By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
Capsules for all drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After moving from sixth to first place once the points were reset after Richmond and prior to the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Matt Kenseth remained in first place after winning the 10-race Chase opener Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. He leads teammate Kyle Busch by eight points and former points leader Jimmie Johnson by 11 points.
NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 27 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 13 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in fall 2004. Finished 14th in this race last year and was ninth in this year's summer race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth got off to a great start to the Chase, winning the first of the 10-race playoffs in convincing fashion Sunday at Chicagoland. Now, Kenseth, who has a series-leading six wins, looks to continue that momentum and build an even larger lead at New Hampshire this Sunday. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I think it's too early to really pick favorites. I think there's a ton of competition. When you look at the finishing position last Sunday, 10 of the top 12 were all drivers in the Chase. You're going to have to run really good every week to be able to beat that because they're in the Chase for a reason: because they've been the best-running cars all year. You're going to try to figure out how to beat all of them and they're all going to be really tough."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led when Sunday's race was stopped for a five-plus hour rain delay, then picked up where he left off, going on to win the Chase opener. The previous two winners of the Chase opener at Chicagoland went on to win the championship that season (Tony Stewart in 2011 and Brad Keselowski in 2012). Could Kenseth make it three in a row?
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 99.0 percent (7,873) of the 7,950 total laps contested in 27 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 20.0, while his average finish is a considerably better 13.8. He has one DNF there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After being seeded in a tie for second place with Jimmie Johnson heading into the Chase, Kyle Busch is now in second place all by himself. Busch trails points leader Matt Kenseth by eight points and is three points ahead of third-place Jimmie Johnson.
NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 17 career starts, 1 wins, 5 top-fives, 7 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2006. Finished 28th in this race last year and was runner-up in this year's early summer race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch is locked and loaded for a win, especially after coming so close not only in the early summer race at New Hampshire, but also finishing runner-up to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in Sunday's Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway. Here's Busch's thoughts on this Sunday's race: "There's no doubt it's great (to be so high in the rankings). Certainly you'd rather win one. I felt like we had a great chance of that at Chicago and Matt (Kenseth) got a little bit of a better push on the restart, and it was going to be hard to get back around him. There's still nine more weeks - nine long weeks to go. But I know this team is focused and we'll try to have another good race at New Hampshire and keep up some positive momentum from last week."
LOOKING BACK: Busch tried mightily but just could not catch teammate Matt Kenseth in the closing laps at Chicagoland, ultimately finishing second.
ETC.: Busch has completed 97.7 percent (4,954) of the 5,070 total laps contested in 17 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 11.6, while his average finish is 15.8. 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 for the Chase. And after Sunday's first Chase race in Chicago, Johnson dropped to third. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 11 points and is three points behind second-ranked Kyle Busch and leads fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick by four points.
NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 23 career starts, 3 wins, 8 top-5s, 16 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in early and late summer 2003 and early summer 2010. Finished second in this race last year and was sixth in this year's early summer race.
LOOKING AHEAD: With the number of wins he's had at New Hampshire, along with his outstanding overall success, Johnson comes into this Sunday's race as one of the top candidates to win. Here's his thoughts: "We had a great race car there earlier this year and we've tested there so I'm optimistic going back. The way the race unfolds it's definitely a different game when you get into the top 10. Restarts were important and the lane you were in made a difference on how you could pass."
LOOKING BACK: After four straight poor performances - 40th (Michigan), 36th (Bristol) 28th (Atlanta) and 40th (Richmond) - Johnson finally broke through to finish fifth in the Chase opener at Chicagoland.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 99.0 percent (6,709) of the 6,777 total laps contested in 23 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start there is 12.5 and his average finish is an outstanding 9.4. He has zero DNFs there.
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 and again after the Chase opener this past Sunday at Chicagoland. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 15 points, is four points behind third-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads the fifth-ranked tie of Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch by eight points.
NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 25 career starts, 1 wins, 5 top-fives, 13 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in late summer 2006. Was 11th in this race last year and seventh in this year's early summer race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick got off to a great start in Sunday's Chase opener at Chicagoland. Now he has to keep that momentum up heading to New Hampshire. He is bound and determined to win the championship this season, especially since it's his final year with Richard Childress Racing. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "The hardest thing is just making your car turn in the middle of the corner and being able to have enough forward drive up off. It always seems like the New Hampshire race comes down to a track position strategy call on two tires or four tires toward the end of the race. Track position will play a big part, but getting your car to handle right will probably play an equal part."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick had a great Chase opener at Chicagoland, finishing third, the highest-ranked Chevrolet driver to kick off the 10-race playoffs.
ETC.: Harvick has completed 99.3 percent (7,323) of the 7,377 total laps contested in 25 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 14.2 and average finish is 13.4. He has zero DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards remained in fifth place after the Chase opener at Chicagoland, but is also now tied with Kurt Busch, both drivers 23 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth. The duo is also eight points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick and one point ahead of seventh-ranked Jeff Gordon.
NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 18 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in early summer 2006. Was 19th in this race last year and eighth in this year's early summer race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards needs to come out of New Hampshire with a top-five finish, lest he start falling too far behind as the Chase continues to intensify. Tied for fifth is good, but at 23 points back, he's essentially a half-race behind former teammate Matt Kenseth points-wise.
LOOKING BACK: Edwards hoped to start off the Chase with a top-five finish, but he had to settle for an eleventh place showing. "There are a couple of things I wish I could take back," Edwards said of this past Sunday's race at Chicagoland. "I tried the high side one time and about five or six guys freight-trained me on the bottom. The last restart we all just kind of fought for the bottom and I had to check up or I was going to wreck Greg (Biffle). That got us. Other than that, the strategy I think was very good to have good tires at the end. Our car was as fast as anyone at the end. We needed things to fall a little better and I needed to make better decisions."
ETC.: Edwards has completed 99.9 percent (5,367) of 5,370 total laps contested in 18 career starts at New Hampshire. His average start is 14.7 and average finish is 14.1. He has zero DNFs there.
78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet
Team: Furniture Row Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Of all the 13 Chase drivers, Kurt Busch climbed the most spots in the standings after the opening race at Chicagoland, going from a six-way tie for eighth to a tie for fifth with Carl Edwards. Both drivers are 23 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth, are eight points behind fourth-ranked Kevin Harvick and one point ahead of seventh-ranked Jeff Gordon.