Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 156 points out of 13th place.

PHOENIX RECORD: One top-10 finish in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, “I like short-track racing and Phoenix has always been a good track to me. We’ve got a good little short-track program at Richard Petty Motorsports, and I know my Ford Fusion is going to be fast when we unload. We were running in the top three this spring when we had engine issues with just a few laps remaining. That gives me a lot of confidence going into this weekend.”

LOOKING BACK: A flat right-front tire sent Ambrose hard into the wall with only 24 laps to go. The damage was severe enough that Ambrose was unable to continue as he ended the day in 32nd place. “Working with Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) this weekend (for the first time) was very encouraging,” said Ambrose. “It’s a shame that we didn’t get the result we deserved. I felt like Drew and I had good chemistry and communicated well today, which allowed us to improve our Mac Tools Ford throughout the race.”

ETC.: Both Ambrose and Blickensderfer say they are “anxious to continue the learning process this weekend.” Adds Blickensderfer, “Marcos communicates well, which allows us to be able to make the appropriate adjustments to improve the car’s handling. I felt we learned a lot last weekend at Texas, and we will learn even more about each other this weekend.”

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 221 points out of 13th place.

PHOENIX RECORD: Two wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 26 starts. Finished fourth in the fall race a year ago.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, “Phoenix International Raceway has been a really good track for me. Every time I go there we run well and have been in position to win the race. We’ve even won it several times. It’s just been a good track. When we go there, I’m very comfortable and feel like we know what it takes to win.”

LOOKING BACK: Burton spent most of the race battling a loose race car as he finished 19th at Texas. “Everyone on this Caterpillar Chevrolet team put in a solid effort all weekend,” said Burton. “I just got crazy loose there toward the middle part of the race and we couldn’t catch a break until it was too late. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) did a great job during his first weekend on top of the box.”

ETC.: Burton will spend Thursday at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at PIR. He will participate in a number of activities including giving guests of Chevrolet and members of the media a few “hot laps” around the track. “It will be a fun day taking part in all of that stuff,” said Burton. “One of the few relaxing days we have at the race track.”


Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 225 points out of 13th place.

PHOENIX RECORD: Only two top-10 finishes in 18 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, “We are taking a new car that we have raced only once at Martinsville a couple of weeks ago. I feel like this new car that we built has a lot of potential and I am looking forward to getting another race on this chassis. We tested the 2013 Chevy at Phoenix two weeks ago and felt like we had a good test with the new car.”

LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 18th at Texas. “We really worked hard for that 18th-place finish today,” said McMurray. “The guys on our McDonald’s Chevy made a lot of adjustments during our pit stops today. We were lucky to get a few cautions to help us out with maintaining position on the lead lap, and keeping us in position for a top-20. Our car was back and forth on the handling all day, both tight and loose at times, but the guys did a great job of adjusting along the way.”

ETC.: The team announced last weekend that it will be switching to Hendrick engines in 2013. The organization had been running engines from Earnhardt Childress since it switched to Chevrolet to 2009. “We just feel this is the best for our two (Cup) teams,” said a team spokesman.


Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 245 points out of 13th place.

PHOENIX RECORD: His best finish in three starts is 12th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, “We ran well there in the spring, finishing 12th in what was just my second race with the team. So I definitely feel we can go back there and be fast, run up front and even have a shot at a win for Farmland.”

LOOKING BACK: Almirola finished 15th at Texas for his seventh top-15 finish of the season. “Our Farmland Ford was pretty good early in the race and at the end, but we had a stretch in the middle where we were just way too loose,” said Almirola. “We were chasing track conditions a little bit, which made it difficult. But all the guys on this 43 team worked hard all day, throwing everything they could at it to make it better. And they did. And we clawed for every spot we could get and came away with a top-15.”

ETC.: Almirola will spend Thursday strapped into an F-16 fighter jet at Luke Air Force Case in Glendale, Az. Almirola will go through flight training and be fitted for his own flight suit before climbing aboard the F-16 Fighting Falcon for an authentic training exercise. “I’m really excited about it,” said Almirola. “I’m looking forward to pulling those ‘G’ and maybe even breaking the sound barrier. I can’t wait.”


Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 286 points out of 13th place.

PHOENIX RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 11 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Like his teammate Jamie McMurray, Montoya is bringing a “brand new Target Chevy to Phoenix so I’m looking forward to this race. The guys have done a lot of work back at the shop and our cars keep improving every week. We’re experimenting in hopes of finding a little extra something that will give us a competitive edge heading into next season.”

LOOKING BACK: On the second restart of the day, the line Montoya was in got jammed up big time with Montoya suffering major damage to the front end of his car. This resulted in a long stay in the garage area for repairs. Montoya returned to the track and finished 34th. “We had a decent car and they all checked up on the restart…you see the leader go and we normally go and they all checked up and got on their brakes. The crazy thing is we were not even up to speed yet.”

ETC.: It has been a long, long year for Montoya. He has earned only two top-10 finishes in the first 34 races. A year ago, Montoya finished the season with eight top-10 finishes and it was declared a “bad year” by car owner Chip Ganassi. Unless Montoya can finish in the top 10 in one of the last two races he will end the season with the fewest number of top-10s in his career.

78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 384 points out of 13th place.

PHOENIX RECORD: One win and 10 top-10 finishes in 19 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: “Everyone at Furniture Row Racing is excited about how the team is taking shape after being together for only four races,” said Busch. “We tested at the Phoenix track a few weeks ago and I look forward to another solid performance in our Chevrolet.”

LOOKING BACK: In his fourth start with Furniture Row Racing, Busch earned his first top-10 finish with the team as he ended the race in eighth place. “All in all a good day for Furniture Row Racing,” said Busch. “Considering that we had a top-five or top-10 car at the last two races but got nailed in accidents, it was important to come away with a solid finish today. We’ve made a lot of progress as a team in a short period of time, which gives us plenty of optimism for 2013.”