Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup standings, plus five additional drivers of note.
By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in first place for the fifth consecutive week after his win at Kansas. He leads second-ranked Matt Kenseth by 15 points and third-ranked Kyle Busch by 21 points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 42 career starts, 5 wins, 16 top-5s, 22 top-10s, 9 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 1994, spring 1997, spring 1998, fall 1999, fall 2007. Finished 35th in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was seventh in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is looking to keep the momentum he gained this past Saturday with his win at Kansas and carry it over through this Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race and then the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25. Charlotte is one of his best tracks, and the $1 million bonus to win the All-Star race will be additional incentive on top of the Kansas momentum. Gordon has made 20 starts in the All-Star race with three wins, six top-fives, nine top-10s and one pole. Here's his thoughts on the All-Star race: "This entire weekend is always interesting and exciting. With no points on the line, it allows NASCAR and Sprint and Charlotte Motor Speedway to have some unique rules - like qualifying that includes a four-tire pit stop or splitting the race up into several segments. I enjoy the change and the challenge it provides."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon led just nine laps but was able to regain the lead from Kevin Harvick and held on for the win Saturday night at Kansas. It was Gordon's 89th win of his Sprint Cup career.
ETC.: Gordon has completed 92.8 percent (13,972) of the 15,057 total laps contested in 42 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 10.3 and average finish is 16.0. He has 10 DNF's there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: For the sixth consecutive week, Matt Kenseth remained in second place in the Sprint Cup standings. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 15 points and leads third-ranked Kyle Busch by six points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 29 career starts, 2 wins, 8 top-5s, 15 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2000 and fall 2011. Finished 15th in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was third in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Now that points leader Jeff Gordon has reached victory lane, Kenseth is the next-highest ranked driver still without a win. While he'll be looking for a win in Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race and the $1 million winner's bonus, Kenseth will also be thinking about the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, hoping he'll finally get his own first win of the season. In the All-Star race, Kenseth has a career record of 13 starts, one win, five top five and 10 top 10 finishes, along with two poles.
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led one lap and finished 10th at Kansas.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 94.7 percent (9,770) of the 10,320 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 17.3 and his average finish is 13.8. He has five DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch remained in third place for the second consecutive week after Kansas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 21 points, is six points behind second-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads fourth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by five points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 20 career starts, 0 win, 9 top-5s, 12 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in fall 2010 and fall 2011. Finished 38th in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was fifth in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch has finished in the top 10 in nearly half of his 20 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but still has yet to reach victory lane. Like all of the other entrants for Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race, he'd love to win the $1 million prize (he has made eight career starts in the All-Star race, with no wins, three top five and four top 10 finishes, as well as three poles). He'll likely also be thinking ahead to the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25, especially considering his older brother Kurt will be racing earlier that day in his first career Indianapolis 500 start before flying to Charlotte for the 600 race, as well. That would make Kurt Busch the first driver to perform the so-called "double" since 2004. Here's Kyle's thoughts on Saturday's All-Star race: "I'm looking forward to it. This is always a pretty cool race and has good atmosphere around it. The crowd gets jacked up, and of course there is nothing important on the line besides a million bucks. You just go out there and race as hard as you can. ... We always enjoy coming to Charlotte and getting these two weeks - with the All-Star race one of the shortest and most fun events, and then the Coca-Cola 600 with the longest event. Kind of two different ends of the spectrum at Charlotte and we're hoping to finally get a win in the Sprint Cup car with our M&M's Camry at least once over the next two weekends there."
LOOKING BACK: Kyle Busch had an average car at Kansas. He led just one lap and ultimately finished 15th.
ETC.: Busch has completed 91.7 percent (6,578) of the 7,174 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 14.4 and average finish is 15.9. He has five DNFs there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in fourth place for the second consecutive week after Kansas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 26 points, is five points behind third-ranked Kyle Busch and leads fifth-ranked Carl Edwards by one point.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 28 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: Third in fall 2004 race. Finished 39th in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was 15th in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt is not only still looking for his second win of the season, after capturing the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, he's also looking for his first career Sprint Cup win at Charlotte. While he'll focus first on this Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race and the $1 million bonus (14 starts, one win, four top five and 11 top 10 finishes), you can bet Earnhardt is also thinking real hard about how he can win NASCAR's longest and most grueling race, the Coca-Cola 600, on May 25.
LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt led nine laps at Kansas and had a decent car, one of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers who finished in the top nine, ultimately finishing fifth. "We had a real good car the first half of the race and was working the top. I don't think anybody had any speed like we did up there. As it got cooler the bottom got faster and we sort of leveled off and we were too tight at the end of the race. ... I knew it was going to be tough to run well because of how bad the car pushed all weekend. That really kind of bit us there at the end."
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 94.1 percent (9,454) of the 10,052 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 15.0 and average finish is 19.4. He has four DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: For the second consecutive week, Carl Edwards dropped one place in the standings, from a tie for fourth to sole possession of fifth place after Kansas. Edwards trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 27 points, is one points behind fourth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads sixth-ranked Joey Logano by 21 points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 18 career starts, 0 win, 5 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in spring 2005, spring 2006 and fall 2011. Finished 11th in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was 10th in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: While Edwards has a win at Charlotte in the Sprint All-Star Race (eight starts, one win, three top five and five top 10 finishes, plus one pole), he's never won a points-paying Cup event there. He'll be looking to change that in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25.
LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a good run at Kansas, leading six laps and ultimately finishing in sixth place.
ETC.: Edwards has completed an impressive 99.2 percent (6,386) of the 6,440 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 17.8 and his average finish is 11.8. He has one DNF there.
22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Joey Logano remained in sixth place in the Sprint Cup standings for the third consecutive week after Kansas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 48 points, is 21 points behind fifth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads seventh-ranked Jimmie Johnson by six points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 10 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in spring 2011. Finished fifth in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was 18th in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Logano would love to give himself a spectacular 24th birthday present (May 24) with a win in Saturday's All-Star race (three career starts, no wins, two top five and three top 10 finishes), followed by a triumph in the May 25th Coca-Cola 600. Logano wants that million bucks Saturday, he says: "I mean that is what you are here for, right? You don't come to the All-Star race to run second, third or 16th. You want to come here to win the race and a million bucks. I've said before, I finished second last year and you know who remembers that - no one. There are no points, so you don't worry about trying to finish third or fourth or anything. You want to go for that win. Plus, you can learn something for next week's Coke 600 for sure. ... Really, you just want to win this thing and lift that million dollar check at the end of the night."
LOOKING BACK: Logano led 63 laps, second-most of any driver at Kansas, before finishing fourth at the checkered flag.
ETC.: Logano has completed an outstanding 99.8 percent (3,493) of the 3,499 total laps contested in 10 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 15.9 and average finish is a laudable 10.4. He has zero DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in seventh place in the Sprint Cup standings for the second consecutive week after Kansas. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 54 points, is six points behind sixth-ranked Joey Logano and leads eighth-ranked Ryan Newman by eight points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 25 career starts, 6 wins, 12 top-5s, 16 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2003, spring and fall 2004, spring and fall 2005 and fall 2009. Finished 22nd in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was fourth in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: With nearly the first third of the season gone, it's hard to believe Johnson still has not won in the first 11 of 36 Cup races. While he's hoping to finally change that during the May 25 Coca-Cola 600, Johnson is also looking for another win in the Sprint All-Star Race (12 starts, four wins, eight top five and eight top 10 finishes, plus one pole). Here's his thoughts on Saturday's All-Star Race: "It's usually such a fun weekend for us. There are always a lot of family and friends in town for the race and there is a lot of money on the line. A lot of the crew guys bring their wives and families to the track and the best part is everyone gets to sleep in their own bed. We have a cool paint scheme with the yellow No. 48 numbers which is a fan favorite. We just go out there to try and win it."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson led 24 laps at Kansas but his car faded in the last 30 laps or so, forcing him to settle for a still-good ninth-place finish.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 97.1 percent (8,594) of the 8,852 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is outstanding 7.4 and his average finish is an excellent 11.6. He also has four DNFs there.
31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: RICHARD CHILDRESS Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After three weeks in ninth place, Ryan Newman moved up one position to eighth place after Kansas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 62 points, is eight points behind seventh-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads ninth-ranked Greg Biffle by four points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 26 career starts, 0 wins, 4 top-5s, 10 top-10s, nine poles. Best career finish: Second in fall 2003 and spring 2009. Finished sixth in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was eighth in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman leads the Richard Childress Racing team with his eighth-place ranking following Kansas. While he's looking forward to the Sprint All-Star Race this Saturday (12 starts, one win, three top five and seven top 10 finishes, and one pole), Newman has nine poles overall in Cup racing at Charlotte, but has never won a race there. That's something he hopes to change in the May 25 Coca-Cola 600. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's All-Star race: "I approach it like all the other races, it's a race to win. But, I think it's a race that carries a little more bragging rights to it. It is the All-Star Race and there is a million bucks on the line, so I wouldn't mind earning that payday. Regardless of the format or how the fans vote, the event provides you with a fair chance to win the race and that's why it's a lot of fun for us. It's like a championship, you have a chance. You just have to beat all the other guys doing it."
LOOKING BACK: Newman failed to lead a lap at Kansas but still had the highest-finishing car in the RCR stable, ending up a solid 11th.
ETC.: Newman has completed a fair 87.7 percent (8,114) of the 9,252 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is an outstanding 7.0, but his average finish of 19.1 leaves a lot to be desired. He has five DNFs there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing two spots, from 10th to eighth, after Talladega, Greg Biffle fell back one position to ninth after Kansas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 66 points, is four points behind eighth-ranked Ryan Newman and leads 10th-ranked Brian Vickers by one point.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 22 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in spring 2008. Finished 31st in last year's Coca-Cola 600 and was 16th in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle is overdue to earn his first career win in both this Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race (10 starts, 0 wins, two top five and three top 10 finishes), as well as the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25. Here's Biffle's thoughts on the All-Star race: "I'm looking forward to the All-Star race; hopefully we can continue running well on 1.5-mile tracks. Night races are always exciting and hopefully we can learn some things for the Coke 600 next weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Biffle had an average car in Saturday's race at Kansas that ultimately led to him earning an average finish of 16th.
ETC.: Biffle has completed 90.7 percent (7,057) of the 7,784 total laps contested in 22 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 17.0 and his average finish is a nearly identical 17.1. He has two DNFs there.
55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Brian Vickers remained in 10th place for the third consecutive week after Kansas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 67 points, is one point behind ninth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads 11th-ranked Brad Keselowski by one point.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 15 career starts, 0 win, 2 top-5s, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fifth in spring 2007 and spring 2009. Vickers has not raced in the Coca-Cola 600 since 2011, when he finished 18th. He was 25th in last fall's Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers admittedly has a poor record at Charlotte, but he's looking to change that in both the All-Star race (three starts, 0 wins, one top five and one top 10) and the May 25th Coca-Cola 600. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's All-Star race: "I'm really looking forward to it. The last time I was supposed to be in the All-Star race I couldn't be in the All-Star race because I was out sick unfortunately. It's pretty exciting to be in the race this year -- well, not there yet, made that mistake once. Pretty exciting to plan to be in the race. I look forward to being a part of it."
LOOKING BACK: Vickers had an average run at Kansas and wound up with an equally average finish of 14th place.
ETC.: Vickers has completed a mediocre 88.0 percent (4,669) of the 5,303 total laps contested in 15 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 18.9 and his average finish is 23.0. He has three DNFs there.
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Team Penske
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only one point out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in five starts including a second in 2012.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski calls the All-Star Race "a terrific race for the fans to watch and it is a fun race for the drivers too. I remember watching this race when I was growing up, and I always looked forward to it. We get to go all out for the win, and with the big payday ($1,000,000) most of the drivers will push just that little bit harder for the victory."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski led early for three times for 13 laps but ran into handling problems during the middle portions of the race as he ended the night in 13th place. "We could never get it where we wanted it to be," said Keselowski. "Early on, it was way faster. I felt like Superman up there. We just got caught out on that one sequence which put us behind and then we just fought from there to get track position. We ended up 13th, which is kind of ho-hum."
ETC.: Keselowski wonders why people are still talking about the Talladega wreck that he admitted he caused. "I feel like people know something I don't know," said Keselowski. "I got in a wreck at a plate track and I caused it. Like I am the first one to ever do that or something. Wrecking is never fun but it happens and that is just part of racing. Anyone that doesn't see it that way obviously has a set of biases that they can't make a rational judgment, so I don't worry about their criticism."
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only nine points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin is looking on the All-Star Race as a chance for the three JGR teams "to try a lot of different things. There are no points on the line so we can experiment. Sure, we want to win the race, and we will do everything we can to win it. But it is also a great opportunity to get better on the mile-and-a-halves."
LOOKING BACK: Hamlin finished 18th at Kansas. "We just had nothing for the top-10 guys," said Hamlin. "Just really struggled with speed - we were a half-second off, at least in practice and that much in qualifying and that much in the race. A half-second in our sport is miles. It's hard to race out there with the grip level we have versus where other cars are right now. We were a knife in a gunfight deal."
ETC.: Hamlin said the entire Joe Gibbs organization has "got to get better" at the intermediate tracks. "All three teams are off - you got to look at the fundamentals of what makes a race car go fast. Everyone in this sport knows what they are. You've got to handle well, have good power down the straightaways and you have to have good aerodynamics - you just have to have a good race car. You're never going to change one thing and fix it. I just think we're off a little bit in all the fundamental areas and we just have to go back and work on it. Everyone better look out when we get it right."
42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, only nine points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Hopes to make his first start in the special event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said he is "really excited about Friday's Showdown race. It's always fun to race at night, and needing to win the short-lap (40 laps) Showdown to transfer to the All-Star Race will make it feel like a B main event from a sprint car race. It would be nice to already be locked to Saturday's race, but I'm excited to have a chance on Friday to wheel the Target Chevy into the All-Star Race. It would be cool to make Saturday night's race and be among a group of really talented, winning drivers."
LOOKING BACK: Larson started fifth at Kansas but ran into handling problems during the first half of the race as he battled an "extremely loose" race car. But Larson rallied in the final 100 laps to finish 12th. "I thought that we had a good rebound tonight after a rough start," said Larson. "I started the race off extremely loose, but the crew did a great job of getting the right adjustments made in the Target Chevy, which helped me race back towards the front. Having to fight back from the start gave us something to learn from, which will make us better. All-in-all, a good finish given how we started the race."
ETC.: For Larson, winning a preliminary race to qualify for the main event is nothing new. He did it throughout his sprint car days. "This weekend is just like I grew up," said the 20-year-old Larson. "So hopefully we have a couple good races and put on a good show for the fans this weekend."
3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 21 points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Hopes to qualify for his first All-Star race by winning or finishing second in the Sprint Showdown.
LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon said the team plans to "push the limits" when it comes to the Showdown on Friday night. "We've giving it all we've got, especially as far as cars and engines. Its two 20-lap heat races and it will be a wild one, I'm sure. Everybody wants to get into the Sprint All-Star Race so they have a shot at earning that million dollar pay out. It means a lot of our team and our guys."
LOOKING BACK: Dillon battled a loose-handling race car all night as he finished 19th in only his second Sprint Cup start at Kansas. "It was a long night for sure," said the rookie driver. "We learned a lot tonight for when we come back in the fall. We think we will be a lot better the second time around."
ETC.: Dillon hopes to have a real good weekend this weekend because "all of the winnings from my side of it I'm going to give back to the Armed Forces Foundation. We're going to be giving back to the military. They are the ones that allow us to race on the weekends. I hope the fans vote for me. We'll put on a good show in the (All-Star) race."
4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 25 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: One win and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick is not sure he is a firm believer in the "checkers or wreckers, bring back the trophy or bring back the steering wheel" view that many have of the Sprint All-Star Race. "I think a lot of it all depends on how you're running that particular night," said Harvick. "Obviously, you go in with intentions of racing for the win, and whatever it takes if you're in position to win. If you're not in position to win, you usually gamble, from a strategy standpoint to put yourself in position to win."
LOOKING BACK: After winning his second pole position of the season, Harvick led 89 of the first 101 laps. But an ill-timed caution flag shortly after he made a routine pit stop dropped Harvick to 18th in the running. It took him 107 laps to get back to the lead. But his chances of winning the race were lost when "I didn't get down pit road very good coming to the pit box," said Harvick. "I kind of ran out of gas, and I was paying attention to the fuel pressure gauge instead of the pit road speeding light. I lost some time there." As a result, Harvick was second with eight laps to go. He almost caught Jeff Gordon on the last lap as he came up a car length short in his bid for a third victory of the season. "It was a weird night, for sure," said Harvick, "but I'm proud of everyone on this team. They are giving me great cars."
ETC.: Harvick won the All-Star Race in 2007. "Charlotte had never been a track that we'd run very well at up until 2006," said Harvick. "So, to go and win the race in 2007 gave us a lot of confidence. Obviously, a win in the All-Star Race makes you a million dollars richer and puts you on a unique list of winners and definitely makes you want to experience all of that again."
5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 33 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: One win and four top-10 finishes in 10 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne hopes this is the weekend where he returns to victory lane. He is winless in 2014. "Charlotte has been a good track for us," said Kahne. "We've had good luck in the 600 as well as the All-Star Race and the fall race. So we are looking forward to Saturday night. We are running much better as we showed at Kansas, so we feel good about our chances this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Kahne led twice for 22 laps before finishing third at Kansas. "We had a fast Farmers Insurance Chevy throughout the race," said Kahne. "It went really good for us. It was a really solid run. Nice to run up front and be able to race hard the whole night. We've just been slow this season. Really haven't been inconsistent or anything like that, we've just been slow each week. That is why this was a good night for us. We were fast all night."
ETC.: Kahne believes a recent tire test is the big reason why the team has finally "turned the corner. I think the Goodyear test here (at Kansas), for whatever reason, we were able to try some things and just look at stuff a little differently than what we had been, and it helped the 5 team, my guys, myself and Kenny (Francis, crew chief), our communications together. It's helped us a lot since then. I feel like that's been the key, and ever since we tested here, we've ran much better and been a lot more competitive."
47 A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet
Team: JTG Daugherty Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 34 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: No top-10 finishes in two starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger said, "The Showdown is really something because you do those 20 laps and you see where your car is and see where you are on the track and that determines if you want to pit, stay out and take a chance to start up front (for the final 20 laps) with no tires. So, it makes it interesting. I hate to say that I've been in the Showdown every year, but I have raced my way in a couple of times and hope to do the same Friday night."
LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger suffered major damage to his Chevrolet trying to avoid a late-race accident and this coupled with an ill-handling race car resulted in a 30th-place finish at Kansas. "It was a rough night for us," said Allmendinger. "I was trying to make sure I didn't hit the 27 (Paul Menard) and sustained some significant damage to our Kingsford Chevrolet. Also, we missed the setup. The car was on top of the track and it never had any speed. It was just one of those days."
ETC.: Co-owner Tad Geschickter admitted, "We really need to improve our mile-and-a-half program. I think we know what we need to keep doing and not beat ourselves. We will do our homework and work hard with Richard Childress Racing this week to figure out how we can get better at these intermediate tracks. Hopefully, we will come up with a new idea for the next race (the Coca-Cola 600)."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 35 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Finished 16th in his lone All-Star start.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "The Showdown and the All-Star weekend is always a good one since there are no points on the line. We can just race hard, have fun and gather some information for the Coca-Cola 600. A lot of (race team) families come out to watch the Charlotte race weekends, so hopefully we can put the Serta/Menards Chevrolet into the All-Star Race and put on a good show."
LOOKING BACK: Menard was involved in a multi-car accident with 80 laps to go to end any hopes he had of finishing in the top 10. Instead, he had to be content with a 17th-place finish. "We were loose all night and we made a lot of adjustments to tighten it up," said Menard. "We finally got what we needed and were able to move our way through the field. Then there was a wreck, but luckily we got out with minor damage. We didn't get the result we were hoping for."
ETC.: Menard feels one of the fun things about being a race driver is "working with the engineers and understanding what makes the car go fast. That's pretty cool for me."
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 39 points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: One top-10 finish in two starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose admits, "The only fun part of being in the Showdown is winning it or finishing second to advance to the All-Star Race. It's not really a race that you hope to be in, so you take every chance you can to win it. I've come close in the past, and I think we have a good chance Friday night. If we can get a good starting spot for Friday night, I expect us to be right in the middle of it (the race for the win)."
LOOKING BACK: It was a long night for Ambrose which included a spin on lap 111 of the 267-lap event. "We really didn't have a good night," said Ambrose, who ended up 24th. "If you get two laps down, it's very difficult to get them back and you just have to race against the guys on your lap. Finishing 24th is the best we could do. We had a bad start to the race. We got the car better later on, but it's too late then."
ETC.: Ambrose hopes to donate $25,000 to Victory Junction come Sunday afternoon. "If we can get in the (All-Star) race either way, I'll donate the money," said Ambrose. "We're doing our best to win the fan vote." The fans will determine the final spot in the All-Star Race. Fans can vote at NASCAR.com/SprintFanVote or on the NASCAR Mobile app, where votes count twice.
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 45 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: No top-10 finishes in five starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Since Bowyer did not win a race last year, he will have to earn his way in the All-Star Race by winning or finishing second in the Sprint Showdown on Friday night. "We're working hard to make sure we race our way into Saturday's show in our Charter Toyota," said Bowyer. "The All-Star weekend is always a great one and we want to be part of all of it."
LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had just made a routine pit stop when disaster struck on lap 47 of the 267-lap event. Bowyer, with four new tires, tried to go around Marcos Ambrose, who didn't know Bowyer was coming as fast as he was. The two made slight contact as Bowyer went spinning down the backstretch. He didn't hit anything, but he lost two laps in the process and was never able to recover as he finished 23rd. "Well that was disappointing and certainly not how we wanted to finish at my home track," said Bowyer. "Just a disappointing end to a great week."
ETC.: Michael Waltrip Racing will hold a Fan Fest at its race shop on Wednesday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fans can tour the race shop as well as get autographs from Bowyer and teammate Brian Vickers. "We have lots of fun, meet with the fans and talk racing," said Waltrip. "We'll give you access to a NASCAR Sprint Cup race shop that few folks ever get to enjoy."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 49 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Will be seeking his first start in the special event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola calls the All-Star Race "the best of the best. It's all the guys that win races. We want to be part of that. It's a big night, big weekend. We tested at Charlotte last week and feel like we have a really good shot at winning the Showdown and being able to compete on Saturday night."
LOOKING BACK: Almirola finished eighth at Kansas. "Tonight was a good night for us," said Almirola. "The Farmland Ford was fast all night. We got off a little bit in one part of the race and Trent (Owens, crew chief) did a good job of getting the car back and make a good strategy call to get us track position. All in all it was a great night and another top-10 in Kansas. This place is good for us."
ETC.: It has been a rough two months for the Petty family. On March 25, Lynda Petty, Richard's wife, died after a long battle with cancer. On Sunday, Patricia Petty, Richard's sister-in-law and wife of Maurice Petty, Richard's brother, passed away. "We all loved Patricia," said Richard. "She was another cornerstone in the Petty family and was always there for Maurice and allowed us to do what we loved to do. She was just another special part of the family. We'll miss her and give our love and support to Maurice and his family at this time." Maurice was inducted in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January. Maurice built the engines that powered Richard to his record 200 wins and seven championships.
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 59 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: One win and nine top-10 finishes including eight top-five's in 15 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart believes there are several ways to look at Saturday night's All-Star Race. "If your car is driving well, you're running for $1 million," said Stewart. "But if your car isn't driving well, you're learning from that and applying it to the 600 instead. I've always looked at it as however your car is driving in the All-Star Race is relatively true to how your car is going to drive in the 600."
LOOKING BACK: The race began well for Stewart as he ran in the top 10 for the first two-thirds of the race. But then he lost track position with a four-tire stop during the sixth of eight caution flags while many of his rivals were taking on only two tires. This dropped Stewart to 17th and he was never able to recover as he ended the night in 20th place. "The car just didn't go in traffic," said crew chief Chad Johnson. "Track position caught us tonight."
ETC.: Stewart feels "guys that run well in the All-Star Race will run well in the Coke 600 (on May 25), but they're not going to beat and bang like they might in the All-Star Race. I've always looked on the All-Star Race as a really good test because it's really the only time we have to run at night in race conditions."
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 24th, 81 points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray calls the All-Star Race "a fun race. Anytime that you put a million dollars on the line for a race you can expect plenty of excitement. Of course it is really nice to know that you have already qualified for the Sprint All-Star Race and not have to rely on racing your way in through the Showdown or have the fans select you through the fan vote. It is always interesting to see how the format changes from year to year, but in the end that last segment (10 laps) usually seems to be pretty wild."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray was running fourth when he cut a tire and slammed hard into the fourth-turn wall. The car quickly became engulfed in flames from a cut oil line. With the fire growing, McMurray was forced to make a quick exit from the car with help from his crew and NASCAR officials. He escaped unhurt. "I just entered turn three and I heard a small pop and then just lost all the steering and got into the fence and knocked the oil line and everything off which caused the fire," said McMurray. "We didn't have any tire issues all weekend so I'm not sure what happened. We really had a good run going." McMurray ended the night in 39th place.
ETC.: The team will open its shop to race fans Thursday afternoon with McMurray and teammate Kyle Larson on hand to greet the fans and sign autographs. In addition, there will be pit crew demonstrations and behind-the-scenes shop tours. The open house will run from 3 to 6 p.m.
10 DANICA PATRICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE SHE STANDS: 27th, 114 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Finished 20th in her All-Star debut a year ago.
LOOKING AHEAD: A year ago, Patrick qualified for the All-Star Race by winning the fan vote. "It was very flattering," said Patrick. "I'm very fortunate for the fans that I have. I have to say that from a driver's perspective I would rather race my way in, but if I have to get in by fan vote - what other way is better than that? I mean to have the fans put you in the race was something special." She is the favorite to win the fan vote again this year.
LOOKING BACK: Patrick finished a career-best seventh at Kansas after qualifying in the top 10 for the second straight race. "My goal at the beginning of the race was really just to stay up in that lead group," said Patrick. "You're going to move up; you're going to move down, but generally to average out to where I was starting (eighth). I feel like we did all that." Patrick got as high as third after passing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and teammate and boss Tony Stewart. But she said "the most rewarding part of my night was probably when I drove around the outside of the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) on a restart. That was probably my most rewarding thing of the night. I say that with all the respect in the world. It's a big deal because he is (six-time champion) Jimmie Johnson."
ETC.: Patrick believes her good run at Kansas is just the first of many good runs. "This is a new car, and it was so good," said Patrick. "I think it shows when the runs were long and I would keep coming. That just shows this is a good car. They (her team) built a great one. And we've got more of them coming. That's the even better news."
41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 28th, 126 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: One win and seven top-10 finishes including five top-five's in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Saturday will be the first chance for Busch to see if all of the logistics are in place for his attempt at running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day are in place. "We are confident we have everything lined up, but this weekend will be our first chance to see it in action," said Busch. "The first round of qualifying for the 500 will be Saturday afternoon and then we will have to hurry to get to Charlotte in time (7:10 p.m.) for the special qualifying session for the All-Star Race. It should be a fun and interesting day." The All-Star Race will start at 9:15 p.m.
LOOKING BACK: An extremely loose race car resulted in two spins and a 29th-place finish for Busch at Kansas. "It was a disappointing day all around," said Busch. "We had the best qualifying session of the season this weekend (posting the sixth fastest time), and we had high hopes for the race. It just didn't work out the way we planned. The car was loose, and we couldn't tighten it up no matter what we tried. It's just frustrating. We need to do better."
ETC.: Busch spent the first part of the week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway practicing for the Indianapolis 500. Sunday was Busch's first chance to run in traffic, in what he called "dirty air." He ran 31 laps with a best lap of 220.352 miles per hour. "It was a nice rookie day to go play in traffic," said Busch, who is attempting to become only the fourth driver to run both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. "The Andretti Autosport guys ramped up where we are with the levels, to get in dirty air. Today was a nice shakedown, and the second run was a baseline run. It was nice to have a champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay, take me around (the track in a pace car). At 220 things are moving quick, but it's a lot of fun. Thursday we're going to look at taking down force off the car to get in qualifying mode. We'll see how it all pans out." On Monday, Busch ran 95 laps with a top speed of 222.720 mph, ninth fastest. The first round of qualifying for the 500 is set for Saturday afternoon.