17 MATT KENSETH, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: This year's Daytona 500 winner remained atop the Sprint Cup standings for the sixth straight week after Loudon. His lead over second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr., shrank from 25 to 16 points after Loudon and from 44 to 40 points ahead of third-ranked and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 2nd in 2003 and 2006. Finished 5th in this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is eager to get back to racing after the off week, especially because Sunday's race is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here's his scouting report: "I really feel like Indy is the second biggest race of the year, and everyone wants to have the chance to be able to win that race, win the trophy and kiss the bricks there. Indy is one of the most unique tracks that we visit on the circuit. With our time on track there being so limited without any testing and just a few practices, you really just unload and try to get up to speed on things as soon as you can to tune in your car." Also, don't be surprised if Kenseth reveals this week what team/organization he'll be racing for in 2013 this weekend in Indianapolis.
LOOKING BACK: Once again, Kenseth had a mediocre car and performance on a track that he should do better at (Loudon). The flat one-mile oval harkens back to Kenseth's short track days in his native Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, but for whatever reason, he just can't seem to get New Hampshire figured out. Here are his thoughts: "We didn't have one of the best cars. It seems we struggle (at New Hampshire) as a company a little, but we were pretty good in the beginning. We could never get it good enough to run with the real good guys, so then it's really about pit stop strategy and restarts. We got it back there at the end and (I) was faster than the three or four cars in front of me, but I just couldn't figure out how to pass them."
ETC.: Kenseth has completed just 90.9 percent (1,746) of the 1,921 laps contested in his 12 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 20.5, and his average finish is 14.2. He also has 1 DNF there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Remained in second place for the third consecutive week. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by just 16 points and leads third-ranked Greg Biffle by 24 points.
INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10s, and 0 poles. Best career finish: 6th in 2006. Finished 16th in this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt is ready to get back to racing. And while Indianapolis Motor Speedway has not been very good to him, he's still looking forward to racing there Sunday: "Everyone wants to win at Indianapolis. Everyone wants to go through the process they have at post-race, the celebration and the unique thing that they do. I've read about the history and read about how it has survived two world wars and how it was basically the proving grounds for the automobile back in the turn of the century. I would love to be able to say I've won a race there. It's at the top of the list. It battles with tracks like Daytona."
LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt finished an impressive fourth at New Hampshire. While he challenged at times for the lead, he just didn't have as strong of a car as Hendrick Motorsports teammate and race winner Kasey Kahne. Here's Earnhardt's take: "We're running strong. I'm really happy with how many points we're gaining every week and what we're doing consistently. National Guard and Diet Mountain Dew want to be in victory lane, and that's where I want to be, too. We just need a tick more speed."
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed just 91.8 percent (1,764) of the 1,921 laps contested in his 12 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 16.8 and his average finish is 21.67. He also has 3 DNF there.