LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart will not repeat as Sprint Cup champion. And at this juncture, he'll be lucky if he can finish the season in the top five. Here are Stewart's thoughts on Sunday's race: "As soon as your car settles in you can really just mash right back in the gas and just ride that second level around down onto the backstretch. … And it's the same thing, once that car settles in; you get on the gas and ride it around to the frontstretch. It's a pretty smooth racetrack."
LOOKING BACK: Stewart finished 19th, one lap down to winner Kevin Harvick, who is expected to drive for Stewart Haas Racing in 2014.
ETC.: Stewart has completed 99.9 percent (3,473) of the 3,476 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Homestead. His average start is 14.5; average finish is 11.5. He has 0 DNFs there.
56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Truex fell two spots in the standings after Phoenix, from a tie for eighth to 10th place. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by a distant 111 points, and ninth-ranked Tony Stewart by 24 points, and leads 11th-ranked Jeff Gordon by four points.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: 7 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5, 5 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: second in 2006. Finished third in this race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: As far back as he is in the standings, Truex likely won't finish much higher than seventh place, if he's lucky, with the potential of dropping as low as 11th place if he has a bad race. Here are Truex's thoughts on Sunday's race: "We have a lot of unfinished business to do and have just one race to do it. … So Homestead-Miami is going to be it for us. We need to finish our season on a high note and it's time to finally get that win."
LOOKING BACK: Truex had his worst showing of the season, suffering a blown engine to start the race and finishing dead last in 43rd place.
ETC.: Truex has completed 98.9 percent (1,854) of the 1,874 laps contested over his seven career starts at Homestead. He has an average start of 17.3; average finish of 10.4. He also has recorded one DNF there.
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 115 points out of first place. Lost five spots last week.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: Finished fifth in 2011 for his tenth top-10 finish in 13 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon wants to celebrate his 20 years with DuPont as a sponsor with a win at Homestead. "DuPont gave a young man with a dream a shot – and I'll never forget that," said Gordon. "After a few years into the sponsorship, I started to consider myself a DuPont employee – which is an honor. So I just want to thank all of my co-workers for being my most loyal supporters for the last 20 years. I sure hope we can put an exclamation point on these last 20 years with a win on Sunday."
LOOKING BACK: After getting knocked into the wall as he and Clint Bowyer battled for fifth place with only seven laps to go, Gordon limped around the track until he had a chance to deliberate wreck Bowyer – which he did with just over a lap remaining. Moments after Gordon climbed out of his car he was attacked by a member of Bowyer's crew to trigger a fight that involved both teams. It took NASCAR several minutes to break up the fight. Gordon escaped unhurt. He ended the day in 30th place. "Things have gotten escalated over the year and I have just had it," said Gordon after meeting with NASCAR officials. "Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me and he got into me on the back straightaway, pretty much ruined out day. I have had it, was fed up with it and got him back."
ETC.: NASCAR announced Monday it was fining Gordon $100,000 and docking him 25 points which dropped him to 11th in the standings and put him on probation for the remainder of the season. "I take responsibility for my actions on the race track," said Gordon in a statement released by Hendrick Motorsports after the penalty was revealed. "I accept NASCAR's decision and look forward to ending the season on a high note at Homestead." NASCAR could have parked Gordon, but decided against this action. "Following a thorough analysis of the actions that took place during Sunday's race at Phoenix, we have issued penalties based upon our review," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "We consider the penalties appropriate and those involved understand our decision and we expect them to abide by them."
88 DALE EARNHARDT, JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 160 points out of first place.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: His 11th-place finish last year was his best finish in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt said, "Homestead has turned into a really good race track. We are able to move all over the track and look for speed in different places. The cars seem to respond to that. The track is very unique even though it looks quite simple. It is really a challenge. Both corners are very different from each other and require the cars to handle differently in each corner. It is a fun place to race."
LOOKING BACK: It was a long, long day for Earnhardt as he battled an ill-handling race car all afternoon. "We just never could find the handle today," said Earnhardt, who finished 21st, a lap down. "We tried a lot of different things, but nothing seemed to really help. It was just one of those days that you have some time."
ETC.: Crew chief Steve Letarte feels the car the team is bringing to Homestead is a "winning one." Earnhardt drove the car to a fourth-place finish at Michigan in August. "It is just a good car, and one that Dale Junior really likes," said Letarte. "We really want to finish the season with a win."
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th.
HOMESTEAD RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch admits Homestead-Miami Speedway has not "been great to me. We've had a few races where our runs have been much better than the results have shown. We were running top-10 in 2011 before we got wrecked. I'm hoping we can have another strong car (like at Phoenix) and finish off the season strong. That would give us some momentum for the offseason and for next season."
LOOKING BACK: Busch dominated the race as he led four times for 237 laps. But he struggled on the two final restarts and ended the day in third place. Busch, naturally, wasn't too pleased with the final results. "Guys gave me an awesome car," said Busch. "Just gave it away at the end. Just didn't pick the right lane (on the next-to-last restart). It's my fault. Obviously, having a car that's the class of the field – you expect to win and you're supposed to win. We just basically handed the race on a silver platter to the 29 (Kevin Harvick)"