Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping from third to seventh after Phoenix, Mark Martin rebounded to gain back one position in the standings after Las Vegas, leaving him in sixth place. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 34 points, fifth-place Carl Edwards by three points and leads seventh-place (tie) Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle by two points each.
BRISTOL RECORD: 46 career starts, two wins, 16 top-fives, 23 top-10s and nine poles. Best career finish: first in August 1993 and August 1998. Did not compete in either race at Bristol in 2012.
LOOKING AHEAD: Unfortunately, Martin will not be racing Sunday at Bristol. He'll be replaced by Brian Vickers who did well in filling in for Martin in last year's Bristol races, finishing fifth in the March race and a career-best fourth in the August race. This will be the first of nine races in the first 26 pre-Chase for the Sprint Cup races that Martin will miss by choice. He is also slated to miss three Chase races. When it came to his two top-five finishes at Bristol last season in place of Martin, Vickers said, "(We
were) pleased, but not satisfied. I would have loved to have won one of those races and we came very close. Obviously, very pleased with the results and how it all worked out considering it was part-time."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing third in the season-opening Daytona 500, the 29th time he's been in the Great American Race, Martin had a disappointing 21st place finish at Phoenix and finished 14th at Las Vegas.
ETC.: Martin has completed 94.1 percent (21,488) of 22,845 laps in 46 career starts at Bristol. He has an average start of 10.3 and an average finish of 13.7. He has five DNFs there. Vickers has completed 96.3 percent (7,720) of 8,013 laps in 16 career starts at Bristol. He has an average start of 23.4 and an average finish of 22.1. He also has one DNF there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth was the biggest mover in the top 10 after Las Vegas, climbing 11 spots from 18th to a tie for seventh place with former teammate Greg Biffle. The pair trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 36 points each, sixth-ranked Mark Martin by two points and lead ninth-ranked Clint Bowyer by four points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 26 career starts, two wins, 10 top-fives, 17 top-10s, one pole. Best career finish: First in August 2005 and August 2006. Finished 2nd in this race last year and was 25th there last August.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth comes into Bristol with a big head of steam, having won his first race for Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday at Las Vegas. He also is looking to repeat his strong finish at Bristol last March, when he finished second. Here are Kenseth's thoughts about his win at Las Vegas and looking ahead to Bristol: "Coach (Joe Gibbs) hired me to come in there and climb in that car and win races, so you certainly want to do that and you don't want to disappoint people. I'm glad we got a win, but it's still only Week 3. I feel like this is the beginning, you know, and have a lot of confidence, had a lot of confidence after our first meeting and decided to go do this and just had a great feeling about it. ... It's always great to get a win early in the season, but you certainly don't want to act like it stops. You want to go to the next one and start thinking about Bristol and what we're going to try to do there. That's the great thing about the sport, it never stops -- you only get to enjoy it for a couple days. It feels really great to get the win, and hopefully that'll keep some momentum going for our team."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led just 42 laps, but the most important was the last one, as he won at Las Vegas. It was his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing and also in a Toyota. Plus, it was on Kenseth's 41st birthday, making him only the third driver in Cup history to win on their birthday.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 97.7 percent (12,711) of 13,013 laps in his 26 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 17.2 and average finish is 12.1. He has three DNFs there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle dropped one position from sixth into a tie with Matt Kenseth for seventh. The pair trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 36 points each, follow sixth-ranked Mark Martin by two points and lead ninth-ranked Clint Bowyer by four points.
BRISTOL RECORD: 20 career starts, zero wins, six top-fives, 11 top-10s and one pole. Best career finish: third in August 2005. Finished 13th in this race last year (after starting from the pole) and was 19th in the August race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle just can't catch a break at Bristol. Even though he spent the early part of his career racing on short tracks up and down the West Coast, Biffle has never been able to figure out Bristol's half-mile enough to earn his first win there. But he's hoping to change that on Sunday. Here are Biffle's thoughts on Bristol: "I'm looking forward to Bristol now that Las Vegas is behind us. We run hard at Bristol, which is always fun and exciting. I cannot wait to get to Bristol and redeem ourselves. We are a better team than we've been running; we made a mistake last week. Track position is key. You've got to be up front and stay out front. Seems like it's harder and harder to pass since all the teams are getting close together and the cars are getting close together. It's going to take being out front, good pit stops and a good pit stall selection to win at Bristol this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Biffle typically does very well on 1.5-mile tracks, but not this past Sunday at Las Vegas, where he struggled to a 17th-place finish.
ETC.: Biffle has completed 98.2 percent (9,830) of 10,013 laps in his 20 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 12.9 and average finish is 12.2. He also has one DNF there.
5 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After jumping from 10th to fourth place after Phoenix, Clint Bowyer dropped five spots in the standings after Las Vegas to ninth place. He trails series leader Jimmie Johnson by 40 points, follows the seventh-place tie between Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle by four points and leads 10th-ranked Aric Almirola by one point.
BRISTOL RECORD: 14 career starts, zero wins, four top-fives, seven top-10s, zero poles. Best career finish: Third in August 2007 and March 2008. Finished fourth in this race last year and was seventh in the August race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer is determined to bounce back from his terrible showing at Las Vegas. He'll also be in a unique car on Sunday, carrying colors of NAPA Auto Parts. Here are his thoughts about that: "To race a No. 15 NAPA car for Michael Waltrip Racing carries a lot of meaning for everyone involved. Michael Waltrip raced those colors with that number to some very significant wins -- including two Daytona 500s. I think it will be great to see NAPA back on the No. 15 this weekend. I know it will mean a lot to Michael, the folks at NAPA and also to me. I'd love to put that car back in Victory Lane for Michael and the folks at NAPA -- plus, it's Bristol baby! I'd just love to get a win there because I think it's such an amazing racetrack. We ran well at Daytona and Phoenix, but struggled last weekend at Vegas. We'll be much better this weekend. Bristol is just good old-fashioned racing and I think the fans will see a heck of show Sunday. It's good to be back short track racing again."
LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had a terrible car all weekend at Las Vegas and finished 27th, the first driver down a lap on the leaders at the end of the race.
ETC.: Bowyer has completed 91.7 percent (6,433) of 7,013 laps in his 14 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 20.1 and average finish is 17.0. He also has two DNFs there.
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Aric Almirola dropped two places in the standings, from a three-way tie for eighth place to sole possession of 10th place after Las Vegas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 41 points, follows ninth-ranked Clint Bowyer by one point and leads 11th-ranked Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by one point.
BRISTOL RECORD: Seven career starts, zero wins, zero top-fives, one top-10 and zero poles. Best career finish: Eighth in March 2008. Finished 19th in this race last year, and was 35th in the August race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola turns 29 on Thursday, and what better place to have a birthday celebration than at Bristol, a track his team owner, Richard Petty, dominated at for much of his own racing career. Plus, the fact he's still in the top-10 after the first three races has Almirola riding high. He's even thinking his first career Sprint Cup win is right around the corner, perhaps as soon as Sunday. "Yeah, I really do feel that way, and confidence is key. I know you guys talk about that all the time, and it's hard to put your finger on how you get it, why you get it and stuff like that. But you know, chemistry is a big deal and confidence is a big deal. I feel like we've got both of those things going. We show up to the racetrack and we expect to run in the Top-10. And you look at the race teams that compete and that consistently finish in the Top-10, the Top 15, eventually they win races, and we think the same thing. ... At the beginning of the year, we sat down and made a list of goals, and that is No. 1 on our list of goals is to put that 43 car back in victory lane."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing 13th in the season-opening Daytona 500, and 15th at Phoenix, Almirola finished 16th at Las Vegas, his worst outing this season.
ETC.: Almirola has completed just 79.1 percent (2,777) of 3,509 laps in seven career starts at Bristol. He has an average start of 18.7 and a rough average finish of 26.4. He also has two DNFs there.
17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only one point out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week to fall out of the top 10.
BRISTOL RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Finished in the top six in both Nationwide races last year, including a second in the August event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse said, "Bristol's lap times are almost the same in both the Nationwide and Cup series. We've run decent there in the Nationwide series so I feel confident going into this weekend. We will focus on qualifying well because you want to start up near the front. I think our Best Buy Ford should have a solid finish if we can start close to the front, make the needed adjustments throughout the race, and stay out of trouble."