20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth moved from sixth to first once the points were reset after Richmond on Saturday in preparation for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoffs. Kenseth leads former points leader Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch - tied for second - by three points each heading into Sunday's Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway.
CHICAGO RECORD: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2005 and 2007. Finished 18th in this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth starts the Chase as the No. 1 seed by virtue of having a series-leading five wins. If he continues at the pace he's enjoyed during the first 26 races, Kenseth could potentially win two or maybe even three more races in the Chase as he pursues his second career Cup championship (also won in 2003, the final season before the Chase format began in 2004). Here's his thoughts on the Chase: "I'm as confident going there as anywhere else. Each point in every race is equally important, so I don't really buy into that (some races in the Chase are bigger than others) as big as some people. You don't want to have any bad races. Certainly, don't want to have a bad first one, but you don't want to have any bad ones. You want to start strong and finish strong."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth assured himself the top spot in the reset Sprint Cup standings after Richmond with a strong sixth-place finish there.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 99.9 percent (3,203) of the 3,207 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Chicagoland. His average start is 17.1, while his average finish is 12.8. He has zero DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: After holding first place for 20 straight weeks, Jimmie Johnson fell to a tie for second place in the standings with Kyle Busch after the points were reset in preparation for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Johnson and Busch trail new points leader Matt Kenseth by three points and are six points ahead of the fourth-place tie between Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.
CHICAGO RECORD: 11 career starts, 0 wins, 6 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2004, 2008 and 2012. Finished second in this race last year (after starting from the pole.
LOOKING AHEAD: Chicagoland Speedway is one of only five tracks Johnson has not won upon in the Sprint Cup Series. Given his terrible run of bad luck in the last four races, he could get back on-track in a big way and check off Chicagoland from his bucket list with a win there on Sunday. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "We have been close so many times at Chicago. We always run well there. I don't know what it is. We just haven't gotten the win. Since Chad (Knaus, crew chief) is from the area (Rockford, Ill., about 100 miles away), we really want to get a win for him. There's always a little concern (about his recent struggles). Without a doubt, you want to enter the Chase with momentum. I think every team falls back on past history. I'm going to reserve any major concern or overwhelming confidence until after Chicago. I'm going to go in there with confidence that I can go out and win because I know I can. We're going to enter nice and smooth and see how Chicago goes."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson had his fourth straight poor finish: 40th (Michigan), 36th (Bristol) 28th (Atlanta) and 40th (Richmond). He needs to get back on track during the Chase, or it could be a quick exit for him.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 98.4 percent (2,894) of the 2,940 total laps contested in 11 career starts at Chicagoland. His average start there is an outstanding 7.5 and average finish is 9.3. He has one DNF there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After being in fifth place for the five previous weeks, Kyle Busch moved into a tie for second place in the standings with Jimmie Johnson after the points were reset in preparation for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Johnson and Busch trail new points leader Matt Kenseth by three points and are six points ahead of the fourth-place tie between Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.
CHICAGO RECORD: 8 career starts, 1 wins, 3 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2008. Finished fourth in this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: With many fans and reporters alike picking him to win this year's championship, Busch comes into this year's Chase with a great deal of confidence. Here's his thoughts: "We've been very good with our 1.5-mile stuff this year. Chicago, in particular, really turned around for us starting last year. I'm looking forward to Chicago this weekend. I like going there. We were able to test there a few weeks back and I feel like we learned a few things that will help us. I think we've got a great team and I'm sure we'll be working hard to try to win and get off to a good start in the Chase."
LOOKING BACK: Busch struggled in the final pre-Chase race at Richmond, finishing 19th. Even so, he was already locked into the Chase.
ETC.: Busch has completed 99.5 percent (2,128) of the 2,139 total laps contested in eight career starts at Chicagoland. His average start is 15.4, while his average finish is 13.4. He has one DNF there. ... Busch's wife Samantha is from St. John, Ind., about 45 miles from Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After 10 weeks in fourth place, by an ironic twist, Kevin Harvick remained in fourth place after the points were reset after Richmond in preparation for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Harvick is tied with Carl Edwards for fourth, is nine points behind new points leader Matt Kenseth and leads sixth-ranked Joey Logano and Greg Biffle by three points each.
CHICAGO RECORD: 12 career starts, 2 wins, 6 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2001 and 2002. Was 12th in this race last year after finishing runner-up in the 2011 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick begins his final Chase and final 10 races with Richard Childress Racing this Sunday. There'd be no better way to kick things off than with a win. Here's his thoughts: "I really like tracks like Chicagoland where the surface is a little bit worn out, because it makes for better racing. We were fortunate to win the first couple of races here, so Chicagoland has always been a really good race track for us as far as fans and following, too. DeLana (wife) and I always enjoy coming in early for the Chase kick off, going into the city and having a couple of low-key days before the weekend gets started."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick fought an ill-handling race car for much of Saturday's race at Richmond. While he didn't have a car to win, he did manage a respectable 11th-place finish.
ETC.: Harvick has completed 99.5 percent (3,190) of the 3,207 total laps contested in 12 career starts at Chicagoland. His average start is 18.8 and average finish is 10.5. He has zero DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards dropped from third to fifth place after the points were reset following last Saturday's race at Richmond in preparation for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Edwards is tied with Kevin Harvick for fourth, is nine points behind new points leader Matt Kenseth and leads sixth-ranked Joey Logano and Greg Biffle by three points each.
CHICAGO RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-fives, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2010. Was 19th in this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards comes into the Chase with momentum, having won Saturday at Richmond. He's still smarting from coming so close to capturing the title in 2011 (lost in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart) and then missing the Chase entirely last year. However, he has had his struggles at times at Chicagoland. Still, he feels very confident coming into the Chase opener: "We're gonna win the championship. That's our mission. That seemed like a crazy idea about a month-and-a-half ago, but Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Fennig) and these guys have buckled down. We've got two guys in the Chase (including teammate Greg Biffle). This championship would mean the world to me. The next 10 weeks, we're gonna be on them hard. They're gonna know we're here."
LOOKING BACK: Edwards led 46 laps, but none were more important than the last one Saturday at Richmond, as he managed to get past race leader Paul Menard on a restart with three laps left and sailed on to his second win of the season.
ETC.: Edwards has completed 95.4 percent (2,040) of 2,139 total laps contested in eight career starts at Chicagoland. His average start is 14.6 and average finish is 16.6. He has zero DNFs there.
22 JOEY LOGANO, FORD
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing from 16th to eighth in the regular season standings over the previous four races, Joey Logano continued his uphill climb after Richmond, moving into a tie for sixth place with Greg Biffle after the points were reset for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Logano and Biffle are 12 points behind points leader Matt Kenseth, three points behind the fourth-place tie of Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards, and lead a five-way tie for eighth place with the remaining Chase-eligible drivers.