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."