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Post-All-Star weekend Driver Reports

May 20, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com

Kasey Kahne

Entering Coca-Cola 600, standings the same after non-points race

1. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Johnson leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 423 points.
Last week: Johnson not only won his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he became the first driver in history to win the event four times during his career. Johnson entered pit road fourth after the final of four 20-lap segments, and a blazing stop put him second on the grid for the 10-lap sprint to the finish. He passed teammate and leader Kasey Kahne quickly and wasn’t challenged over the final eight laps.
What he said: “Over time, honestly, it’s just dedication and drive from every member of Hendrick Motorsports, and every member on this No. 48 team. We’re very proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished, but we know we’ve got to keep pushing harder and keep pushing one another and we did it again here tonight. I don’t know how we keep doing it.”
This week: In 23 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson has six wins, 11 top-fives, 15 top-10s and three poles. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Johnson ranks first out of 52 drivers with an average place of 7.9.
Last year: Coming off a win at Darlington and a victory at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Johnson was in position to challenge for his third consecutive victory. The No. 48 Chevrolet started third and was never out of the top 10 during the first 340 of 400 laps. Then came the pit stop. With 46 laps to go, Johnson came to pit road for two tires and fuel. When he left his stall, the gas can -- and the gas man -- were still attached to the car. That necessitated a stop-and-go penalty, dropping Johnson from a top-five spot to out of the top 10. He finished 11th, his third consecutive finish outside the top 10 at a track where he once won four consecutive points races.

2. Carl Edwards (No. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Edwards is second in the standings with 379 points.
Last week: Edwards was among the many drivers to tinker with pit strategy during the four 20-lap segments Saturday night. The No. 99 Ford, though, didn’t one of those stanzas and wasn’t in position to challenge for the win over the final 10 laps. Edwards, the polesitter, finished 10th.
What he said: “It was going well and then we stayed out and obviously we should have pitted. I think we gambled on the air being a little more important than it was. We thought we could hold them off and it just wasn’t meant to be. We learned a big lesson, though, so we can apply that to the (Coca-Cola) 600.”
This week: In 16 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Edwards has five top-fives, and 10 top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Edwards ranks 10th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 15.4.
Last year: Edwards continued to recover from a slow start to the season with his ninth-place finish at Charlotte in 2012. It was more impressive when you consider Edwards qualified 28th, then made changes to his setup following the final practice before the Coca-Cola 600.

3. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Kenseth is third in the standings with 364 points.
Last week: Kenseth struggled with an ill-handling race car during the Sprint All-Star Race, and he was never in serious contention for winning any of the five segments. The driver, who has three wins on the year, finished ninth.
What he said: “We were just too tight and then we pitted under that first caution so we could kind of have an advantage on tires and I think it all would have worked out fine. Then the red flag came out and you were allowed to work on your car under red and honestly that pretty much doomed our whole night because now we’re in last-place and everyone is on the same tires and fuel.”
This week: In 27 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kenseth has two wins, seven top-fives and 14 top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Kenseth ranks ninth out of 52 drivers with an average place of 14.8.
Last year: Kenseth salvaged a top-10 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after dropping from fifth place after Lap 220 to 21st place by Lap 240. He gained nine spots over the final 120 laps (of 400) to take 10th, the third time in the past four 600s he’s finished in that position.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Earnhardt Jr. is fourth in the standings with 359 points.
Last week: Earnhardt Jr.’s high spot came during driver introductions, when the North Carolina native was cheered long and loud at Charlotte. The race, though, was a difficult one for Earnhardt to get a handle on. He finished seventh.
What he said: "This place is great as far as the history and the connection to the sport. Being local and having a lot of the crew members and mechanics and everybody involved in the sport get to bring out the wives and the girlfriends and the kids and all that stuff. Everybody gets to enjoy the race and gets to come and enjoy the weekend.”
This week: In 26 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has five top-fives, 11 top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Earnhardt ranks 25th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 20.2.
Last year: Junior nearly broke through for his first top-five at Charlotte since 2008, a span of eight points races. And although the No. 88 didn’t crack that mark, he did finish sixth -- after losing a spot to Brad Keselowski during the final green-flag run due to a loose lug nut on a pit stop -- much to the delight of his fans in Concord, N.C., less than 20 minutes away from where the driver was born. It was also his second consecutive top-10 in the Coca-Cola 600.

5. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Bowyer is fifth in the standings with 349 points.
Last week: Like some of his fellow drivers, Bowyer dabbled with different strategies during the Sprint All-Star Race. He stayed out on the track following one of the 20-lap segments and was first in the field, but he quickly ceded ground on old tires. Bowyer went the more conventional route after that failed experiment, but he lost enough ground to have a poor average finish for the four 20-lap segments. That put him toward the back when drivers entered pit road, and he finished 18th.
What he said: “Well we walked out of there with a car in one piece and a pretty decent run. That final shootout isn’t what we wanted, but it’s hard to do much in 10 laps if you aren’t starting up front.”
This week: In 14 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Bowyer has one win, two top-fives and four top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Bowyer ranks 16th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 17.6.
Last year: Bowyer’s car was outstanding in the 2012 race … when the sun was out. The No. 15 Toyota started fifth on the grid and stayed in the top five through the first 90 laps, and in the top 10 through the first 120. Bowyer’s car bore the brunt of the racing effects once the track cooled, and it took some time to get his machine right. During that period of changes, Bowyer went down a lap, but he rallied from 27th place through 220 laps to finish 13th in the 400-lap event.

6. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Kahne is sixth in the standings with 326 points.
Last week: Kahne didn’t win one of the four 20-lap segments, but he did have one of the best average finishes among the 22-car field. That put him third in line entering pit road for a mandatory four-tire pit stop, and he won the race off pit road prior to the 10-lap sprint to the finish. Kahne couldn’t hold his ground and watched teammate Jimmie Johnson blow by him early on the restart. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano would do the same, relegating Kahne to a fourth-place finish.
What he said: “I would say my pit crew did a great job of getting us out first. I was a little tight the run before and we didn’t have time to fix it because we wanted to get out first and knew if we could get clean air we thought we would be all right. Jimmie (Johnson) just stayed right there and I couldn’t get rid of him, and then he beat me off the corner … and it was over after that.”
This week: In 18 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kahne has four wins, seven top-fives and 10 top-10s. He is the defending race winner. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Kahne ranks third out of 52 drivers with an average place of 12.4.
Last year: Kahne made his 300th career start one to remember. Driving the No. 5 Chevrolet, Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600 for the third time in his career, leading six times for 96 total laps, including the final 44. It was also Kahne’s first career win while driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

7. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Penske Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Keselowski is seventh in the standings with 326 points.
Last week: It was an All-Star Race to forget for the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Keselowski figured out quickly that he had a busted transmission when he couldn’t accelerate out of second gear. His night was done after logging just two laps.
What he said: “Something just broke in the back half of the drive train, either the transmission or drive shaft gear -- I’m not sure which one -- but it’s one of those deals, unfortunately. We’ll try to learn from it and move on.”
This week: In seven career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Keselowski has one top-five and one top-10. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Keselowski ranks 13th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 15.8.
Last year: Keselowski’s best Charlotte showing came last year, when he finished fifth in the Coca-Cola 600. It’s the driver’s only top-five -- and top-10 -- at the track in a points race. Keselowski earned that finish despite qualifying 24th, and bumping cars with Tony Stewart on pit road -- both drivers accepted blame for the incident. Keselowski’s No. 2 incurred some minor damage, but nothing that could slow his charge into the top five.

8. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Busch is eighth in the standings with 325 points.
Last week: First, Kyle Busch ensured brother Kurt Busch would not win $2 million. Kurt won the first segment, but Kyle ended his chance of sweeping all five segments by winning the second 20-lap stanza. Then Busch won the third segment, and he was second entering pit road before the final 10-lap segment. Busch had a good restart after coming out of pit road third, but he couldn’t catch winner Jimmie Johnson.
What he said: “We definitely had the best car here tonight. Just didn’t quite get the best pit stop there at the end to get us out on the front row. Then when you’re back behind cars you’re getting beat up on. It is what it is.”
This week: In 18 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch has eight top-fives, 11 top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Busch ranks second out of 52 drivers with an average place of 9.6.
Last year: The extended run of green-flag racing benefitted a driver of Busch’s caliber. Steering the No. 18 Toyota, Busch carefully picked his spots throughout the Coca-Cola 600 and found himself in the lead on Lap 121 after starting 17th. Busch would lead three times for 55 total laps and finished third. It marked Busch’s ninth top-10 at the track in the past 10 Charlotte points races.

9. Aric Almirola (No. 43)

Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford 

Where he stands: Almirola is ninth in the standings with 317 points.
Last week: Almirola was one of 23 drivers in the 40-lap Sprint Showdown, but he wasn’t one of two drivers to transfer over into the main event -- the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The No. 43 Ford finished seventh in the event.
What he said: “It was a really disappointing night for us. We just missed the setup. The car was too tight and hitting the splitter. Todd (Parrott) made a good call on the adjustment, but we needed more. I’m disappointed we didn’t make the All-Star race, but we’ll take what we learned and use it next weekend."
This week: In two career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Almirola has one pole. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Almirola ranks fourth out of 52 drivers with an average place of 12.5.
Last year: The lone pole of Almirola’s career (so far) came last year at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600. Ultimately, though, it was a frustrating finish for the No. 43 Ford team. Almirola’s car got loose when the sun went down and the lights come on, and he was 23rd with 40 laps remaining in the 400-lap race. Almirola would finish 16th.

10. Kevin Harvick (No. 29)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Harvick is 10th in the standings with 315 points.
Last week: An engine change in Harvick’s No. 29 Chevrolet ensured he would start at the rear of the field for the first 20-lap segment in Saturday’s first 20-lap segment. That was too great a handicap to overcome, given the segmented nature of the All-Star Race. Harvick finished 11th.
What he said: “This was a long, tough weekend. Between switching engines after practice on Friday and making a bunch of changes to the car during the race, these guys really worked hard. We didn't get the finish we would have liked.”
This week: In 24 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Harvick has one win, two top-fives and seven top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Harvick ranks 21st out of 52 drivers with an average place of 18.8.
Last year: Harvick used a sound car and sound strategy to finish eighth, his fourth consecutive top-10 at the track. The defending race champion, Harvick took advantage of a series of late green-flag pit stops to lead one lap and earn a bonus point while not compromising his position on the track. The No. 29 Chevrolet ran in the top 10 from Lap 240 all the way through the end after 400 laps.

11. Paul Menard (No. 27)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Menard is 11th in the standings with 315 points.
Last week: After driving in his first Sprint All-Star Race in 2012 on the heels of his first career win late in the 2011 season, Menard was back in the Sprint Showdown on Saturday. His No. 27 Chevrolet was in contention during the second and final 20-lap segment but ultimately finished fourth.
What he said: “We just ran out of laps to be able to gain any ground on the leader. With just two 20-lap segments it's difficult to work on the handling of the car and be able to make up much ground. The crew did a great job in the pits and we gained some information we can use in the Coca-Cola 600.”
This week: In 12 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Menard has one top-10. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Menard ranks 28th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 22.7.
Last year: Menard’s No. 29 team nailed the setup of his car, which can be tricky to do with Charlotte’s configurations, and with the 600-miler starting in the evening and finishing under the lights. Unfortunately for Menard, it took quite a bit of time to get the car perfect. By the time it was humming, Menard was a lap down and finished two laps down in 15th place. Still, the driver climbed from 28th place on Lap 120 to fighting for a top 10 spot with 40 laps remaining.

12. Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolett 

Where he stands: Gordon is 12th in the standings with 311 points.
Last week: A veteran of the Sprint All-Star Race, Gordon didn’t have his best outing in the yearly event. In addition to brushing the wall a time or two, Gordon watched teammate Jimmie Johnson win and claim his fourth All-Star Race title -- before Saturday, Johnson was tied with Gordon and Dale Earnhardt for the most-career All-Star wins with three. The No. 24 finished 12th, the only Hendrick Motorsports car outside the top 10.
This week: In 40 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gordon has five wins, 16 top-fives, 21 top-10s and eight poles. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Gordon ranks 12th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 15.8.
Last year: Gordon had his best effort at Charlotte since the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, finishing seventh after starting 23rd. Gordon was one of nine drivers to finish on the lead lap.

Five in the rearview mirror …

Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Biffle is 13th in the standings with 311 points.
Last week: Biffle, who is technically tied for 12th place in the standings with Jeff Gordon, had a quiet All-Star night. The driver finished 15th, one spot ahead of Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
This week: In 20 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Biffle has five top-fives, eight top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Biffle ranks seventh out of 52 drivers with an average place of 13.9.

For more on the Coca-Cola Racing Family, click here.

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Truex Jr. is 14th in the standings with 301 points.
Last week: Truex Jr. was considered one of the favorites for a top-two finish in the Sprint Showdown, a feeling that was only magnified when the No. 56 Toyota took the pole for the event. Truex finished fifth, though, which certainly isn’t bad, but it wasn’t enough to advance to the Sprint All-Star Race later Saturday night.
This week: In 15 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Truex Jr. has three top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Truex Jr. ranks 15th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 17.5.

Jamie McMurray (No. 1)

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: McMurray is 15th in the standings with 295 points.
Last week: McMurray was the star of the Sprint Showdown, the 40-lap, two-segment race that precedes the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, McMurray started second and wrested the lead from polesitter Martin Truex Jr. on the first lap. He went on to lead all 40 laps to win the event, earning a spot in the Sprint All-Star Race. McMurray finished eighth in the main event.
This week: In 21 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, McMurray has two wins, five top-fives and eight top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, McMurray ranks 20th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 18.6.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Stenhouse Jr. is 16th in the standings with 282 points.
Last week: A Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, Stenhouse took to the track with some of the sport’s biggest names in the Sprint All-Star Race. He got there by finishing second in the Sprint Showdown earlier in the evening and finishing second -- the top two finishers in that 23-car field advanced to the prime-time race. In the All-Star Race, Stenhouse finished 16th out of 22 drivers.
This week: In two career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stenhouse Jr.’s best finish is 11th in 2011. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Stenhouse ranks 35th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 25.9.

Kurt Busch (No. 78)

Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Busch is 18th in the standings with 262 points.
Last week: Although he at times was terse -- or worse -- on the radio with his team, Busch was ultimately happy with his Saturday showing. Busch drove the No. 78 Chevrolet to wins in the first and fourth of the four 20-lap segments, which sent him into pit road for the mandatory four-tire stop first. Busch came out of pit road for the final 10-lap dash in fifth place, though, and that’s where he finished. Busch expressed frustration with that final stop, but then told his team he was proud of them and he’d grade the unit as an “A-minus” for the evening.
This week: In 25 career starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch has one win, five top-fives and six top-10s. In the past eight years at Charlotte, Busch ranks 17th out of 52 drivers with an average place of 18.1.

 

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READ: Johnson wins Sprint
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READ: Full coverage
from Charlotte

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Press Pass

READ: Faulty transmission
KO’s Keselowski

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