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 second consecutive week after Michigan and for eight of the last nine weeks. Gordon leads second-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 15 points and third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 23 points.
SONOMA RECORD: 21 career starts, 5 wins, 13 top-5s, 17 top-10s, 5 poles. Best career finish: First in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004 and 2006. Finished second in this race last year and was sixth in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon has become the most successful road course driver overall of all current NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. He's finished outside the top 10 just four times in 21 starts. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I grew up in Vallejo - which is a few miles from the track in Sonoma - but I was always racing on ovals or dirt tracks as a kid. It was much later before I turned my first lap at Sonoma while in a driving school preparing for my first Cup start there. I immediately saw the challenges and the fun of racing at Sonoma and on road courses. We've worked hard as a team to be competitive on road courses and we've had a lot of success at Sonoma. But it's not an easy track to conquer."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon led 36 laps and for a while looked like he might have a chance of winning at Michigan, but fell back to an eventual sixth-place finish, part of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the top seven.
ETC.: Gordon has completed an outstanding 99.0 percent (2,123) of the 2,145 total laps contested in 21 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is an outstanding 7.5 and his average finish is an equally outstanding 8.2. He has one DNF there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson moved into second place in the standings after his win at Michigan, his third win of the season and third in his last four starts. He trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 15 points and leads third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by eight points.
SONOMA RECORD: 12 career starts, 1 win, 4 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2010. Finished ninth in this race last year and was fifth in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson is not the greatest road course driver, and he'll usually be the first to admit it. But given the incredible momentum he has with wins in three of the last four races, Johnson is a favorite to win this Sunday in Sonoma. Here's his thoughts on going back to California: "We have a busy week leading up to the race at Sonoma this weekend. It's always nice to be able to head home to (El Cajon / San Diego area). It's going to be a lot of laughs with family and close friends - and great to see everyone who comes out to the golf tournament and helps (wife) Chani and I raise money for kids' education. This is a special week for me and heading home with a win is even more special."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson not only won his third race in his last four starts, he finally got a big monkey off his back by winning his first career Sprint Cup race at Michigan this past Sunday.
ETC.: Johnson has completed an outstanding 99.5 percent (1,320) of the 1,327 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 16.2 and average finish is 13.4. He has one DNF there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in third place for the second straight week after Sunday's race at Michigan. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 23 points, is eight points behind second-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth by one point.
SONOMA RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 11th in 2003, 2004 and 2010. Finished 12th in this race last year and was 23rd in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt is still in pursuit of his first career top-10 finish at Sonoma, which heretofore has been one of his worst-performing tracks. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Every year we would test at those road courses, Road Atlanta and here and there and work ourselves to death trying to figure out how to go faster at a road course, knowing good and well I wasn't going to run well because I don't know how to drive them. But I can run okay at the Glen every once in a while, but Sonoma, it's embarrassing, man, I haven't finished in the top 10 there ever. ... Driving around the track and running that particular race, it is fun, but at the end when you get run over or you don't finish well, you're so pissed off, and it's such a long way home. It's a terrible trip home when you don't run good at Sonoma."
LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a decent run at Michigan, a place he had won at twice before. Not so this past Sunday: he led one lap and finished seventh.
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 94.3 percent (1,463) of the 1,551 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 21.3 and average finish is 21.5. He has one DNF there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After falling from first to second after Pocono, Matt Kenseth continued his downward slide Sunday at Michigan, dropping two more positions to fourth. He trails Jeff Gordon by 24 points, is one point behind third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fifth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 23 points.
SONOMA RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Eighth in 2008. Finished 19th in this race last year and was 13th in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is far from a road course ace. While he finishes most of the races he starts, he still has struggled when it comes to top 10 finishes.
LOOKING BACK: After finishing 25th at Pocono the week before, Kenseth rebounded somewhat to finish 14th at Michigan, including leading two laps. Here's his thoughts on that race: "Really it was about where I thought we would be -- it's about how we ran most of the weekend unfortunately. Just don't have it -- I don't know how else to explain it. We just can't fix it on pit road. We were pretty close now and then on balance, but just can't get within close enough speed of the leaders to be able to hang on to the track position even when the team gives it to me. It's disappointing."
ETC.: Even though his overall finishing performance is fair, Kenseth has completed a decent 98.5 percent (1,528) of the 1,551 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Sonoma. His average start there is 18.4 and his average finish is 20.4. He has zero DNFs there.
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing from 11th to fifth over the three previous races, Brad Keselowski remained in fifth-place after Sunday's race at Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 47 points, is 23 points behind fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads sixth-ranked Carl Edwards by 28 points.
SONOMA RECORD: 4 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 10th in 2011. Finished 21st in this race last year and was 12th in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski is still trying to hone his road course racing skills, and gets another opportunity to do so Sunday at Sonoma. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Sonoma is probably the biggest challenge on the schedule for me each year. I am not sure exactly what it is about this track. I am pretty good at the other road course (Watkins Glen), but Sonoma has been tough. It is a technical track that requires a lot of finesse and my driving style is probably too aggressive here. We have done some testing here and I do feel as though we are capable of performing well here. This team has been very consistent lately and our whole organization is executing well, which has us feeling confident in our ability to contend for a victory this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski came up with his second straight top-three finish, backing up his runner-up finish at Pocono two weeks ago with a third-place finish Sunday at his home track of Michigan International Speedway.
ETC.: Keselowski has completed 98.2 percent (434) of the 442 total laps contested in four career starts at Sonoma. His average start is 20.5 and average finish is 19.5. He has one DNF there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After falling four spots to seventh following Pocono, Carl Edwards regained one of those spots after Michigan's race on Sunday, leaving him in sixth place. Edwards trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 75 points, is 28 points behind fifth-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads seventh-ranked Kyle Larson and Joey Logano (tied) by eight points.