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NASCAR Driver Capsules, July 9

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jul 09 2014 11:58:29 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2014 04:06:15 PM CDT
NASCAR race

Chris Keane/Reuters

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 Daytona and for 11 of the last 12 weeks. Gordon leads second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 27 points each.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 38 career starts, 3 wins, 16 top-5s, 22 top-10s, 4 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 1995, fall 1997 and fall 1998. Finished 10th in this race last year and was 15th in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is still looking for his second win of the season. He also hasn't won at New Hampshire in more than 15 years. Could he accomplish both goals Sunday? Said Gordon, "Loudon has always been a good and consistent track for us, and I'm really looking forward to this weekend. Hendrick Motorsports tested at New Hampshire a few weeks ago and I thought the No. 24 team had a really good test. We've had some good cars and some strong runs at Loudon recently, but that doesn't make a weekend any easier. We still have to work hard from Friday morning through the end of the race on Sunday."

LOOKING BACK: Gordon led just two laps in Sunday's rain-shortened race at Daytona and finished 12th.

ETC.: Gordon has completed 98.3 percent (11,058) of the 11,250 total laps contested in 38 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is an outstanding 9.6 and average finish is just as outstanding at 10.6. He has two DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in second place for the second week. Earnhardt trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 27 points each and is 28 points ahead of fellow teammate and third-ranked Jimmie Johnson.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 29 career starts, 0 wins, 7 top-5s, 12 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in summer fall 2004. Finished 14th in this race last year and was sixth in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has never won at New Hampshire, but it's not because he hasn't tried. He likes the one-mile flat track and hopes to finally break through Sunday. Said Earnhardt: "We went to New Hampshire (recently for a test) trying to find that little bit extra as a whole group. You only get four tests from which to choose and the whole company has to agree on where we're going. It's a company-wide initiative to try and improve, so I think it says a lot that we chose New Hampshire as one of those tests."

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt stayed out of trouble for the most part in Daytona, did not lead any laps, and came home with a decent 14th-place finish.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 94.6 percent (8,085 laps) of the 8,550 total laps contested in 29 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 16.0 and average finish is 15.7. He has four DNFs there.

48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson dropped from a tie for second into third place following Daytona. He trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 55 points, is 28 points behind second-ranked teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fourth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 10 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 24 career starts, 3 wins, 9 top-5s, 17 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2003 and fall 2003, and summer 2010. Finished sixth in this race last year and was fourth in the fall Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson makes his 25th career start at New Hampshire this Sunday. After a disappointing finish at Daytona, he's looking to earn his first win at the Loudon track in four years. Said Johnson, "We were pretty disappointed last weekend with the result at Daytona. I really felt like we had a fast car and to be there for all that time only to be knocked out of the race at lap 20 was tough. We are looking forward to New Hampshire and then the off-weekend. Everyone on this team works so hard, they deserve some time off and I hope that we can head into the break with a good finish at Loudon."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson got into the first big wreck of the day just 20 laps into Sunday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. His car was unable to be repaired and Johnson finished with one of his worst outings of the season thus far, winding up 42nd out of 43 drivers.

ETC.: Johnson has been near-perfect at Loudon, completing 7,009 laps (99.0 percent) of the 7,077 total laps contested in 24 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 12.4 and his average finish is an outstanding 9.2. Equally impressive is he has zero DNFs there.

2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Brad Keselowski remained in fourth place for the second consecutive week after Daytona. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 65 points, is 10 points behind third-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth by six points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Nine career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: Second in fall 2011. Finished fourth in this race last year and was 11th in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski has really taken to racing on the flat one-mile track at Loudon, but is still seeking his first win there. Could it be this Sunday? Said Keselowski, "Loudon is one of the tracks that we run very well, and our results are not necessarily indicative of our performance. We earned a couple of poles there, one of which was my first career pole, which stands out in my mind. The way we have been qualifying this year with the new format I feel confident that we should have an ideal starting position. We did a short-track test recently and we found some things that should helpful this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski was involved in one of the two big wrecks at Daytona, and while it didn't knock him out of the race, he finished a disappointing 18th, the first driver off the lead lap.

ETC.: Keselowski has completed 98.3 percent (2,632) of the 2,678 total laps contested in nine career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 14.4 and his average finish is 12.6. He has zero DNFs there.

20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth remained in fifth place for the second consecutive week after Daytona. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 71 points, is six points behind fourth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads sixth-ranked Joey Logano by 34 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 28 career starts, 1 win, 6 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2013. Finished ninth in this race last year and won for the first time in his career at Loudon in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is looking for back-to-back wins at Loudon, having won there last fall. More importantly, he's also still looking for his first win of 2014. Can he achieve both goals on Sunday? Said Kenseth, "(Having won there last fall) probably gives you a little bit more confidence because I feel like that's been probably one of my worst tracks in the past. We performed pretty well there last year in both races, so I think it probably gives you a little more confidence heading into this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led 12 laps of Sunday's rain-shortened race at Daytona, but finished 20th, one lap off the lead lap.

ETC.: Even though he considers New Hampshire one of his worst tracks, Kenseth has completed a near-perfect 99.1 percent (8,173) of the 8,250 total laps contested in 28 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 20.4 and his average finish is 13.4. He has one DNF there.

22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: After three weeks in seventh, Joey Logano moved up one spot to sixth place after Daytona. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 105 points, is 34 points behind fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads seventh-ranked Carl Edwards by three points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 11 career starts, 1 wins, 2 top-5s, 4 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2009. Finished 40th in this race last year and was 14th in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Having grown up in neighboring Connecticut, Logano always welcomes returning to his "home track" in New Hampshire. He's still looking for his second career win there and thinks he has a good shot this Sunday. Said Logano, "The funny part about it is that it is probably one of the toughest tracks for me on the entire schedule. I just don't really run that well there. But it has been pretty important, especially getting my first win there. Even that day though, we didn't run the best, we just had the best strategy when the rain was coming and took advantage of it. But I've generally struggled at the track. It's gotten better over the last couple of years and I've had a couple of top 10s there, but it's definitely my kryptonite on the schedule. ... I think we could change a lot of that this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Logano stayed out of trouble for the most part at Daytona and came home with a 17th-place finish, the last driver on the lead lap.

ETC.: Logano has completed 95.8 percent (3,140 laps) of the 3,278 laps contested in 11 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 22.0 and average finish is 17.5. He has one DNF there.

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards dropped from sixth to seventh place after Daytona. He is now 108 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon (was 82 points back prior to Daytona), is three points behind sixth-ranked Joey Logano and leads eighth-ranked Ryan Newman by nine points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 19 career starts, 0 win, 2 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in summer 2006. Finished eighth in this race last year and was ninth in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards will be making the 20th career start of his Sprint Cup career Sunday at New Hampshire and is still in search of his first career win there. When asked if there's been any movement on where he'll race next season, either renewing his current deal with Roush Fenway Racing or moving to another team, Edwards remains tight-lipped. Said Edwards, "No, no there isn't (anything new) and it isn't bothering me to keep it to myself either."

LOOKING BACK: Edwards was involved in the early multi-car wreck at Daytona, but was able to return later after repairs were made. He ultimately finished 37th.

ETC.: Even though he's never won a Sprint Cup race there, Edwards has completed an almost perfect 99.9 percent (5,667) of 5,670 total laps contested in 19 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 15.3 and his average finish is 13.8. He has zero DNFs there.

31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Ryan Newman remained in eighth place for the third straight week after Daytona. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 117 points, is nine points behind seventh-ranked Carl Edwards and leads ninth-ranked Kyle Busch by 10 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 24 career starts, 3 wins, 6 top-5, 15 top-10, 7 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2002, fall 2005 and summer 2011. Finished 39th in this race last year and was 16th in last fall's Chase race there (started from the pole).

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman will be making his 25th start at New Hampshire this Sunday. He's also looking for his record-extending eighth pole there and his first win and pole of 2014 as well. Said Newman, "New Hampshire has always been a good track for me, which is why I consider it to be one of my favorite tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit. It's the place where I scored my first Cup win. I've found a way to be fastest on both Fridays and Sundays. I also enjoy the Modified races here and will compete in that event, as well. It's going to be a very busy weekend for me, but it will be a lot of fun. I really enjoy the area and the fans are great. New Hampshire is always a place I look forward to going back to each year."

LOOKING BACK: Newman was involved in the big 25-car wreck and managed to complete just 100 of the rain-shortened 112-lap event at Daytona, ultimately finishing 24th.

ETC.: Newman has completed 97.7 percent (6,914) of the 7,077 total laps contested in 24 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is an outstanding 8.0 and his average finish is 14.0. He has three DNFs there.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch climbed from 10th to ninth place after Daytona. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 127 points (was 110 points back prior to Daytona), is 10 points behind eighth-ranked Ryan Newman and leads 10th-ranked Paul Menard by eight points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 18 career starts, 1 wins, 6 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in summer 2006. Finished second in this race last season and was second again in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch admits New Hampshire isn't his favorite track because he's had more struggles than success there. Said Busch, "Loudon is tricky for me. For some reason, I never figured it out with our last car (the so-called Car of Tomorrow). ... We had two great finishes there last year - I was second both times. We would certainly like to turn those seconds into wins, though. So, it's been one of those places that's just kind of tricky sometimes to figure out for me - just the flatness of the corners, how hard do you get into the corner, how much brake do you use, how much do you let the car roll, how hard to get back on the gas - there are so many different things you've got to work through at Loudon."

LOOKING BACK: Busch was also involved in the big 25-car wreck near the end of Sunday's race at Daytona, but his was a bit scarier than the others involved: he wound up upside down until the car was righted. He even joked over the team radio while waiting for the safety crew to arrive, saying, "I'm just hanging around here (upside down)." Busch ultimately finished 28th.

ETC.: Busch has completed 97.8 percent (5,254 laps) of the 5,370 total laps contested in 18 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 11.7 and average finish is 15.1. He has zero DNFs there.

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Paul Menard climbed into the top 10 and into 10th place after Daytona. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 135 points, is eight points behind ninth-ranked Kyle Busch and leads 11th-ranked Kevin Harvick by two points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s, 0 pole. Best career finish: 12th in fall 2012. Finished 17th in this race last season and was 22nd in last fall's Chase race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: New Hampshire is by far one of Menard's worst-performing tracks. As he makes his 15th start there this Sunday, he's looking for his first top-10 as well. Said Menard, "New Hampshire is one of those tracks where everyone basically runs the same speed. There are usually about five guys that stand out and everyone else runs the same speed. It's really hard to pass, but it's a couple grooves so you just have to make your car work where the other guys can't. We'll try to work on that apron and get some good drive off, but you have to maintain the turn."

LOOKING BACK: Menard managed to complete all 112 laps in Sunday's rain-shortened race at Daytona, ultimately ending up with a 16th-place finish.

ETC.: Menard has completed a near-perfect 99.0 percent (4,122 laps) of the 4,162 total laps contested in 14 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 20.0 and average finish is 24.6. He has zero DNFs there.

4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only two points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week to fall out of the top 10. Will make The Chase after winning two of the season's first 18 races.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: One win and 13 top-10 finishes in 26 starts. Has finished in the top eight in the last two July races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick said, "New Hampshire is a track that I enjoy going to. It always seems like the New Hampshire race comes down to a track position strategy call on two tires or four tires toward the end of the race. Track position will play a big part, but getting your car to handle right will probably play an equal part."

LOOKING BACK: Harvick had high hopes for the day, but they came to a crashing halt on lap 20 when he was involved in a 16-car accident. As a result, he finished 39th. "It looked like the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.) got squirrelly up there and then they all started wrecking," said Harvick. "I had the wreck cleared but unfortunately with the splitters and everything out in front (of the car); the grass is what tears all the cars up. It was unfortunate for our Budweiser Chevy, but maybe one day they'll make grass that's not eight inches tall."

ETC.: Harvick likes New Hampshire because it's "flat, similar to the tracks out west where I started my racing career. There's a lot braking and you have to really work on getting your car through the center of the corner and still have that forward drive you need up off the corner."

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only seven points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Two wins and six top-10 finishes including four top-five's in 16 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer feels getting around New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a tough thing. "You've got to be able to roll the middle with momentum faster than the next guy and you've got to be able to put that throttle down," said Bowyer. "You get the thing to where it will really roll the middle (of the corner) good and it's pretty free and you're loose off. It's a really hard thing to juggle right there and it's all hubbed around the center of the apex of those long corners."

LOOKING BACK: Despite being involved in The Big One, a 26-car accident, Bowyer was able to rally and finish ninth in the rain-shortened race at Daytona. "Yeah, she kind of did the hospital hop there and had me concerned when it went like that and you're completely sideways running 200 miles per hour, but it went back down," said Bowyer. "Once it came back down I was trying to keep it sideways because we've seen on the first wreck everybody that went through the grass just rips the whole front end off of it. So, I was actually trying to keep it sideways and swung back around and dug in twice pretty hard and I was like, 'Well, there went the splitter.' We came back around and it was pretty good and we seemed fine."

ETC.: A group of nine multi-car teams announced Monday they are formed a collaborative business association called the Race Team Alliance (RTA). Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has been elected the first chairman of the RTA. "With the encouragement of NASCAR and the manufacturers, the teams have met in various forms and forums over the years to explore areas of common interest," said Kauffman. "This simply formalizes what was an informal group. By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport. The idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more effectively and deliver more value to our partners."

3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 22 points out of the top 10. Gained five spots last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Finished third in his last two Nationwide Series starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon calls New Hampshire Motor Speedway "one of my favorite tracks. I've always run well there in the Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I've got quite a few laps there, even going back to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East days, so I'm looking forward to my first Sprint Cup start there. We tested there last week, and I thought we had a real good test."

LOOKING BACK: Dillon avoided the two big wrecks and finished a Sprint Cup career-best fifth at Daytona. "We just made it through the wrecks," said Dillon. "On the second one, I kind of just shot the middle and they (the wrecking cars) went left and I got lucky. I think, me, Brian (Vickers) and a bunch of the guys would have loved to see it (the race) go back (after NASCAR called it because of rain). It's huge for us getting a top-10, a top five; it definitely can change the rookie race. We've got some momentum now."

ETC.: Dillon said his No. 1 goal before the season was winning the rookie of the year title. "The way they've run (Kyle Larson and his team) we've put a lot of pressure on ourselves," said Dillon. "Kyle has had a great season. We're getting better each week. I feel like we're gaining a little bit, and I'm excited about that." Larson leads Dillon by 15 points heading into the second half of the season.

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 23 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week. Will make the Chase for the Championship because of his Talladega win.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Two wins and 10 top-10 finishes including seven top-five's in 16 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin is looking forward to this weekend. "Loudon has been a good track for us," said Hamlin. "We would love to win another race or two before the Chase begins, and we feel Loudon is one of the places where we can get one. You need a good handling car, but track position is also really important. You need to be towards the front those last 50 or so laps if you are to have any shot (at a win)."

LOOKING BACK: Hamlin finished sixth in the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 despite being involved in both of the big wrecks. "I think most everyone has been pushing the button really from lap one, but the tires and the cars are not handling as well (as they would have if the race had been run Saturday night) being that the temperatures are hotter and you can see a lot of cars moving around," said Hamlin. "Some people have been a little overzealous and caused some big wrecks simply because you can't control your car when it gets this hot. As a driver, you've got to feel that edge and know where you need to be and make it to the finish."

ETC.: Hamlin spent Tuesday and Wednesday testing at Richmond. "We are working on making our short track program better," Hamlin tweeted. "We might even learn a few things that we can use this weekend at Loudon. We are pretty happy with our short track program, but you can always get better."

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, only four points out of the Chase. Lost two spots last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Finished third last September. Overall has one win and nine top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 23 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle "can't wait for Loudon this weekend. It's a great track for us and we almost won in the fall. It would be great to get our first win of the season this weekend." Adds crew chief Matt Pucci, "Loudon is a fast one-mile race track and a place we've traditionally run pretty decent at. I always look forward to New Hampshire since it's close to Boston, so that gives us a lot of extra fans in the area (since the team is co-owned by John Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox)."

LOOKING BACK: Biffle led twice for nine laps and was in contention for his second win at Daytona when he helped trigger The Big One, a 26-car melee on lap 99. "I am just so unhappy," said Biffle. "I watched the replay. This is close quarters racing. David Ragan gave me a big push and then Kasey (Kahne) went to the middle and ran into the back of the 13 car (Casey Mears) and slowed way up and I hit the back of the 5 (Kahne). We weren't lined up. He moved down for some reason when he hit the 13. It was just a chain reaction. You just never know when the cars slow down that quick and I had a shove from the 34 from behind and you can't react that fast unfortunately." Biffle ended the rain-shortened race in 29th place.

ETC.: Ford has won the last three Sprint Cup races at three different tracks by three different organizations. The one common ground has been the power of the Roush Yates Engines (RYE). "To win on a road course, an intermediate and a speedway - that covers a lot of bases, so I feel really good about our program," said Doug Yates, chief executive officer of RYE. But Yates admits "we've got a little work to do on the mile-and-a-half tracks to make sure we give Hendrick a run for their money. Halfway through the year I would give us a B+ or A- and on my scale that's really strong."

55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

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

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Won the July race last year. Will be seeking his fourth straight top-nine finish and fifth in the last six races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers can't wait to get to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I've had a lot of success there, and last year's win was really special for a lot of reasons," said Vickers. "Just winning with a new team, your first win with a new team, a new group of guys, is always special. But the biggest thing is reflecting back a couple years earlier when I was sitting in a hospital (with blood clots) not sure if I'd ever race again, being told there was a good chance that would never happen again."

LOOKING BACK: Vickers was running second when it began raining for the second time on lap 110. The race was stopped two laps later and called an hour later when the rain refused to stop. "They (his team) called a great race and put me in a position to win there at the end," said Vickers. "We were just a lap away from an opportunity to make a pass. I had one shot at the 43 (Aric Almirola) with a run and the 13 (Casey Mears) got to my right rear corner and I just couldn't move up and do anything with it. Then the rain came at the wrong time for us and the right time for them (Aric Almirola). I was hoping they (NASCAR) would wait it out. We've got lights - it's Daytona. I was shocked that it was going to be called this early (3 p.m.) in the day knowing that we had lights and when it was supposed to be a night race anyway. (The rain was postponed Saturday night because of rain)."

ETC.: Because of his history with blood clots, Vickers is doing everything he can "raising blood clot awareness. It's a bigger issue than people realize," adds Vickers. "More people die from blood clots than AIDS, breast cancer and all car accidents in the US combined and there's not a single dollar of federal funding devoted to it. That is kind of a frustrating thing for me. But it's something we're working on."

42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 12 points out of the Chase. Lost five spots last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Will be making Sprint Cup debut. Finished 14th in lone Nationwide Series start.

LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said, "I am looking forward to getting back on a track where you have a little more control over your outcome. We tested at NHMS not too long ago, so I'm sure the Target team will arrive with a car that's ready to compete. Although I had a K&N win at Loudon, I still think it's a tough track where passing can be difficult. We've had really fast Chevy's this season, so hopefully our speed continues this weekend and we can head into the off weekend with a quality finish."

LOOKING BACK: Larson's hopes for a good day ended on lap 20 when he was involved in a 16-car accident. As a result, the rookie driver finished 36th. "We really needed a good points day, and unfortunately weren't able to come away with one today," said Larson. "I know everyone on the team is frustrated with how our day went, but I'm really proud of my Team Target crew for working hard to get the car in and out of the garage quickly (after the wreck). We've got a strong team, so I'm confident that we'll keep working hard to get the Target Chevy into victory lane and keep pushing for a spot in The Chase."

ETC.: Larson has been used to running a lot of races, but his schedule in 2014 has been limited to the Sprint Cup Series and companion Nationwide Series events. "Being such a die-hard sprint car racer and fan and everything, I thought not racing a lot of dirt track stuff this year would be bad, that I'd be bored," said Larson. "But I'm not. I'm so busy with everything that I've got going on with the NASCAR stuff that even if I was to go race sprint cars, I really wouldn't have time to do it. And I really enjoy racing in the Cup Series and doing double duty with the Nationwide Series, too."

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 12 points out of the Chase. Lost three spots last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: One win and eight top-10 finishes in 20 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne tested at Loudon last month. "I felt like we got pretty good at the end," said Kahne. "We went from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for two days - that is a ton of laps and a lot of things that each (of the four Hendrick) team is trying. From that information, I think we can put together a really good package when we return. I feel good about it and so did the other guys."

LOOKING BACK: Kahne was running sixth in a two-wide pack when he was clipped by Greg Biffle to trigger The Big One, a 26-car accident. "Just got hit from behind and started spinning," said Kahne. "I'm not exactly sure what went on there or how it all happened other than I was hit and started spinning. Then everybody else was wrecking with me. I knew it was going to be big. We avoided the first wreck and we didn't avoid the second one. It's too bad, we had a good car." Kahne ended the day in the 27th place.

ETC.: Crew chief Kenny Francis has decided to run Chassis 5-815 this weekend. Kahne has raced this car in his last two outings at Phoenix, another one-mile oval, where he had an average finish of 6.5. "We feel really good about this car," said Francis. "We know we need a good run this weekend, and we feel we can get it with this car."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 22 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in 10 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "New Hampshire is a tough track. It's fast and really flat. The turns are long and sweeping, so you need to have a good setup under the car. You're always looking for grip, always looking for that forward drive. We don't want to be conservative. We want to be aggressive, stay aggressive and continue to knock out these top-10 finishes. We are doing everything we can to make the Chase."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose was all smiles after the race after finishing 10th despite being involved in both of the big wrecks. He was also beaming after congratulating teammate Aric Almirola for winning the rain-shortened race. "It's a great day for Richard Petty Motorsports and everyone involved," said Ambrose. "I'm really happy for Aric and 'The King (Petty)' because we've all been working hard to get into the Chase. Today was another plate race and we were beat up pretty bad in the first wreck. But, our guys did a great job fixing the damage and keeping us in the race. We'll take a top-10 out of Daytona."

ETC.: The team has decided to stay with Ford. The organization had met with Toyota to discuss the possibility of switching manufacturers. "I think that's a good decision for us right now," said crew chief Trent Owens. "Changing manufacturers - from the workload side of things - would be a challenge to say the least. I've enjoyed working with Ford. I've enjoyed working on these cars and we just really need to perfect what we've got and that (the decision) will allow us to do that."

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 29 points out of the Chase. Lost four spots last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Three wins and 17 top-10 finishes including 14 top-five's in 29 starts. Ranks second in laps led.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart calls the Loudon race "a big motor deal. With the corners being so tight, you've got to put a lot of gear in the car to get it up off the corner. Forward bite is always an issue there, too, so it's hard to get up off the corners. Then you've got long straightaways where you can kind of relax a little bit. Coming into the corners, you use a lot of brake, and it's hard to not only get the car stopped, but to get it to turn. Then you go through the challenge all over again."

LOOKING BACK: Stewart took the lead on lap 17 and led for three laps and was battling for second place on lap 20 when he was clipped by Jeff Gordon to start a 16-car accident. Stewart ended the day in 40th place. Stewart felt Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. triggered the multi-car accident. "The 17 (Stenhouse) got sideways on the lap that we're all getting a competition caution," said Stewart. "I guess Ricky thought it paid something to get to lap 20. It didn't make sense to me when we're coming to the caution, we're like a quarter of a lap from getting to the caution and he does something stupid. It tore up a lot of people's cars and a lot of people's days."

ETC.: Stewart has won a race for 15 straight years so he is not worried about his winless ways as the 2014 season reaches its halfway point. Stewart is confident he will win a race before the Chase for the Championship begins in early September. "We still have a lot of time (eight races) before the Chase," said Stewart. "We've got a lot of good races for us coming up beginning with Loudon this weekend."

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 64 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week. Will make the Chase after his Daytona victory.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Finished fifth in the July race a year ago for his lone top-10 finish in seven starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "Obviously, coming off a win changes our outlook a bit this weekend. We have a lot of momentum going into New Hampshire and are now really focused on just winning more. Right now, we're 10th in the Chase standings and feel comfortable, but we want to make sure we are when we head back to Richmond (in early September). Another win really secures everything."

LOOKING BACK: Almirola took the lead for the first time just moments before The Big One, a 26-car accident, occurred. He lost the race off pit road to Kurt Busch, but regained the lead a lap after the restart and was the leader when the rains returned. After a hour-long red flag, NASCAR announced the race was called to give Almirola his first Sprint Cup victory. "This is awesome," said Almirola. "To get this US Air Force Ford Fusion in victory lane 30 years to the weekend that Richard Petty got his 200th win is really, really special. I've said time and time again how bad I want to win here. This is my home race, two hours away from Tampa, Fla. (his home). I grew up sitting in those grandstands right up there watching the Daytona 500s and the Firecracker 400s, dreaming about what it'd be like to race here. Man, I just took the 43 car to victory lane at Daytona."

ETC.: The Daytona win means Almirola will be part of this year's Chase for the Championship as he became the 11th different driver to win a race in 2014. "We're going to be in the Chase," shouted Almirola. "This race team deserves to be in the Chase. I told everybody at the beginning of the year, all our sponsors and everybody that was committing to our race team, I said, 'I promise you we'll get to victory lane.' Low and behold we've done it."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 47 points out of the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Finished fifth last September for his fifth top-10 finish in 22 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "The first thing that comes to mind about New Hampshire is track position. This is one of the toughest tracks to pass on, so track position will be critical. This always seems to be a race where there are a lot of factors that come into play. The track is sensitive to temperature change; fuel strategy seems to be key and passing is difficult. If you can get all three of those things to go your way, you should be good."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray led twice for 11 laps in his bid to win his third race at Daytona. But his victory aspirations were wiped out when he became involved in The Big One, a 26-car melee. McMurray's car became airborne during the accident, but luckily it landed on all four wheels. "When you have a car spin out at the front of the field, there is just nowhere to go," said McMurray. "I ran into the guy who was directly in front of me and the guy behind me clobbered me. I will tell you I have never had a car that's off the ground and it's a crazy feeling, and it's a hopeless feeling to have a car do that. I was really lucky that it set back down." McMurray finished 30th.

ETC.: McMurray knows time is running out on his bid to make the Chase. "We have had a couple of bad finishes the last two weeks," said McMurray. "So I hope we can rebound with a strong run at New Hampshire. We tested there a couple of weeks ago, so hopefully we can take what we learned from the test and post a good result."

13 CASEY MEARS, Chevrolet

Team: Germain Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 56 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Only two top-10 finishes in 22 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Mears is still wondering what might have happened if the Daytona race had gone the full distance. "A top-five is always good, but it comes with mixed emotions because we had a car that couldn't won the race," said Mears. "We have a lot of momentum rolling into Loudon, so we're hoping we can get a solid finish as we head into the final off-week of the season."

LOOKING BACK: Mears was both a happy camper and a frustrated one after the Daytona race was called after 112 laps because of rain. "It was a great day for the Germain Racing, our number 13 Geico Chevy was really strong," said Mears after his fourth-place finish, his best finish of the season. "We definitely had a shot at this thing, which leaves us frustrated that we didn't get to compete the final 48 laps, but at the same time we earned the finish and raced at the front all day, so we're happy about finishing fourth," added Mears. This was Mears' third straight top-10 finish at Daytona.

ETC.: Both of Mears' top-10 finishes this season have come at Daytona, so it is no surprise how much effort the team puts into its restrictor-plate program. "They (his crew) give us a chance to win every time we show up here," said Mears. "I'm happy for everyone on this team, the road crew and our guys back at the shop that work so hard when we're at the track. We've had a few strong races in a row, so we hope to continue the run we've been on when we get to Loudon."

41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 104 points out of the top 10. Will make the Chase because of his Martinsville win.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: Three wins and 11 top-10 finishes including seven top-five's in 26 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch calls New Hampshire "a track that has been pretty good to me since I started racing in the top series of this sport. I raced there for the first time in the Truck Series and won that race. Then it's track where I have three wins in the Cup cars, and when you're able to go to a track where you've had that kind of success, it just gives you that confidence."

LOOKING BACK: Busch led three times for a race-high 36 laps and was the leader on the final restart on lap 105. But he lost the lead to Aric Almirola a lap later and was running third when the rains hit for a second time on lap 110. The race was red-flagged two laps later with NASCAR deciding to call the race an hour later with rain still failing. "It's a tough pill to swallow," said Busch. "We want to go back out there and race. But at the same time, this team has turned a good corner. It's been about five weeks in a row now we've been in the top 15 and we cashed in on a top-five finish today. So that's the good news. But I didn't do my job to be the leader. We didn't quite have a solid restart at the end to be the leader when the race was called. It seems early to call a race."

ETC.: Busch believes he and rookie crew chief Daniel Knost are finally getting comfortable with each other. "There's some times when a driver and crew chief hit it off and they're off to the races right away," said Busch. "Daniel and I have been slower to mature together in our relationship, and so we're 18 races into our first date. Now we're going into the second half of the season, and all of our first dates are done. We'll go to New Hampshire this week, and that'll be the last new track that we see together, and then from there on out, all the tracks that we've been to we have notes and we have test sessions planned, and that's where we have to make the 41 team stronger."

10 DANICA PATRICK, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE SHE STANDS: 27th, 136 points out of the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

NEW HAMSPHIRE RECORD: Best finish in two starts is 27th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Patrick "really likes" going to New Hampshire. "I like that area of the country and like the restaurants and what it has to offer," adds Patrick. "We were OK last year and I'm anxious to see what we've got this year. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and his guys have won there before, so I'm ready to get going."

LOOKING BACK: It was an up and down day for Patrick. She was involved in the two major accidents and overshot her pit stall to fall out of the lead draft. Despite all of this, Patrick was able to finish eighth for her second top-10 finish of the season. "The car was fast," said Patrick.

"We were in two crashes, and the car was Ok to keep going, which is hard to do here at Daytona. We were really fortunate from that perspective, and the same was true getting a yellow (flag) in the middle when I made the mistake on pit road. It's been a crazy day. I can't believe we finished eighth."

ETC.: Patrick feels she and her team are "getting better. The more I get to these race tracks and get experience the better I am," said Patrick. "I think we're qualifying better, for sure, and I think our race results are better. A lot of that has to do with the GoDaddy team and Tony Gibson giving me good cars. It's a process, but I think it's moving in the right direction."