETC.: Car owner Joe Gibbs understands his team must be penalized for its engine infraction at Kansas. But he is appealing the "severity of the penalties." The appeal will be heard May 8. Kenseth also believes "the penalties are grossly unfair. I think its borderline shameful." The penalty that bothers Kenseth the most is the one that says Gibbs cannot earn any car owner points for six races. "Certainly to crush Joe Gibbs like that and say they can't win an owner's championship with the 20 car, I just can't wrap my arms around that," adds Kenseth. "It just blows me away."

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 36 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Finished second in the fall 2012 race. Has six wins and 19 top-10 finishes including 15 top-five's in 40 starts. Has won the pole for the last two spring races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is the all-time leader in restrictor-plate victories with 12. But he is still "very anxious" about this weekend and the second restrictor-plate race of the year. "In Daytona, I feel like we learned a lot about being patient and picking and choosing our moments to try to makes passes," said Gordon. "The unknown is with this bigger, wider track (Talladega), are we going to be able to complete those passes that we weren't able to earlier this year at Daytona?"

LOOKING BACK: Gordon finished 11th at Richmond. "Those last two laps were crazy, with different strategies - some guys staying out, some taking two tires while some of us took four - it was just three and four-wide and do whatever you can to make the pass," said Gordon. "We missed the set-up early, but we made good changes and fought hard to get the finish we did."

ETC.: Gordon doesn't feel the strict penalties handed down by NASCAR against Matt Kenseth and his team will have an effect on the performance of the 20 team. "The thing is that Matt and his team, they are a rock solid team," said Gordon. "They have been showing it this whole year and continue to. To me, whatever happened this past week is not going to affect how those guys perform going forward."

56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 40 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 16 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex knows this is an important weekend in his bid to qualify for the Chase for the Championship again in 2013. "We've got to stay out of trouble and get a good finish," said Truex. "That is hard to do at Talladega. There is so much luck involved. I know we'll have a good car; we just need to avoid all the trouble and get us a solid finish. If we can do that, I'll think we'll be in good shape (in his bid to make the Chase)."

LOOKING BACK: Truex was running second with 55 laps to go when he was clipped by Kurt Busch and sent spinning to end any hopes Truex had of a top-10 finish. Instead, he ended the night in 17th place. "He (Busch) had me hooked on the straightaway and was kind of driving me down the straightaway a little bit and I had no intention of cutting down on him going into (turn) three, but he had me jacked up the whole way. When he let off, my car got on the left rear and went straight and then I got up in the marbles and then I just had to spin it out. He didn't need to do that. It's a shame to get where we were and get spun. I'll remember if we get in that position again what I'll do to Kurt."

ETC.: Truex believes all three MWR cars "will be fast at Talladega. Both Michael (Waltrip) and Clint (Bowyer) know what it takes to win there. Maybe this time it will be my turn (to drive into victory lane). It sure would be nice if we could hook up together and stay up front all day."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 42 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Finished ninth in the race last fall. Overall has eight top-10 finishes including four top-five's in 22 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman said, "I wouldn't say I dread coming to Talladega. It's not my favorite race track, but I don't say I dread it. I love driving a race car, even at Talladega. I think the difference is there's more potential to get involved in something out of your making there, and that's frustrating to me. But that's not just me. Everyone hopes they can avoid the big crash there."

LOOKING BACK: Newman battled an ill-handling race car all night as he finished 15th at Richmond. "It was a long, challenging night," said Newman. "We didn't hit on what we needed to with our Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet," said Newman. "Matt Borland (crew chief) and the guys kept working on it all night, and we made some improvements on it, but we never got it where we needed it to be."

ETC.: When asked what it takes to get a good finish at Talladega, Newman smiled as he said, "I wish I knew the answer to that. We've been on the short end of the stick at Talladega for the past few years. To be successful at Talladega, you've got to keep yourself in the hunt so you can be there at the end. If you have a good car, you can stay toward the front all day. If you don't, you have to put yourself in a position that will allow you to be in the best possible position at the end. It's as simple, or as complex, as that."

22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 43 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: When it comes to restrictor-plate racing, "some people really like it and some people don't," said Logano. "That's just part of the nature of restrictor-plate racing. I really enjoy it and I feel like I've become adaptable to it since I started (five years ago). The worst part about it is that you only control part of your own destiny. When you are out there racing in a pack, your day can be ruined by someone else's mistake. We've all had it happen to us."

LOOKING BACK: Logano rallied in the final 100 laps to finish third at Richmond. "It wasn't pretty, that's for sure," said Logano. "It looked like at the beginning of the race we were going to finish 20th. We were going backwards, but (crew chief) Todd Gordon made some good adjustments and got some speed back in the car. We put four tires on it (during the late-race caution) and got in the right lane on that restart and I think that's what meant a lot. To take a race that was going like that and be able to change it over and come home third, I couldn't be more proud of these Shell/Pennzoil guys."

ETC.: Logano feels the new Gen-6 car has made "the style of plate racing that we have become accustomed to different. It ended up being a lot faster to stay in line and work on timing to make your moves (at Daytona). It will be interesting to see if it's the same way this weekend at Talladega. We have our ideas as to how the race will play out, but we will just have to wait and see."

17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 47 points out of the top 10.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Finished third in last year's Nationwide race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse said, "We had a decent run at Daytona (12th) at the start of the year so I feel that will carry on to Talladega. We had a really good Daytona tire test (several weeks ago) and learned some things that we feel will be valuable at Talladega. Our team feels confident going into this weekend but we just need a little luck on our side."

LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse finished 16th at Richmond. "We were either really loose or really tight on every run," said Stenhouse. "I think we took big swings at the set-up on every pit stop but nothing really helped so we will take a look at it when we get back to the shop and see why that was. But all in all, it was a good day for the 17 Zest team."

ETC.: Stenhouse feels "you can be cocky and still be respectful to everybody else at the same time. I feel confident in my ability and confident in the ability of our race teams. I think you have to have confidence to be a little cocky. You have to be respectful at the same time though. That is a tough thing to balance."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 53 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Finished tenth in both 2012 races. Finished second in the fall race of 2011 so he is looking for his fourth straight top-10 finish. Overall has 16 top-10 finishes in 38 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, "It will be interesting to see what is going to happen at Talladega. The Daytona 500 was very much a single-file race and there is a good chance that drivers will be more aggressive at Talladega. That was the calmest Daytona 500 I've ever been a part of and I don't anticipate seeing that at Talladega. Single-file racing is boring in the car and boring to watch, so I think the drivers will mix it up more this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Burton was running seventh when the yellow flag was waved with three laps to go. He decided not to pit as the top six all headed to pit road for tires. Burton was now the leader. But he was no match for the cars on new tires as he ended the evening in fifth place. "The caution came out and what the heck, we might as well try something," said Burton. "Obviously new tires were a lot better. But it was worth a shot. We were going to maybe finish sixth without the caution so to pick up a spot with it (the gamble) was well worth it. I thought Kevin (Harvick, his teammate and the guy who passed him for the lead) and I both got better at the end of the race."

ETC.: When asked the difference between Talladega and Daytona, Burton replied, "Talladega feels bigger and wider. It feels much longer than just the .16-mile difference that it is from Daytona. The corners are a lot wider. You don't quite get the sensation leaving the straightaway and going into the corner with the banking. The one oddity is the bottom groove through the tri-oval is a different banking than the rest of the race track."

78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 55 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: 13 top-10 finishes in 24 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch is another driver who believes "the restrictor-plate races turn in to more of a crap shoot. You see if your number is going to come up and be the lucky guy at the end of the day. You have to stay patient all day, stay out of trouble and be on the lucky side of things - it's a tough combination to line up and get exactly right."

LOOKING BACK: Busch led once for 36 laps and was a major player for most of the evening. But he was involved in a number of controversial moments late in the race. First, he clipped Martin Truex, Jr., as they battled for second place, sending Truex spinning. During the final two laps of the race, Busch tangled with Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth with the confrontation continuing on the so-called cool down lap after the checkered flag. Busch ended the night in ninth place.

ETC.: After a yelling match with Tony Stewart near their haulers, Busch said, "I don't know what the 14 (Stewart) was upset about. I got hit from behind. I got hit every which-way. So did he." As for his dispute with Kenseth, Busch said, "Kenseth moved us out of the way at the end, so that's why I was upset with him. But hey, it was a free-for-all at the end. For us, this was a solid run with our Furniture Row car. We were there. We were top five all night. So all in all, it was a great night for us to be in the top five, run up front and lead some laps."

55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 64 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Martin will not run this week. Michael Waltrip will handle the driving duties. Waltrip has one win and 15 top-10 finishes in 53 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Waltrip is really looking forward to racing at Talladega. "Every time I go to Talladega I just have a lot of confidence because of all the success I have had there before. I have been able to win there and I came pretty close to winning there last year. It's awesome going to a track that you know you have a chance to win."

LOOKING BACK: Martin was running in the top 10 with 62 laps remaining when he got clipped by Kasey Kahne to trigger a three-car accident. The damage was too severe for Martin to continue as he finished 38th. "We worked on this car all night, we were competitive and I think we were getting it better and better as the race went on," said Martin. "Would have liked to have been in the mix there at the end."

ETC.: Waltrip will be a fan favorite this week because he is driving the "Alabama National Championship" Toyota. "It's going to be really fun to race the Alabama National Championship car this weekend," said Waltrip. "There are a lot of passionate fans in that part of the world that love Alabama football and NASCAR. I really look forward to representing all the Alabama fans this weekend in Talladega."

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 64 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week. This is the lowest Stewart has ever been in the standings at this point in the season.

TALLADEGA RECORD: One win and 13 top-10 finishes including nine top-five's in 28 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart said, "Well, I'm not any happier about it (restrictor-plate racing) than I've always been, but we've had a lot of success at restrictor-plate tracks, especially Talladega. We've run in the top-two there a gazillion times. I'm glad we're halfway decent at it, but it's still always frustrating when you have to rely on what everybody else does. It's what you do along with somebody else who decides that they're going to follow you and help you. That's the part that frustrates you as a driver."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart's frustrations continued Saturday night at Richmond. He was fifth on the final restart but got knocked out of the groove by Kurt Busch and ended the evening in 18th place. "He (Busch) just rammed right into us there at the end," said an angry Stewart. "It hadn't been a great weekend, but we had made some adjustments and were actually going to leave here with a decent finish until everything that happened at the end."

ETC.: Earlier in the Richmond race, Stewart took full blame for an accident that involved five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Stewart got real loose while racing Johnson for a spot in the top 10. The two tangled with both cars spinning. They were each able to continue with Stewart telling his crew "that was all my fault. Have someone run down to the 48 (Johnson) camp and tell them I'm sorry."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 76 points out of the top 10. Lost four spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "We were bit by bad luck again last week, but hopefully all that is behind now. We're ready for some good luck, and Talladega is a place where you need it. Anything can happen at these superspeedway races. We've just got to be in the right place at the right time and stay out of trouble."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose was running just outside the top 10 when he suffered engine failure. As a result, he ended the night in 42nd place. "This is so disappointing for us," said Ambrose. "We've had fantastic power from Ford Racing and Roush Yates Engines so we can't complain. It's just the racing gods aren't on our side this year. We were fast tonight and ran in and around the top 10. Our luck has to change."

ETC.: Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer feels it is very important "for us to keep our heads up and know that we deserve and can get top-10 finishes. We had a good car last weekend and another problem out of our control. We'll have a good car this weekend (at Talladega). We just need to be there at the end."

42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 24th, 88 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Three top-five finishes in 12 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Montoya said, "When you come out of turn four on the last lap, you forget who was your friend. Talladega is a place where you have to be loyal to people until you get to the tri-oval. At that point, it's every man for himself. It's always been that way."

LOOKING BACK: Montoya had led for 67 straight laps and was only three laps from winning his first oval-track race in NASCAR when the yellow flag was waved after Brian Vickers crashed in turn four. Naturally, Montoya was "pissed off." But he quickly realized he needed to pit for tires to keep his victory hopes alive. But it was not to be as he finished fourth. "We restarted (for the green-white-checkered flag finish) on the outside and we were screwed," said Montoya. "It was a no-brainer to pit and take tires. What hurt us is we restarted on the outside and when you restart on the outside and people (ahead of him) have got really bad tires, everything backs up. When you are on the outside, you have nowhere to go. When you are on the inside, you can jump to the inside of those guys. We had a great car. The guys did an amazing job. It is just the luck of the draw."

ETC.: To call the year a disaster might be too strong a statement, but Montoya was struggling mightily before the Richmond raced. In the first eight races, he had five finishes of 26th or worse. He had only one finish - 12th - better than 19th. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. And that is why he had a smile on his face after the Richmond race despite seeing that elusive oval-track win disappear with only three laps remaining. "Everyone on the Depend Chevy this week did an amazing job," said Montoya. "We had a great car. Same as last week, we had a great car." But two loose wheels left him in 27th place. "The pit crew redeemed themselves tonight," added Montoya. "They did a great job all day, no mistakes. This is what we needed. We needed to come out of here with a good finish."

10 DANICA PATRICK, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE SHE STANDS: 26th, 102 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.

TALLADEGA RECORD: Finished 13th in the spring race a year ago.

LOOKING AHEAD: Patrick is really looking forward to Talladega after winning the pole for the Daytona 500, running in the top five for most of the race and becoming the first woman to lead a lap at Daytona. "I feel like I've learned some lessons from Daytona about the draft," said Patrick. "There are a lot of people that have a good chance of winning Talladega. I'm hopeful we are one of them at the end of the race. But, we won't know until the end of the race."

LOOKING BACK: It was another long, long evening for Patrick as she finished a disappointing 29th at Richmond. "We were just so tight in the center of the corner," said Patrick. "We just couldn't loosen the car up enough to make the center work the way we needed to. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the Go Daddy guys threw a lot at it, but we just couldn't get the center quite right."

ETC.: Patrick said she really enjoyed appearing on "The Colbert Report" a couple of weeks ago. "I think it is a great show," said Patrick. "It is really funny. I love his (Stephen Colbert) sense of humor. That was the first time I have been on his show. I was excited. He's a cool guy. When we got done, he came back and said good job, that was fun, sorry I went a little bit long, but I was having a good time. That's a very nice thing for him to say. I had a good time. I felt like he went kind of easy on me. It's always fun to do those kinds of things that are a little different and outside the box."

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