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 looks to pick up where he left off two weeks ago at Kansas (win). Charlotte is one of his best tracks and it would be a great way to end the first third of the season on a high note in NASCAR's longest and most grueling race of the season. Here's Gordon's thoughts on Sunday night's race: "It's hard to believe it's been 20 years (since he won his first Cup race at Charlotte). We had a fast race car that day and led a lot of laps, but Rusty (Wallace) was the class of the field. (Then No. 24 crew chief) Ray Evernham made a great call for two tires on that last pit stop, and that call got us the win."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon led just nine laps but was able to regain the lead from Kevin Harvick and held on for the win two weeks ago 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. Kenseth is typically a pick to finish in at least the top 10 at Charlotte, but he has struggled at times in the 600. Can he put it all together this Sunday?
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. He's hoping to change that Sunday night: "Winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which is my favorite track, would be really special since I've been able to win there in other series and have been close a lot in the Cup car. It seems like the month of May at Charlotte just doesn't like me too much. We got to win in the Truck race there last weekend, so I'm hoping we can change that. There are plenty of other tracks where we also need to win, but there's no doubt Charlotte and the Coke 600 would be big."
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. And because Sunday's race is part of Memorial Day weekend and Earnhardt is sponsored in-part by the National Guard, a win would have significant meaning to him. Earnhardt said: "Working with the National Guard is a lot of fun, and they are very creative with what we do together. I have met some great people and have heard some great stories. Whether it was their experience in the Guard or why they joined, I always find it really fascinating to ask someone what encouraged them to make that decision because it's a life choice. Everybody has a different reason, but I have had a great experience and really appreciate it. I really cherish it and think it's affected me to just be that close to it and see the things that go on behind the scenes."
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.
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: Edwards has never won a points-paying Sprint Cup event in his career at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Edwards has a good history of finishing almost all of his Cup starts at Charlotte (99.2 percent), so he'll be looking to not only have another good finish in the 600, but hopes to finally get over that winless hump at one of his favorite 1.5-mile tracks. He came close to winning the Sprint All-Star Race last Saturday, but Jamie McMurray got the better of him on the final restart. Said Edwards, "Jamie just did a perfect job on the start. I had him cleared for a minute. If I would have pulled in front of him in turn one, if I would have gone high, I think we would have won that race, but I was just so reluctant to give up the bottom. He ended up sweeping around the outside of me, dragging me down, and it was a drag race. My hat is off to him. He did a great job. He earned it."
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.