2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Dodge

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Brad Keselowski remains in first place in the Sprint Cup standings for the third consecutive week after Charlotte. He leads second-ranked Jimmie Johnson by seven points and third-ranked Denny Hamlin by 15 points.

KANSAS RECORD: 5 career starts, 1 win, 2 top-5, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in spring 2011. Finished third in this race last year; was 11th in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski continues to show some of the best consistency of any driver in the Chase. But now that we're at the halfway point of the 10-race playoff, can he continue as the pressure starts to increase with each remaining race? Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race at Kansas: "I know I speak for everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge team when I say we can't wait to get to Kansas to prove that our finish at Charlotte was an anomaly, a blip on the radar. And going to a track where we've won before gives us a little extra confidence although it is a new surface that we'll be breaking in. We were able to take part in the tire test there a few weeks ago, and they did an outstanding job with the repave. It's smooth and fast, and while it may be one-groove for a few races, I think we'll see it become a very competitive place. I would definitely like to be the first driver to win on the new surface."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski led 139 laps at Charlotte on Saturday, but the combination of different pit strategy and a car that started to go away on him in the waning laps resulted in an 11th-place finish.

ETC.: Keselowski has completed 99.9 percent (1,339) of the 1,340 laps contested in his five career Cup starts at Kansas. His average start is 15.4; average finish is an outstanding 10.2. He has 0 DNFs there.

48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remains in second place for the third consecutive week. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by seven points and leads third-ranked Denny Hamlin by eight points.

KANSAS RECORD: 12 career starts, 2 wins, 5 top-5s, 10 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: 1st in fall 2008 and spring 2011. Finished first in this race last year, and was third in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Danger, danger, this is the time of season where Johnson goes from good to great. The second half of the Chase is usually his bread and butter, and as Johnson pushes for his sixth career Cup championship, you're likely to see him and his team get even stronger. Here are Johnson's thoughts on Sunday's race at Kansas: "(The new racing surface at Kansas will) help set the stage for 2013, but the cars will be so much different when we come back that it's going to be hard. But at least we'll have a data file. That's what's really key for the teams is to get a current data file set. So we'll have that and I think it's the right call to let the teams and drivers get on the track. Let's validate the tire that it's right in real conditions and let everybody get a feel for it so when we show up on Friday and the NASCAR timer is official that we're prepared and ready to go racing."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson led 53 laps at Charlotte and looked as if he might win but ultimately settled for a third-place finish behind winner Clint Bowyer and runner-up Denny Hamlin. More important, though, Johnson remained in second place in the Chase standings.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 99.1 percent (3,123) of the 3,152 laps contested in his 12 career starts at Kansas. His average start is an outstanding 10.9; average finish is an even better 7.9. He also has 1 DNF there.

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Denny Hamlin remained in third place for the fourth consecutive week after Charlotte. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 15 points and second-ranked Jimmie Johnson by eight points and leads fourth-ranked Clint Bowyer by 13 points.

KANSAS RECORD: 9 career starts, 1 win, 3 top-5s, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in spring 2012. Finished 16th in this race last year, was first in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin is looking to build upon his outstanding win at Kansas this spring and potentially take a second consecutive win. With a new racing surface, though, that may be easier said than done.

LOOKING BACK: Hamlin led 36 laps at Charlotte en route to an outstanding runner-up finish. Here are his thoughts on that race: "We had a top-three car all day. Didn't have the handling that I wanted most of the time, but we still had the speed to make up for it. It's finally good to have a fuel-mileage race somewhat go our way. We've been struggling with these things in the past, so it teaches you you've got to be prepared for these."

ETC.: Hamlin has completed 99.8 percent (2,347) of the 2,351 laps contested in his nine career starts at Kansas. His average start there is 14.1; average finish is an identical 14.1. He has 0 DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Bowyer climbed one spot, from fifth to fourth, after Charlotte, which he won. He is 28 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski and 13 points behind third-ranked Denny Hamlin and leads fifth-ranked Kasey Kahne by seven points.

KANSAS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: second in fall 2007. Finished seventh in this race last year; ended up 36th in this year's spring race there after his car had engine issues.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer greatly increased his chances of remaining in the battle to win the championship with his outstanding win at Charlotte Saturday night. Now the Emporia, Kan., native returns to his "home" track, Kansas Speedway, where he hasn't had exactly stellar luck, something he hopes to change Sunday. Here are his thoughts: "That's probably the biggest thing is to come off this win going into your hometown -- the family and friends, everybody that goes there, it's just so important to be able to roll in on a positive note. If we could possibly pull this off again in Kansas it would be ... that's my -- do you dare say Daytona 500, but it truly is. That's the biggest race you can possibly win is in front of your hometown. To be back in Victory Lane -- new life, new hope going into Kansas. There's a lot of races left. Kansas -- nobody really knows what to expect there. It's a repave. You know these cars that are running on these mile-and-a-halfs are going to be fast there, but you don't know if somebody is going to stub their toe, if somebody is going to struggle if it comes down to fuel mileage."

LOOKING BACK: Bowyer was in the right place at the right time to take the lead and held on in the closing laps to win at Charlotte, giving a huge boost to his Chase chances with five races remaining.

ETC.: Bowyer has completed 93.1 percent (1,940) of the 2,084 laps contested in his eight career starts at Kansas. His average start is 16.8; his average finish is 15.0. He also has 1 DNF there.

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Kasey Kahne dropped one spot in the standings after Charlotte, from fourth to fifth place. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 35 points and fourth-ranked Denny Hamlin by seven points and leads sixth-ranked Greg Biffle by eight points.

KANSAS RECORD: 10 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 4 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: second in fall 2011. Finished runner-up in this race last year and was eighth in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne is poised to make some significant upward progress in the Chase if he can attack the new pavement at Kansas and exploit it better than other drivers, something Kahne typically does well at tracks that have been newly repaved. Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race: "It'll be good to get on the track for a couple extra days. The most important thing will be getting rubber down on the new pavement. The test will help with that. It should make for some better racing on Sunday, and hopefully we can learn some things for the other mile-and-a-half tracks that are coming up."

LOOKING BACK: Kahne finished a respectable eighth at Charlotte but still lost one spot in the point standings.

ETC.: Kahne has completed 98.0 percent (2,565) of the 2,618 laps contested in his 10 career starts at Kansas. His average start is an outstanding 12.0; average finish is 16.1. He also has 1 DNF there.

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Biffle climbed three spots to sixth in the standings at Charlotte, making it a gain of five spots in the last two races. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 43 points and fifth-ranked Kasey Kahne by eight points and leads seventh-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by six points.

KANSAS RECORD: 12 career starts, 2 wins, 7 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: first in fall 2007 and fall 2010. Finished eighth in this race last year, rallied back to finish fifth in this year's spring event.

LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle is in the midst of a big surge forward in the standings and couldn't be at a better place to continue that trend than at Kansas, one of his most successful tracks on the Cup circuit. Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race: "We don't really know yet what to expect with the new surface at Kansas, but I'm excited about our chances coming off how good we ran at Charlotte. I think it will be like Michigan and Charlotte, which is right up our alley. Our cars are fast at those types of tracks."

LOOKING BACK: Good fortune was with Biffle at Talladega with a sixth-place finish, and he continued that run of good luck at Charlotte, finishing fourth to take another big step upward in the Sprint Cup standings.

ETC.: Biffle has completed 93.9 percent (2,959) of the 3,152 laps he has contested during his 12 career starts at Kansas. His average start is 15.6; average finish is an outstanding 8.0. He also has 1 DNF there.

56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Truex moved up one spot in the standings from eighth to seventh. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 49 points, is six points behind sixth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads eighth-ranked Tony Stewart by just one point.

KANSAS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: second in spring 2012. Finished 36th in this race last year. Was runner-up in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Truex needs to get back into the Chase in a big way -- and the only way to do that will be to win Sunday at Kansas. Anything less and he might as well kiss goodbye any lingering chance to win his first Cup championship. Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race: "It's going to be very critical. We've been to a few repaves this year, and that's something that's probably going to help all the teams going to Kansas. We've had more repaves this year, I think, than any time I've been a part of the Cup Series, so we've got a little bit of an idea what's going to happen. Some guys did some tire testing out there and we've got a good idea. The deal with repaves is the track changes so much throughout the weekend that it's going to be good to have that extra day, get some rubber down, get the track run in a bit and hopefully have an idea what kind of changes we'll have to go through throughout the weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Truex finished 10th at Charlotte to keep alive his slim Chase hopes.

ETC.: Truex has completed 95.0 percent (1,979) of the 2,084 laps contested over his eight career starts at Kansas. He has an average start of 13.1; average finish of 23.2. He has 1 DNF at Kansas.

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Stewart continued his downward slide in the standings -- he has fallen from second to eighth in the first five Chase races, including dropping one spot after Charlotte. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 50 points and seventh-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by one point, is tied for eighth with Jeff Gordon and leads 10th-ranked Kevin Harvick by six points.

KANSAS RECORD: 13 career starts, 2 wins, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in fall 2006 and fall 2009. Finished 15th in this race last year and was 13th in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart is in a win-at-all-costs situation heading into Kansas if he wants to have any chance of defending last year's Sprint Cup championship. Here are his thoughts about Sunday's race at Kansas, including his belief that the new surface makes it a wide-open event: "It does. That's what I liked when we went to Homestead (Fla.) in '99 (which Stewart won). I felt like nobody had an advantage over me there. Nobody knows the secrets at a new race track unless they've tested, and even then they may not know the secrets. It's a whole new ballgame and it's totally up for grabs. It's really anybody's race."

LOOKING BACK: Amid the lingering fallout of the huge 25-car wreck that Stewart caused at Talladega, Stewart ran a conservative race at Charlotte, ultimately finishing 13th. While he still has a chance in the Chase, the odds are growing against him with each passing race.

ETC.: Stewart has completed 99.9 percent (3,473) of the 3,476 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Kansas. His average start is 14.5 and average finish is 11.5. He has 0 DNFs there.

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: After wallowing at the bottom of the Cup standings for the first two Chase races, Gordon continued his climb up the Sprint Cup standings in a big way at Talladega, jumping four spots to sixth place. But he then fell back two spots into a tie for eighth place with Tony Stewart after Saturday night's race at Charlotte. The duo trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 50 points and seventh-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by one point and leads 10th-ranked Kevin Harvick by six points.

KANSAS RECORD: 13 career starts, 2 wins, 8 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 0 poles. Best finish: first in fall 2001 and fall 2002. Finished 34th in this race last year and was 21st in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is like Tony Stewart -- in a must-win situation at Kansas if he is to have any remaining chance of earning his fifth career Cup championship. Here are Gordon's thoughts on Sunday's race at Kansas, particularly with the unpredictable nature of a new racing surface there: "This is a trip to the unknown ... I really don't know what to expect. I liked the old surface, but I'm sure there were reasons -- whether it was the foundation or the construction -- the track needed a repave. Whatever they put in front of us, we'll just do our best as a team to adapt to it and make the car as fast as possible on the new surface."

LOOKING BACK: Gordon did himself no favors at Charlotte, finishing a disappointing 18th. He needs nothing short of an outstanding finish -- e.g., a win -- or Gordon's Chase chances could be all but over after Kansas.

ETC.: Gordon has completed 98.8 percent (3,379) of the 3,419 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Kansas. His average start is 11.1 and average finish is an equally strong 11.1. He also has 2 DNFs there.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick dropped from ninth to 10th place in the Sprint Cup standings after Charlotte. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 56 points and the eighth-ranked pair (tied) of Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon by six points each and leads 11th-ranked Matt Kenseth by 11 points.

KANSAS RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 6 top-10s, 0 poles. Best finish: third in fall 2010. Finished sixth in this race last year and was sixth again in this year's spring race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Turn out the lights, the party is just about over for Harvick. After two weeks in ninth place, Harvick dropped to 10th in the Sprint Cup standings at Charlotte. At this juncture, his chances of winning his first Chase for the Sprint Cup are quickly slipping away. Unless he pulls out a huge upset at Kansas this weekend, it's safe to say Harvick's chances for the Chase are just about done. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race at the newly repaved Kansas Speedway: "I'm not a big fan of repaving anywhere, to be honest, and I enjoyed racing on the old surface at Kansas. However, I understand they had some issues with the track that made (repaving) necessary, so obviously it's what they had to do. Paul (Menard) and the No. 27 team went out there for the Goodyear test in August, so we have some data to go off of entering the weekend that should help us. The guys that took part in the test had good things to say about the track, so we'll see what we've got to work with when we get there."

LOOKING BACK: Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway has been a mixed bag over the years for Harvick. Even though he won there last year, that didn't help him Saturday night when he struggled to a 16th place finish, one lap off the lead.

ETC.: Harvick has completed 96.8 percent (3,309) of the 3,419 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Kansas. His average start is a mediocre 20.7 and average finish is a much better 13.0. He also has 1 DNF there.

17 MATT KENSETH, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 67 points out of first place. Gained one spot last week.

KANSAS RECORD: Finished fourth in the spring race for his second straight fourth-place finish and his fourth consecutive top-seven finish.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth said, "They did a really nice job with the repave at Kansas Speedway. They put a little more banking in it and the track was really smooth when we went out there for our test. It reminded me of Las Vegas after they changed the track. I'm not sure if they did or not, but it seems like they narrowed up the groove a lot, especially in turn one."

LOOKING BACK: Kenseth brought out the first caution flag of the evening when he suffered a flat tire and spun out. He spent the rest of the race recovering from that mishap and finished 14th. "We kept racing and racing to get it (the lap he lost because of the spin) back and finally got our lap back," said Kenseth. "We didn't have a great car, but I think we had a middle half of the top-10 car. But it took us so long to get that lap back and we never had any cautions (after that) to really get caught up."

ETC.: Crew chief Jimmy Fennig said the team is "bringing a brand new car with us this weekend. We have a few ideas that we're going to try and see what ends up being the best to put into our car for this weekend. It's a whole different track now, but I have a feeling that we'll see the cars start out slow. But as more rubber builds into the track, the faster they'll go and more grip they'll have."

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 86 points out of first place. Lost one spot last week.

KANSAS RECORD: Earnhardt will miss his second straight race because of a concussion. Regan Smith will again drive the car at Kansas. Smith has never finished better than 24th in five starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Smith said he is "really looking forward" to Kansas. "We get three days to test when we get there and we will see if we can get the AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet up front there," he said. "I feel confident we will have the same speed we had at Charlotte. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports does a great job. I want to thank them for giving me this opportunity. It's the best car I've ever driven."

LOOKING BACK: Smith was running in the top 10 when a blown engine ended his day, and he finished 38th. "It's disappointing," said Smith. "The important part is that we had a really fast race car. We had a good first adjustment, went just a little too far with it and got a little too free. Needed one more stop and I think we would have had it dialed in."

ETC.: Earnhardt and the team revealed last week that he had suffered two concussions in six weeks and needed to sit out at least two races. Earnhardt said he "knew something was just not quite right" after blowing a tire and crashing hard at Kansas on Aug. 29 during a tire test. "But I decided to push through it." Earnhardt said the hit at Talladega "was an odd kind of hit; the car spun around real quick and it disoriented me. I knew as soon as it happened that I had reinjured myself. It was not even half of the impact I had at Kansas, but it was enough to cause me some concern."

CUT-OFF FOR "CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP"

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th.

KANSAS RECORD: Finished 10th in the spring race for only his second top-10 finish in 10 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "There are definitely some things about it (Kansas Speedway) that are different than any other race tracks we go to. But I think with the new repave it feels much more like Chicago to me, a place we ran well at a few weeks ago, so it makes me hopeful for this weekend with our M&M's Halloween Camry."

LOOKING BACK: Busch finished fifth for his third straight top-five finish at Charlotte and his eighth top-eight finish in the last nine races. "We had a really good race car," said Busch. "Damn fuel mileage played against us again, but it's good for the 11 (teammate Denny Hamlin) and those guys. They came home second. Our M&M's Camry was fast and the guys worked hard all weekend to get it there."

ETC.: Kyle's wife, Samantha, won the "Racing for Awareness" T-shirt design contest sponsored by Toyota. All proceeds from the sale of the T-shirt will be donated to the Carolina Breast Friends in the name of Kyle and Samantha. "I am absolutely so excited that I won," said Samantha. "When Toyota approached all the wives and girlfriends and moms to be a part of this event, it was such an honor just to support such a great cause. I just want to thank all the fans and everybody for voting and making it possible that my shirt (got selected) and that it will raise funds for such a great cause."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 62 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: One win and four top-10 finishes, including three top-fives in 13 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman will make his 400th Cup start this weekend at Kansas Speedway. "I have to be honest, I hadn't thought about it being my 400th career start," said Newman. "To me, that's just a number. The biggest thing to me is it's nice to be able to live my dream, so whether it's my fourth start or my 400th start, it doesn't matter to me because I am doing what I love."

LOOKING BACK: Despite qualifying third, Newman was forced to start at the rear of the field after his team changed engines. "We definitely took a hit with the engine change," said Newman. "Losing that practice on Friday night because of the engine hurt us, too, because we never quite got the car to handle the way it needed to so I could make up the ground that we had lost having to start in the back. It was just a tough night." Newman finished 20th.

ETC.: Newman said he is "thankful to have this opportunity (to race in the Sprint Cup Series), and for all the people who have played a role in my racing career, whether it's giving me money for tires to get to the race track when I was a kid, or changing tires for me in the Sprint Cup Series, I want to say thanks."

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 70 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: Will be shooting for his seventh straight top-10 finish. Has eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards said, "I don't know what I'd do if we won at Kansas. It's the closest track to home (Columbia, Mo.) for me, and I'll have a lot of family and friends there."

LOOKING BACK: Edwards was all smiles after finishing seventh at Charlotte. "Our focus was going as fast as we could and I think we showed a little more promise tonight than we have in a long time," said Edwards. "We drove our way all the way to second on one run. It's been a long time since we've been this competitive on a mile-and-a-half, so I'm very happy with it."

ETC.: Crew chief Chad Norris said, "I think everyone on this team knows how important this race (at Kansas Sunday) is to Carl. He considers it his home track, and a win at Kansas would mean a lot to him. We are taking a new car this weekend that should be fast. We had a good car at Charlotte last week, so we hope to carry that momentum to Kansas."

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 104 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: One top-10 finish in seven starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "We tested at Kansas Speedway after the repave and the groove was starting to come in already. The racing will probably be single groove when we go back there, but I think the middle groove will somewhat come in. The biggest challenge there is going to be getting on pit road. The transition from the banking to the apron is very abrupt, and it's going to be hard on the splitter."

LOOKING BACK: After suffering damage to the splitter and right-front fender during the restart accident after the first caution flag of the night, Menard tried to "ride it out" until his next scheduled pit stop. But the damage caused the right-front tire to blow out 20 laps later, sending Menard hard into the outside wall. As a result, Menard had to be content with a 27th-place finish at Charlotte.

ETC.: Car owner Richard Childress has hired Dr. Eric Warren as the organization's new director of competition. Warren, 43, has a PHD in aerospace engineering. The Mt. Airy, N.C., native has been involved in the motorsports industry since 1997, working for Penske Racing, Evernham Motorsports, Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports.

20 JOEY LOGANO, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 119 points out of 13th place. Gained one spot last week.

KANSAS RECORD: Still looking for his first top-10 finish. Best finish in six starts is 15th. Has won two of the last three Nationwide Series races.

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano said, "I feel like we are really running pretty good right now and I feel like we can keep that up heading into Kansas. We have finished in the top 10 in every race in the Chase so far other than Talladega, and I think had we not got caught up in that first wreck we would have been able to finish in the top 10 that day, too. Now, as a team we need to take that next step and take those top-10s and turn them into top-fives."

LOOKING BACK: Logano finished ninth for his fourth top-10 finish in the five Chase races. "I feel like we had a solid night in the Home Depot Toyota," said Logano. "Considering all of the handling issues that we had and the way the track was changing and having to keep up with that, I'm pretty happy to come out of here with a top-10 finish. We just need to start the runs off better. Twenty or 30 laps into it, we would start gaining ground on everyone. We would just lose too much early in the run."

ETC.: Logano's impressive season in the Nationwide Series continued at Charlotte, where he won his series-high eighth race of the year. The victory was his first in nine career Nationwide starts at CMS. The eight wins have come in just 18 starts. "This car was just outstanding," said Logano. "This is our favorite car, and it's already won three or four races this year. I just can't believe we have won eight of these things this year. That is pretty amazing."

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 123 points out of 13th place. Lost one spot last week.

KANSAS RECORD: One top-10 finish in six starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "It's always exciting going to a track for the first time after it's been reconfigured because you never know what it's going to be like until you actually get in the car. Some of our best finishes this season have come at 1.5-mile intermediate tracks, so I'm hoping we can hit our marks and come away with a great finish."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose suffered significant damage to the front end of his car during the accident on the restart following the first caution flag. To compound his problems, Ambrose hit the wall on lap 142, forcing the team to go behind the wall for repairs. Ambrose ended the day in 33rd place. "It was a tough night for our Stanley team," said Ambrose. "We got into trouble early, and things seemed to go downhill from there."

ETC: Crew chief Mike Ford said, "We will use our backup car for practice (this week) and then transfer those notes over to our primary car for race weekend. With the new surface tire wear will be different than it has been in the past, so I suspect tire strategy will come into play at some point this weekend."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 187 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 13 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, "I talked to a lot of people who already tested at Kansas Speedway and got a lot of different opinions. I expect a one-groove race track. I know track officials are working hard to put rubber on the track with test sessions and Richard Petty Driving Experience cars. I just don't know what the impact of all that will be."

LOOKING BACK: After a good start to the Charlotte race, Burton got caught up in an accordion-style accident on the restart following the first caution flag of the evening. The damage to Burton's car was severe enough that he was forced to make multiple stops for the crew to make repairs. Burton was never able to recover from the early race incident and finished 28th.

ETC.: Burton thinks Kansas didn't need to be repaved. "From a racing standpoint, I don't think it needed it," said Burton. "I think the track was preventing structural issues from taking place. Track officials usually don't want to repave, but they have to or else they will have major problems during the race."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 210 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 11 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "We have made some changes to the car we are taking to Kansas this weekend, so I am glad that we have some extra time to practice on the new surface. I'm hoping that Kansas will be a good track for us."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 17th at Charlotte. "We had a pretty good McDonald's Chevy tonight," said McMurray. "Our guys had good pit stops and made some good changes on the car. Once we got caught a lap down there wasn't many cautions and we couldn't get in position for the lucky dog (to get his lap back). We were able to pick up a few spots in the end on fuel mileage, though."

ETC.: McMurray believes this can be a good weekend because "our teammate (Juan Pablo Montoya) tested at Kansas a couple of weeks ago, so we have some feedback from their test as a starting point. All the guys at the shop have been working really hard to figure out where we need to improve, and I think we're heading in the right direction."

OTHERS

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 233 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: Finished 23rd in the spring race in his Sprint Cup debut at the track.

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "Kansas Speedway is a whole new ballgame with the new pavement and the added banking, so it'll be good to get out there and test for a couple of days, get a feel for it and collect some data," said Almirola. "Our mile-and-a-half program has progressed a lot since the first trip to Kansas -- something I think we proved last Saturday at Charlotte."

LOOKING BACK: Almirola was all smiles after finishing 12th at Charlotte. "We had a fast Smithfield Ford Fusion right off the truck when we got here, and Todd (Parrott, crew chief) and the guys did a great job on it all weekend. We had to keep adjusting with the track over the course of the race, but we were solid all night. It's nice to get a good result to show for all the hard work that went into putting a fast car on track this time."

ETC.: Crew chief Todd Parrott believes qualifying is going to be even more important this weekend because "the track will be smooth and fast and have a lot of grip, which will put a lot more emphasis on track position. So we'll look to qualify well on Friday to give us a good starting spot for Sunday."

55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 349 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: One win and five top-10 finishes in 13 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Martin has not won a race yet this season, but he believes he has a good chance to visit Victory Lane before the year is over. "Rodney (Childers, the crew chief) and the guys are giving me great race cars every week," said Martin. "So we feel really good about the races coming up."

LOOKING BACK: Martin was running third late in the race when he had to pit for fuel. He ended the night in sixth place for his 24th top-10 finish at Charlotte. "What a great night for MWR," said Martin. "Three cars in the top 10 says everything there is to say about this race team. The Aaron's Dream Machine was so close tonight. Congrats to Clint Bowyer in Victory Lane, and Martin (Truex Jr.) turned in another strong run. We have a really great thing going here and we aren't done yet."

ETC.: Whenever Martin heads to Kansas, he thinks of Larry Phillips. "Anyone who raced against him will remember him," said Martin. "He was unique. He was fast, won lots of races and beat a lot of people with slower race cars. That says a lot about him." Phillips won five NASCAR weekly national championships and more than 1,000 dirt and pavement races during his 40-year short-track career.

78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Furniture Row Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 371 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in 13 starts. Stands third in laps led with 239.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "Kansas has been one of those tracks where I have run well but can't seem to seal the deal. Back in April I had a strong run going until an axle broke. But that was with a different team, and the main focus this week is to continue our learning process. The big plus is the two extra days of testing at Kansas. This is exactly what we need -- more seat time and more team communication."

LOOKING BACK: Busch finished 21st in his first start with the team. "Finishing 21st might not appear that we made progress," said Busch. "But the fact of the matter is that we did in our first three days together at the track. But we're also realistic, knowing that there will be more kinks along the way to work out in the final five races of the season. I was pumped before our first practice session and I am even more pumped as we move forward."

ETC.: Busch said his main focus for the rest of the season is "just to get familiar with everything, the process on how the team operates through some of their sequences of changes with the car. Most importantly, it's fitting in with them and finding out how they have done things -- getting in with the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) system on how they communicate between the haulers. All that information I need to be able to digest."

22 SAM HORNISH JR., Dodge

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: His team ranks 21st in the car owner standings.

KANSAS RECORD: His best finish in four starts is 18th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hornish believes newly reconfigured Kansas Speedway will be a plus for him in his bid to win his first Sprint Cup race. "What's different about this weekend is that every driver and team will be starting from square one," said Hornish. "With the new configuration and fresh pavement, it'll be an even playing field heading in there for the race."

LOOKING BACK: Hornish finished 15th at Charlotte. "We were free off (the corners) one run; the next run we'd be really tight through the middle and a little tight off," said Hornish. "We didn't have a very good car this weekend but worked hard and got a top-15 finish out of it. It's not what we wanted, but at the end of the day, that's what we had."

ETC.: Hornish said, "The scenario this week presents a challenge that I am really looking forward to. The attitude I am taking heading in there is as positive as it can be in that I have so much confidence in what we can accomplish there. Everyone is coming in there confronting the same hurdles, and we can't wait to see how we stack up come qualifying and race time."

51 AJ ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

Team: Phoenix Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 32nd, 531 points out of 13th place.

KANSAS RECORD: Won the pole for the spring race and led 44 laps before running into mechanical problems and finishing 32nd. Has two top-10 finishes in six starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Car owner James Finch said Allmendinger would drive the 51 car again at Kansas. "He did a real fine job (at Charlotte) before the penalty (for having a tire outside the pit box)," said Finch. "And he was outrunning Kurt (Busch, who drove the car this season before moving on to the 78 team)." Allmendinger said he can't wait to get back in the car "because Kansas is one of my better tracks."

LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger returned to the driver's seat for the first time since the Kentucky race on June 30. He just recently completed NASCAR's "Road to Recovery" program after being suspended for failing a drug test. "It was great to get back in a Cup car, and I just want to thank James Finch and everyone at Phoenix Racing for giving me this opportunity -- I'm really grateful. I was hoping I could have repaid that favor with a little bit stronger finish." He ended up 24th.

ETC.: Allmendinger said, "It was great to get back in the car and compete again. It was a solid weekend all around despite everything coming together so quickly. I want to also thank everyone who has been so supportive through this entire process. It meant a lot, and now we are all focused on building on this and looking forward to whatever comes next."