NASCAR Driver Capsules, July 25
Updated On: Jul 25 2013 10:36:33 AM CDT
By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson is in first place for the 14th straight week after Daytona. He leads second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 56 points and third-ranked Carl Edwards by 73 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 11 career starts, 4 wins, 4 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Finished first in this race last year and was 19th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Defending winner Johnson is seeking to become the first five-time winner of the Brickyard 400 this Sunday. Here's his thoughts: "It took me quite a while to figure out the track. But I feel that tracks that are unique and quirky, one-of-a-kind tracks, I seem to adapt well to them. Those are tracks like Martinsville, Dover, Darlington, and the Brickyard. There isn't a track out there like those. In my opinion, once you figure out how to drive those quirky tracks, you've got something that doesn't change. It always takes that line and that rhythm to get it right; and when I show up at the race track, I stay very focused on that particular driving style. We adjust the car to it, and it pays off. So for me, it's just finding that line; and then once I've got it, I seem to own it. At the Brickyard, I found it on my own. I found it through a lot of frustrating test sessions, races, a few crashed cars, and then it finally clicked. I don't remember the exact moment. I do at Martinsville, but I don't at Indy. It was just one weekend we came back and the light went off in my mind and I'm like, that's how! And then we won. That was our first win!"
LOOKING BACK: Johnson didn't dominate like he did the week before at Daytona, but still had a strong run at New Hampshire. Even though he didn't lead any laps, he finished sixth. Here's his thoughts on the race: "We had a great race car. Once you get to the top 10, that's a different game trying to pass cars and work your way to the front there. Really, the lane that you were in on a restart had a huge impact on how many cars you could pass. A few times I was on the outside and made my way to third and then a few times on the inside and I slipped back. All in all a great day for the Lowe's team and just very proud of the effort these guys put in week in and week out. We are all going to enjoy this off week and then come back and get ready to go to Indy."
ETC.: Even though he has four wins at there, Johnson has completed just 89.2 percent (1,571) of the 1,761 total laps contested in 11 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 13.5 and average finish is 16.8. He has three DNFs there.
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer remained in second place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. However, he dropped from 49 points to 56 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson, and leads third-ranked Carl Edwards by 17 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 7 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2006 and 2010. Was 15 in this race last year and finished 13th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer left New Hampshire still looking for his first win in 2013. He heads to Indianapolis where he's had mixed success, more bad than good. Still, a winless Bowyer is a dangerous Bowyer, and he could pull off a huge upset with a win at Indy. Here's his thoughts on how this season has gone: "I'm a calculator in terms of managing risk versus reward. Yes, second in points puts us in a position where we could take a shot and more importantly being 116 points in front of 11th place helps a lot. We'll see. We are not locked in. You look at what the No. 5 car did from Dover over a stretch of a couple weeks and he lost almost 70 points in about three weeks, so I definitely want to watch that something like that doesn't happen. Come mid-August around Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond I think we have as good of a shot as anyone to win. If we keep on the pace that we're on now and we can lock in around Bristol that would be super exciting for us - then we can go for some wins. I think it's all risk versus reward. It's easy to sit back and second guess, but you have to make the Chase in this series and we have to do what we can to do that first."
LOOKING BACK: After a third-place finish at Kentucky and fourth-place showing at Daytona, Bowyer dropped to a 13th place but still respectable finish at New Hampshire. But it was still a great day for the Michael Waltrip Racing team as Brian Vickers, driving a part-time schedule for the team in 2013 (while also racing full-time on the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing), won his first race in 75 starts at Loudon. Said Vickers after the win, "Man, I just thank God for the chance and the opportunity to come back and this team and Rodney (Childers, crew
chief), and just everyone believing in me and giving me a second chance."
ETC.: Bowyer has completed an outstanding 100 percent (1,120) of the 1,120 total laps contested in seven career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 20.4 and average finish is 12.3. He has zero DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After spending the previous nine weeks in second place, Carl Edwards remained in third place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 73 points, second-ranked Clint Bowyer by 17 points and leads fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick by one point.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2008. Was 29th in this race last year and finished 14th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards has ridden a roller coaster over the last eight races at Indianapolis, up and down, up and down. After finishing 14th and 29th in his last two starts there, he's due for a bounce back upward on Sunday. Here's his thoughts: "The Brickyard is a big race for our Fastenal team. The track is very unique and fast and has a lot of history. It's a race on the schedule that neither Jimmy nor I have won. Because it's near Fastenal's biggest distribution center, a win there would be huge. Our goal is to go there to win the pole and the race."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing a disappointing 29th at Daytona the week before, Edwards rebounded with an eighth-place finish at New Hampshire. Here's what he had to say about the track at Loudon: "Loudon has been hit or miss for us. It is fun to go there because the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group are based up there. A win would (have been) huge. ... It is a deceivingly tough track."
ETC.: Edwards has completed a near-perfect 99.7 percent (1,276) of the 1,280 total laps contested in eight career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 22.0 and average finish is 13.2. He has zero DNFs there.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick remained in fourth place for the fifth straight week after New Hampshire. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 74 points, is one point behind third-ranked Carl Edwards and leads fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 44 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 12 career starts, 1 wins, 4 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in 2003. Was 13th in this race last year and 11th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: After finishing second at Indianapolis in 2010, Harvick has not had the results he'd like the last two races there. But given the season he's had thus far and the fact that this is his last season with Richard Childress Racing, expect Harvick to give everything he has to win at Indy on Sunday. Here's his thoughts: "It's quite the place to win at. I'm not sure exactly why we run so well at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it's a good track to perform well at, and we've done so throughout the years. Hopefully we can do the same thing this time around because it's a fun race to win. We ran well at Pocono Raceway and Auto Club Speedway, so the longer tracks have been treating us pretty well this season. I just hope that continues so we can experience another Brickyard 400 win."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick had another strong run this past Sunday at New Hampshire, one of his favorite tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, finishing seventh. Here's his thoughts on that race: "We struggled terribly today. We were able to make something out of it, but we've got a lot of work to do before we come back (for the fall Chase race)."
ETC.: Harvick has completed 99.4 percent (1,909) of the 1,921 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 15.6 and average finish is 10.2. He has zero DNFs there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in fifth place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 118 points, is 44 points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads sixth-ranked Kyle Busch by two points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2012. Was a career-best fourth in this race last year and 16th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has had very limited success at Indianapolis. He's still looking for his first win of the season, and a win at the Brickyard would likely rank right up there with his Daytona 500 win in 2004 as one of the biggest wins of his career. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I like coming to Indy and like the history of the racetrack. The history there is incredible. It's been able to survive a lot of things, and here we are racing on it today. It is just incredible. It is a challenging place. It is one groove and you kind of fight getting aero-tight behind people. You know when you show up for practice what you of need out of your car. We will work hard this weekend and see where we end up."
LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a marginal car and wound up with a marginal 14th place finish. He tried to challenge at times, but just didn't have a strong enough car to compete with the leaders.
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed just 92.5 percent (1,924) of the 2,081 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 17.0, while his average finish is 20.3. He has three DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch moved up one spot and into a tie for sixth place with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth after New Hampshire. The two teammates trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 120 points, are two points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by 31 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in the 2012 race. Finished second in this race last year and was 10th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Despite all the controversy after the race at New Hampshire with Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch would like nothing more than to win at Indianapolis. He came so close in last year's race, only to lose to Jimmie Johnson. Could Sunday be Busch's turn to finally win at Indy, and where does it rank on his list of most important races to win? "It's number two. It's right there. Daytona is one, Indy is two. They're both pretty close. Indy is an important racetrack for a lot of people. The history of that place, it's all been Indy cars. But it's still one of the first big superspeedways in America dating back to the early 1900s. There's a lot there that everyone always wants to win."
LOOKING BACK: Busch led 53 laps Sunday at New Hampshire, but just couldn't catch Brian Vickers at the end. Here's Busch's thoughts on the race: "Our worst finish of finishing races this season is sixth. All the rest of them have been wadded-up in a pile or blown up or something like that. Daytona was 12th -- I crossed the line 12th, but I was wrecking. So, that was a good day. ... We just got to keep knocking these out. It's good to get an off week, rebound a little bit, go to Indy and start our last 18 weeks."
ETC.: Busch has completed 96.2 percent (1,232) of the 1,280 total laps contested in eight career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 21.1, while his average finish is 11.8. He has zero DNFs there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth remained in sixth place after New Hampshire, but is now tied with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The two teammates trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 120 points, are two points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by 31 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2003 and 2006. Finished 35th in this race last year and was fifth in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has had a phenomenal season to date, tied with Jimmie Johnson with four wins each. Kenseth has come close to winning at Indianapolis several times in the past, but never has sealed the deal. With the way he's been running in 2013, could this be the year he finally conquers the Brickyard - especially with the way he finished so disappointing in last year's race due to a wreck?
LOOKING BACK: There's no question Joe Gibbs Racing was prepared at New Hampshire, with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth both leading a significant number of laps. Unfortunately, neither one won. Busch finished second to fellow Toyota driver Brian Vickers, while Kenseth faded late in the race to finish ninth. Here's Kenseth's thoughts on his performance: "It was kind of uphill. I had a good car, probably the best car I've ever had here, probably a top-three to five car, for sure. Kind of lost our track position when Kurt (Busch) cleaned out (Ryan) Newman. I had to stop to miss that wreck. Lost all our
track position again. Just wasn't good enough to get it all back."
ETC.: Kenseth has completed just 90.2 percent (1,878) of the 2,081 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 19.7 and average finish is 15.8. He has two DNFs there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle remained in eighth place for the second consecutive week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 151 points, is 31 points behind the sixth-place tie of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth and leads ninth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 16 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 10 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in 2010 and 2012. Finished third in this race last year and was seventh in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle has never missed a lap in the 10 previous starts he's had at Indianapolis. And, with six top-10 finishes in those 10 starts, Biffle has become quite adept at getting around the legendary 2.5-mile track. With three top-five and two other top-10 finishes in his last five starts, he's been knocking on the door for a win at Indy. Could Sunday be his day to do so? Here's his thoughts on the race: "I love racing at Indy, we always seem to run well there. I can't wait to kiss the bricks. I feel like we have a good car, we've gained a lot on downforce and a lot on drag. I'm looking forward to having a good engine and qualifying up front. This thing is going to be ours."
LOOKING BACK: After a 34th-place finish at Kentucky and a 17th-place finish at Daytona, Biffle wound up with a 15th-place finish this past Sunday at New Hampshire.
ETC.: Biffle has completed an outstanding 100 percent (1,601) of the 1,601 total laps contested in 10 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 15.3 and average finish is 12.1. He has zero DNFs there.
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski climbed back into the top-10 in the Sprint Cup standings, jumping four places after New Hampshire and into ninth place. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 167 points, is 16 points behind eighth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads 10th-ranked Kasey Kahne by six points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 3 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-five, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Ninth in 2011 and 2012.
LOOKING AHEAD: If Keselowski is to defend his Sprint Cup championship, he'll have to really pick up his game from this point forward. He still has yet to win his first race of the season, and Indianapolis would be a great stage to do so, particularly with the fact he has back-to-back ninth-place finishes there in his last two starts. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "You can't go to the Brickyard without thinking about what the track means not only to NASCAR, but to auto racing in general. Being from the Midwestern section of the country myself, I always looked to the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 and wondered what it would be like to compete there. Now we have the Brickyard 400 for stock cars and it has become one of the most prestigious races in the country as well. Everyone on the Miller Lite Ford Fusion team is excited about the new car we are bringing this weekend. A lot of work went into building it and I think it's going to give us our best shot yet to get Mr. Penske a Brickyard 400 trophy."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski had the top-finishing Ford at New Hampshire, earning a fourth-place finish.
ETC.: Busch has completed an outstanding 100 percent (480) of the 480 total laps contested in three career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 12.7, while his average finish there is 12.3. He has zero DNFs there.
5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Kasey Kahne climbed back into the top 10, gaining two places in the standings after New Hampshire to go into the off-week in 10th position. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 173 points, is six points behind ninth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads the 11th-ranked tie between Martin Truex Jr. and Jeff Gordon by two points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 9 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2005. Finished 12th in this race last year and was 18th in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne started out like gangbusters in his first two career Cup races at Indianapolis, with finishes of fourth and second in 2004 and 2005. But since then, he's been up and down like a roller coaster. He's looking for his second win of the season, but given his mixed bag of performance there, one has to wonder if he may just want to get as best a finish as he can and move on to the next race. More importantly, however, Kahne has to do what he can to remain in the top-10 between now and Richmond to assure himself a spot in the Chase, rather than have to worry about whether he'll make it as one of the two wild card entries. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I lived in Indianapolis for three years and watched tons of (Indianapolis) 500s and Brickyard 400s over the years so I really want to win there. I would just love to at some point in time. I came close a few different times. I gave it away in 2005, and we've been close a couple other times and just haven't got it done. But it's a neat track. It's a really precise, technical place that seems like you can just miss your mark by a little bit and really slow down your speed of lap, especially with those long straightaways. So it's a neat place, and I enjoy qualifying there because you can run so hard and then the race is pretty cool, too."
LOOKING BACK: All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished in the top-14 at New Hampshire, with Kahne finishing 11th, right behind teammate Jeff Gordon and three spots ahead of fellow teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
ETC.: Kahne has completed 91.5 percent (1,319) of the 1,441 total laps contested in nine starts at Indianapolis. His average start is an outstanding 8.7, but his average finish is 15.4. He has two DNFs there.
56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only two points out of the top 10. Stands first in the wild card standings with one win.
INDY RECORD: Finished eighth a year ago for his first top-10 finish at the famed Brickyard.
LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said, "Just going to Indy is cool. It has so much history around it. The prestige of winning there is incredible. It sure would be nice to kiss the bricks. I think we have a chance. We have had some really good runs there over the years including last year in the NAPA Toyota. You definitely need horsepower, aero and good handling. You need it all to be fast there."
LOOKING BACK: Truex finished 16th at Loudon.
ETC.: Truex spent the off week relaxing in the Bahamas. This included swimming with sharks. "It was something that I had never done before and it certainly wasn't scary or even crazy like you would expect it to be. They were only three to four feet long and we were given instructions as to what to do. By all means, we're not talking about great whites. They were nurse sharks so they were not aggressive. They just wanted you to pet them. We had a good time and my batteries got charged up in time for one of the biggest weeks in our sport."
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only two points out of the top 10. Stands third in the wild card standings.
INDY RECORD: Will be seeking his third straight top-five finish and sixth top-nine finish in the last seven races. Has won the famed Brickyard 400 four times. His 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10 finishes rank first in those two categories as does 477 laps led.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon, who grew up in Pittsboro, Ind., only a few miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said, "I never dreamed I would win one, let alone four there. Winning five would be unimaginable. This is just a special place. Flying in, I'm always excited and eager to look out the window and see the track. I think I was 11 the first time I flew over the track, and I thought that was the coolest thing. I just love this event (the Brickyard 400) and competing here. I think this track suits my driving style, and the team has given me great cars here over the years. I always come here with confidence."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon rallied from a late spin to finish 10th at Loudon to move up two spots in the standings and close to within only two points of the top 10.
ETC.: Gordon feels the team needs to "win a race or two, being tied for 11th isn't doing us a whole lot of good. We've got to be a little further up, but it's nice to be that close (to the top 10). We continue to have frustrating days and things not going quite our way, but yet we continue to hang in there (in his bid to make the Chase). Hopefully, we can get it turned around and have some things go our way when it matters most and get ourselves in this Chase."
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, only five points out of the top 10. Stands second in the wild card standings with one win.
INDY RECORD: Will be seeking his fifth straight top-10 finish and tenth in the last 11 races. Included in this streak is two wins - 2005 and 2007.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart said, "This is an event that I definitely circle on my schedule, emotionally having a lot invested in it. To us it's definitely not just another stop that's on the calendar and on the schedule. You don't just pull in and say, 'We're going to go in and try to win the race,' then pull out of here. When you're here, you're amped up because you're at Indianapolis. It's definitely not just another victory to us. It's a big deal for us to win here."
LOOKING BACK: Stewart led 84 of the final 100 laps, but ran out of gas on the start of the green-white-checkered flag finish to end up 26th at Loudon.
ETC.: Stewart admits he wasn't a big fan of NASCAR racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the idea first came up in the early 1990's. "The first time they came (in 1994), I'll be honest, I was 100 percent against it," said Stewart. "When you grow up in the state of Indiana, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Holy Grail to you. I didn't want to see anything different come to it. To me, it was the Indy 500 and that's all it was supposed to be. But after the second year, I was kind of on the fence and by the third year I was a fan. Luckily my career path allowed me to come race here. Kissing the bricks (after his win in 2005) was everything to me. My whole life, since I was a kid, that's what I wanted to do. Not that I had some fascination with kissing bricks as a kid. But my fascination to do it here was pretty obsessive."
78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet
Team: Furniture Row Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, only seven points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "Indy has been a tough track for me. It's been frustrating there just to find the groove over the years. My first time at Indy I got a top-five and never gotten another one since. It might have been blind luck the first time out. When they diamonded out the surface that's when I started to (really) struggle - since that moment in 2005. It's like you're throwing a setup out in the middle of the track and you hope that it sticks for Sunday. We took a big hit in New Hampshire and need to get back into the top-10. We're right there, but need to avoid mistakes and being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
LOOKING BACK: Busch led three times for a race-high 102 laps, but his victory hopes were eliminated with 75 laps to go when he was involved in a multi-car accident. Busch ended up 31st to lose five spots in the standings and fall out of the top 10.
ETC.: Busch hopes his test run in an open-wheel car at Indy in May will boost his chances of a good showing in the 400 on Sunday. "I had a great experience at Indy back in May testing an Andretti Autosport Indy car," said Busch. "It's an awesome feeling to race at this historic track and a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is what drivers want on their resume."
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 16 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Won the 2010 race. Has five top-seven finishes in 10 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is "ready to get to Indy this week. Our team is very focused right now and we are ready to get back to action this weekend in Indianapolis. We have worked hard to put ourselves in a good position over the last few weeks with some solid finishes. Indianapolis is one of the places that is special to win with all the history and tradition at the speedway. I feel that our cars are getting better every week and the Brickyard would be a great place to get on a roll as we head closer to the Chase."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 12th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to move up two spots in the standings and close to within 16 points of the top 10.
ETC.: McMurray feels he could be in the top 10 in the point standings if his luck hadn't been so bad in the first half of the season. "Our year has been really good, we've just not be able to finish where we've been running," said McMurray, noting a blown tire at Michigan, a punctured radiator at Dover, a broken radiator at Charlotte and being in the wrong place at the wrong time at Daytona. "Speed-wise we've been good all year."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 21 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Finished 19th last year in his first Cup start.
LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "Indy is awesome. It is unreal to drive down that front straightaway with grandstands on both sides. It's like you are driving through a tunnel at 200 miles per hour. It's an amazing feeling. I remember when they started racing the Brickyard 400, watching it, and thinking what it would be like to race at that track with all its history and nostalgia. Now, to have that opportunity, is really special."
LOOKING BACK: Excellent pit strategy allowed Almirola to finish fifth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to gain three spots in the standings and get back in the thick of the battle for the Chase.
ETC.: Crew chief Todd Parrott is the one that started the NASCAR tradition of kissing the bricks when he was the crew chief for Dale Jarrett. Following Jarrett's win in 1996, Parrott suggested that to celebrate the win "we need to kick the bricks at the Brickyard." The Jarrett-Parrott combo won the race a second time in 1999.
31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 25 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Five top-10 finishes in 19 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Burton believes "it's definitely not easy" getting around Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "You have to be aggressive and push yourself," adds Burton. "The corners look the same, but they drive completely different. Turns one and three are at the end of those long straightaways and you would think they are the same, but they aren't. Turn three has way more grip then turn one, while turn two has the least amount of grip. Then you get to turn four and realize it has the most grip. Most people don't know this, but all of the corners also have different banking which makes it unique. It's a really interesting race track."
LOOKING BACK: Burton led four times for 14 races and finished a season-high third at Loudon to jump four spots in the standings and boost his chances of making the Chase.
ETC.: Burton is convinced the decision by Indianapolis Motor Speedway to bring NASCAR to the famed facility "was a game changer for NASCAR. In the 1990's, NASCAR took over as the leader in motorsports. Going to Indianapolis put us in a different category and we've gone there and put on good races and filled the stands every time. I think it was good for Indy, too. Bringing stock cars there was a historic occasion and it ruffled a few feathers, but at the end of the day, it was good for the race track and for the area. Overall, it has had a positive impact on the sport."
22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 36 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: One top-10 in four starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Logano calls Indianapolis Motor Speedway "one of the coolest race tracks in the entire world. When you drive around the place, you just know that this is a unique place to race. It's a track and a race that everyone wants to win. There are a few tracks - Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, Talladega, Bristol - where you really want to win and Indy is near the top of that list. And to get a chance to race there for Roger Penske, knowing the history that he has at Indy, is pretty cool. Now, what would be even better is to win the race for Roger. That would be cool."
LOOKING BACK: Logano agreed to spend his off Sprint Cup weekend racing in the Nationwide Series at Chicagoland Speedway after a request by Penske. Both Logano and Penske were elated with the results as Logano won the race and led a 1-2 sweep for Penske Racing. "Really big for us to get a 1-2 finish for Penske," said Logano. "Our goal was to win this thing. That's why I came out here on my off week, it was to come out here and win. I'm glad I did." The victory was Logano's 20th on the Nationwide Series.
ETC.: Two races ago, Logano stood 10th in the Sprint Cup standings. But two bad-luck races in a row has dropped him to 18th. Logano feels he has to step up and "be a leader" to help the team overcome its recent troubles. "The guys are going to look at you," said Logano. "The thing is that we know the last two weeks things have happened beyond our control. There is nothing you can do when you have tire issues and we've had them two weeks in a row. But we've been running really well and I think that will continue. You just have to keep the guys pumped up."
39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 36 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Finished seventh a year ago for only his second top-10 finish in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman calls Indianapolis Motor Speedway "a unique race track. We all know that. It's a lot of fun, especially when you're up front. It seems like the straightaways go on forever and you can just sit there and relax and drive the race car. It's really a deal where, if you have a fast race car, you will have fun. If your car isn't fast, it's going to be a miserable day. It is so difficult to pass there. But for me, I think racing at Indianapolis is just about the history."
LOOKING BACK: A late-race accident triggered when Matt Kenseth ran into the back of Kurt Busch resulted in a 39th-place finish for Newman as he lost three spots in the standings.
ETC.: Newman said his "favorite Brickyard moment was probably my first competitive lap that I ever had there back in 2001. Everybody was in qualifying trim in practice - the way we used to do with the schedule. We were quickest out of the box. I wasn't even a rookie at that point and I was the quickest car in practice. So that was pretty cool. I ended up qualifying fifth because I bounced off the wall in turn four. But that, to me, was pretty impressive - to be that much of a rookie and to be that competitive at a track that is so difficult."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 36 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Won the Brickyard 400 in 2011.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "Indy is a place where I spent a lot of time when I was younger. It will always be a very special place for me since it's the track when I got my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. We've had a tough month so far, and we are looking forward to changing our luck this weekend. I've got a brand new number 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet for this weekend, and I'm ready to get on track after having a weekend off. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the greatest race track in the world and it's always a pleasure to walk through the gates at 'The Brickyard'."
LOOKING BACK: Menard finished 17th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
ETC.: Car owner Richard Childress is the only car owner to win the Brickyard 400 with three different driver - Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Menard. Childress, surprisingly, calls the Menard victory maybe the best of the three. "Not taking anything away from Dale or Kevin's first win there, but that one was so special I think because of being able to win a race with Paul, being able to win at Indy, where that whole family had put so much into Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said Childress. "John Menard (Paul's father) played a huge role there for many years. To be able to win that race with him, have his whole family there that day, it was almost a storybook ending to a great venture in Indy for John Menard."
17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 47 points out of the top 10, 11 points out of the top 20.
INDY RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse said he is "looking forward to my first Cup start at Indy. A win at Indy is something every driver dreams about. We ran there last year for the first time in the Nationwide Series and finished ninth after running in the top 10 for most of the day. Track position is crucial at Indy so we will have to stay up front and work on pit strategy. I'm confident we can earn a top-10 finish this weekend in our Ford Ecoboost Fusion."
LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse was involved in a late-race accident and finished 34th at Loudon.
ETC.: Crew chief Scott Graves said, "It would be awesome to get our first top-10 at Indy, a track with so much history. Qualifying on Saturday is super important so we will work hard on Friday to get our car dialed in for qualifying on Saturday. Ricky has only raced at Indy once so there will be learning curve but I feel confident that we can have a strong performance at Indy."
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 83 points out of the top 10, 47 points out of the top 20.
INDY RECORD: Finished 20th a year ago for his best finish in five starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose points out that "I am blessed to have had the opportunity to race around the world. I have raced on tracks throughout Europe, back home in Australia and now here in the United States. I can tell you, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has an unmatched history of any track. It has its own place in motorsports history and that's what makes it so special. Any driver wants to win a race at Indianapolis."
LOOKING BACK: Ambrose was involved in an early-race accident at Loudon and ended the day in 33rd place.
ETC.: Ambrose said he "enjoys watching as much of the Indianapolis 500 each May as possible. I know some of the guys and it's always a great race to watch. I think they watch us too when we race here in July. They respect that we can race these heavier stock cars around the track. It gives us and the open-wheel guys some common ground."
42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 99 points out of the top 10, 53 points out of the top 20.
INDY RECORD: One top-five finish, a second, in six races.
LOOKING AHEAD: Montoya feels this may be the year he finally wins Indy. In 2009, he dominated the race, leading a race-high 116 laps. But he was penalized for speeding on pit road as he made his final stop of the race. Montoya ended up 11th. A year later, Montoya led 86 laps, but a decision to change all four tires on a late pit stop dropped him out of the lead. He restarted seventh and was extremely aggressive and got caught up in a late-race accident that left him in 32nd-place.
LOOKING BACK: Montoya finished 24th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He spent the week off on his farm outside his native Bogota, Columbia.
ETC.: Montoya believes the future is quite bright at EGR. "We have the right people now," said Montoya. "We have the ability now and the future is even brighter. The encouraging thing is we're actually starting to see the light again. It's fun. It's been a year of ups and down, but the downs are now 16th and the ups are nearly wins. Last year an up was 25th. It was painful."
10 DANICA PATRICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE SHE STANDS: 27TH, 173 points out of the top 10.
INDY RECORD: Will be making her Sprint Cup debut. She had six top-10 finishes in seven Indianapolis 500 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Patrick said, "I don't care what I drive around Indy, I love being there. I just like everything about it. I like the facility, obviously. And to me, the special thing about Indy is, obviously, I've had great experiences, but it's all about the track. The older I get, the more I realize how much history and tradition plays a role in what's important and what matters and what means the most to you."
LOOKING BACK: Patrick was another driver involved in a late-race accident at Loudon as she finished 37th.
ETC.: Patrick tested at Indy earlier this month, and she discovered driving a stock car around the 2.5-mile track isn't much different than driving an off-wheel car. "It's just about finding a balance with car out there, which is no different than in an Indy car," said Patrick. "In an Indy car, we learned very quickly that it's about how much throttle you could carry around. The stock cars get very low in the corners, and that can be a little bit of a danger in an Indy car, especially if you get just a little bit too low and get a little loose. So that's a little bit different, I suppose, but nothing that was terribly unexpected."
55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 29th, 209 points out of the top 10. The team is ranked 13th in the car owner standings and second in the wild card standings with one win.
INDY RECORD: 11 top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 19 starts. Has finished second twice.
LOOKING AHEAD: Martin hopes to follow in Brian Vickers' footsteps and put the 55 car in victory lane this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Man, what an awesome thing for Brian and Rodney (Childers, crew chief), Aaron's and everyone at MWR," said Martin. "I was watching on television but I felt like I was driving along with Brian in the closing laps. It was nerve wracking. It was just an awesome moment for everyone here. I've enjoyed my time off, but I'm ready to go again. No doubt about it, an Indianapolis win would be special. We can do it."
LOOKING BACK: Brian Vickers drove the 55 car at Loudon and won the race after passing Tony Stewart for the lead with 16 laps to go.
ETC.: Vickers' victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway vaulted the 55 team into contention for the owners' championship. "One of the very first things we talked about was racing for an owner's championship; let's shake up the system," said Ty Norris, executive vice president at Michael Waltrip Racing. "We have multiple drivers but if we can win some races and be in a situation where we can run for an owner's championship that can be just as remarkable as running for a driver's championship, so our team has rallied around that."
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