By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
Capsules for all drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
10 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth remains atop the Sprint Cup standings after the first four races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He leads former points leader Jimmie Johnson by three points, and is 25 points ahead of third-ranked Kevin Harvick.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 28 career starts, 2 wins, 7 top-fives, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2000 and fall 2011. Finished 14th in this race last year and was 15th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is loking to widen the gap between himself and Jimmie Johnson in the standingso at Charlotte. Kenseth leads Johnson by a mere three points, the smallest edge Kenseth has had over another driver thus far in the Chase. He also has to worry about the five career DNFs he has at Charlotte. Here's his thoughts on Saturday night's race: "I feel lucky for not being wrecked (this past Sunday at Kansas). And I feel really fortunate to still be leading the points."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led 21 laps at Kansas in what he called the most "evilest race car" he's ever driven.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 94.5 percent (9,436) of the 9,986 total laps contested in 28 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 17.2, while his average finish is 14.2. He has five DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in second place in the standings for the second straight week after Sunday's race at Kansas. However, he closed the points gap on series leader Matt Kenseth to just three points, and leads third-ranked Kevin Harvick by 22 points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 24 career starts, 6 wins, 11 top-5s, 15 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2003, spring 2004, fall 2004, spring 2005, fall 2005 and fall 2009. Finished third in this race last year and was 22nd in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson returns to Charlotte, a track where he was so successful earlier in his career - including four wins in a row and five of six from 2003 through 2005 - that it earned the nickname "the house that Jimmie built." Since then, however, Johnson has struggled at times: in his last seven starts there, he's finished 22nd or worse four times. Given how close he is to Matt Kenseth in the standings, Johnson is looking for a return to glory at Charlotte Saturday night. Here's his thoughts: "I'm excited to be racing at home in Charlotte this week. It's just 30 minutes from the house and I can get home quickly and see everybody and sleep in my own bed. The track has been really good to us over the years and I certainly need another strong performance there, the way things are going in the Chase right now. So, I'm excited to get back."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson led six laps and appeared in contention to possibly win a second race in a row, but faded near the end and finished sixth at Kansas.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 97.0 percent (8,260) of the 8,518 total laps contested in 24 career starts at Charlotte. His average start there is 7.5 and his average finish is 11.9. He has four DNFs there.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick continued his climb up the Sprint Cup standings ladder. With his win Sunday at Kansas, he moved into third place for the first time this season. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 25 points (up from 39 points before Kansas), is 22 points behind second-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads fourth-ranked Jeff Gordon by seven points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 25 career starts, 2 wins, 3 top-fives, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2011 and spring 2013. Was 16th in this race last year and first in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick truly appears intent on winning his first Sprint Cup championship in his last season with Richard Childress Racing (he moves to Stewart-Haas Racing next season). The win at Kansas could have been the biggest win of his career, especially if it is the foundation upon which he builds a championship upon. Here's Harvick's thoughts on Saturday night's race at Charlotte, particularly given he won the last Cup race there in May: "Good pit strategy, that's what we hit on last time we were at Charlotte. We had a decent car in May, but Gil (Martin, crew chief) made the right call at the end to put us in position to have a good restart. Once we were in the right spot, we were able to hold the lead once we got there and were able to pick up the win. The main difference (between the May and October races at Charlotte) is the temperature change. Once night falls during the October race, Charlotte (becomes completely different than what we practice on during the day. You can bet on the fact that the track will be really fast as the temperature drops and we'll gain a lot of grip."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick was the class of the field, completely dominating Sunday's race at Kansas, leading 138 of the 267 laps there, en route to his third win of the season. Not coincidentally, two of the three have been on 1.5-mile tracks, which bodes well for him this Saturday at Charlotte, especially since he won there the last time the Cup series visited, back in May, and is coming off a win at the 1.5-mile track at Kansas.
ETC.: Harvick has completed 97.4 percent (8,686) of the 8,918 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 18.8 and average finish is 17.3. He has one DNF there.
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in fourth place (albeit he's no longer tied with Kevin Harvick, as he was after Dover) after Sunday's race at Kansas. Gordon trails series leader Matt Kenseth by 32 points (up from 39 last week), is seven points behind third-ranked Harvick and leads fifth-ranked Kyle Busch by three points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 41 career starts, 5 wins, 16 top-fives, 21 top-10s, 8 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 1994, spring 1997, spring 1998, fall 1999 and fall 2007. Was 18th in this race last year and 35th in this year's spring race there (knocked out by a crash), his fifth-worst career finish there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon needs to make a big move to keep his championship hopes alive, and there's no better place than Charlotte this Saturday night. However, he also has to keep in mind that he has recorded 10 career DNFs there (the most at any track) too, which means he has to stay out of trouble as much as possible if he hopes to keep the upward surge in the Chase going. Here's his thoughts on the race: "I am really looking forward to this weekend's race. We ran well here in May (before the wreck), and we've had some great runs since the Chase started. I like how this team is performing and the effort they are putting in right now. I'm having a lot of fun. We ran well here earlier this year and I think our intermediate track program has only gotten better since then."
LOOKING BACK: Although he didn't lead a lap, Gordon was very strong at Kansas, finishing third in a 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep of the top three spots (Kevin Harvick won and Kurt Busch was runner-up).
ETC.: Gordon has completed 92.6 percent (13,638) of 14,723 total laps contested in 41 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 10.5 and average finish is 16.2. He has 10 DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Having ranked second in the standings following the first two Chase races, Kyle Busch dropped to third after Dover and down to fifth after Sunday's race at Kansas. He trails points leader and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth by 35 points (down from 12 prior to Kansas), is seven points behind fourth-place Jeff Gordon and leads sixth-ranked Greg Biffle by nine points.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: 19 career starts, 0 wins, 8 top-fives, 11 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Second in fall 2010 and fall 2011. Finished fifth in this race last year and was 38th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch took a huge blow in the standings after Kansas. He needs to regain as much of the ground he lost there as he can this Saturday at Charlotte, a track that he has never won a Cup race at. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "We'll just have to work hard. We just have to keep doing what we've done to get us to this point all year long and that's been consistency. And every other track except Kansas seems to be able to bode well for us, so we'll see what happens and, if it doesn't happen, doesn't happen. This team isn't going to give up, by any means. Winning at Charlotte, since it's my favorite track, would be really special."
LOOKING BACK: The Kansas Speedway jinx continued to curse Busch. He was involved in three separate incidents on-track, the last being a wreck that knocked him out of the race. He ultimately finished a disappointing 34th.
ETC.: Busch has completed just 91.3 percent (6,244) of the 6,840 total laps contested in 19 career starts at Charlotte. His average start is 14.6, while his average finish is 16.5. He has five DNFs there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle remained in sixth place for the second consecutive week after Sunday's race at Kansas. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 44 points, is seven points behind fifth-ranked Kyle Busch, and leads seventh-ranked Kurt Busch by three points.