CHARLOTTE RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in five starts including a second in 2012.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski calls the All-Star Race "a terrific race for the fans to watch and it is a fun race for the drivers too. I remember watching this race when I was growing up, and I always looked forward to it. We get to go all out for the win, and with the big payday ($1,000,000) most of the drivers will push just that little bit harder for the victory."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski led early for three times for 13 laps but ran into handling problems during the middle portions of the race as he ended the night in 13th place. "We could never get it where we wanted it to be," said Keselowski. "Early on, it was way faster. I felt like Superman up there. We just got caught out on that one sequence which put us behind and then we just fought from there to get track position. We ended up 13th, which is kind of ho-hum."
ETC.: Keselowski wonders why people are still talking about the Talladega wreck that he admitted he caused. "I feel like people know something I don't know," said Keselowski. "I got in a wreck at a plate track and I caused it. Like I am the first one to ever do that or something. Wrecking is never fun but it happens and that is just part of racing. Anyone that doesn't see it that way obviously has a set of biases that they can't make a rational judgment, so I don't worry about their criticism."
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only nine points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin is looking on the All-Star Race as a chance for the three JGR teams "to try a lot of different things. There are no points on the line so we can experiment. Sure, we want to win the race, and we will do everything we can to win it. But it is also a great opportunity to get better on the mile-and-a-halves."
LOOKING BACK: Hamlin finished 18th at Kansas. "We just had nothing for the top-10 guys," said Hamlin. "Just really struggled with speed - we were a half-second off, at least in practice and that much in qualifying and that much in the race. A half-second in our sport is miles. It's hard to race out there with the grip level we have versus where other cars are right now. We were a knife in a gunfight deal."
ETC.: Hamlin said the entire Joe Gibbs organization has "got to get better" at the intermediate tracks. "All three teams are off - you got to look at the fundamentals of what makes a race car go fast. Everyone in this sport knows what they are. You've got to handle well, have good power down the straightaways and you have to have good aerodynamics - you just have to have a good race car. You're never going to change one thing and fix it. I just think we're off a little bit in all the fundamental areas and we just have to go back and work on it. Everyone better look out when we get it right."
42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, only nine points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Hopes to make his first start in the special event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said he is "really excited about Friday's Showdown race. It's always fun to race at night, and needing to win the short-lap (40 laps) Showdown to transfer to the All-Star Race will make it feel like a B main event from a sprint car race. It would be nice to already be locked to Saturday's race, but I'm excited to have a chance on Friday to wheel the Target Chevy into the All-Star Race. It would be cool to make Saturday night's race and be among a group of really talented, winning drivers."
LOOKING BACK: Larson started fifth at Kansas but ran into handling problems during the first half of the race as he battled an "extremely loose" race car. But Larson rallied in the final 100 laps to finish 12th. "I thought that we had a good rebound tonight after a rough start," said Larson. "I started the race off extremely loose, but the crew did a great job of getting the right adjustments made in the Target Chevy, which helped me race back towards the front. Having to fight back from the start gave us something to learn from, which will make us better. All-in-all, a good finish given how we started the race."
ETC.: For Larson, winning a preliminary race to qualify for the main event is nothing new. He did it throughout his sprint car days. "This weekend is just like I grew up," said the 20-year-old Larson. "So hopefully we have a couple good races and put on a good show for the fans this weekend."
3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 21 points out of the top 10.
CHARLOTTE RECORD: Hopes to qualify for his first All-Star race by winning or finishing second in the Sprint Showdown.
LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon said the team plans to "push the limits" when it comes to the Showdown on Friday night. "We've giving it all we've got, especially as far as cars and engines. Its two 20-lap heat races and it will be a wild one, I'm sure. Everybody wants to get into the Sprint All-Star Race so they have a shot at earning that million dollar pay out. It means a lot of our team and our guys."
LOOKING BACK: Dillon battled a loose-handling race car all night as he finished 19th in only his second Sprint Cup start at Kansas. "It was a long night for sure," said the rookie driver. "We learned a lot tonight for when we come back in the fall. We think we will be a lot better the second time around."
ETC.: Dillon hopes to have a real good weekend this weekend because "all of the winnings from my side of it I'm going to give back to the Armed Forces Foundation. We're going to be giving back to the military. They are the ones that allow us to race on the weekends. I hope the fans vote for me. We'll put on a good show in the (All-Star) race."