WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing two spots in the standings after Martinsville, Gordon climbed one more position after Texas to fifth place, in a tie with Matt Kenseth. Gordon and Kenseth trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 72 points, are 14 points behind fourth-ranked Kasey Kahne, and both he and Kenseth lead seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin by one point.
PHOENIX RECORD: 27 career starts, 2 wins, 10 top-5s, 19 top-10s, 3 poles. Best finish: first in spring 2007 and spring 2011. Finished 32nd in this race last year and was eighth in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon looks to finish the remaining two races and end up with potentially a fifth place finish, if not potentially fourth. Here are Gordon's thoughts on Sunday's race: "This year has been frustrating at times, but it's also been very rewarding too. With all the adversity we have faced during the year, the never-give-up attitude of this team allowed us to secure a spot in the Chase. And while we have had some issues in the first eight races of the Chase, there are still spots to be gained and lost. We'll have to fight hard at Phoenix and Homestead to see if we can continue to make up more spots in the standings. You have to keep things in perspective and look at the positives. Even though it's not been the year we had hoped for, we have fought hard the entire season. All things considered, I think it's pretty impressive we're battling for a top-five finish in the standings.
LOOKING BACK: Gordon's Chase chances effectively ended Sunday at Texas with his 14th-place finish. He had a great season, but much like several times since his last Sprint Cup championship in 2001, Gordon fell short once again.
ETC.: Gordon has completed 97.9 percent (8,264) of the 8,439 laps contested in his 27 career starts at Phoenix. His average start is a strong 11.1 and average finish slightly better at 10.8. He also has two DNFs there.
17 MATT KENSETH, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kenseth gained the most spots of any Chase driver, jumping from eighth to a tie with Jeff Gordon for fifth place after Texas. Gordon and Kenseth trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 72 points, are 14 points behind fourth-ranked Kasey Kahne, and both Kenseth and Gordon lead seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin by one point.
PHOENIX RECORD: 20 career starts, 1 win, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: first in fall 2002. Finished 34th in this race last year (after starting from the pole); was 13th in this year's spring race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has two races left in his 13-year tenure at Roush Fenway Racing before moving next season to Joe Gibbs Racing. And even though his championship hopes this season have fallen short, Kenseth will still be looking to win the last two races. He's never given up before in his career and he's not going to do so this time, either. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Even though we’re out of the title hunt, we’ve been striving to keep improving our position in the standings. Jumping up three positions in the points after last weekend was a big boost with two races remaining."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth had an outstanding run at Texas, finishing fourth.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 91.1 percent (5,747) of the 6,310 laps he's contested during his 20 career starts at Phoenix. His average start is 20.6; average finish is an outstanding 17.8. He also has four DNFs there.
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After losing two places (from third to fifth) at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin's free-fall continued at Texas, where he fell two more positions to seventh place. He now trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 73 (he was only 20 points behind then-leader Brad Keselowski coming into Martinsville, and 49 points behind Johnson heading into Texas), trails the fifth-place tied duo of Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon by one point and leads the eighth-place tied duo of Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. by seven points each.
PHOENIX RECORD: 14 career starts, 1 win, 6 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: first in spring 2012. Finished 12th in this race last year, but came back to win this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin's Chase hopes are done. The best he can hope for is to potentially finish in the top five, but it will be a tough hill to climb. Hamlin's thoughts on Sunday's race in Phoenix are the same that he had going into Texas: "It's a shame we can't be a part of (the championship battle), but we're going to try to work our way as far up in the points as we possibly can and just keep digging."
LOOKING BACK: Hamlin had a horrible race at Martinsville, finishing 33rd, and followed that up with a finish not all that much better at Texas, 20th place.
ETC.: Hamlin has completed an outstanding 99.4 percent (4,410) of the 4,435 laps contested in his 14 career starts at Phoenix. His average start there is 13.5; average finish is an outstanding 10.9. He has 0 DNFs there.
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After falling from seventh to 10th at Martinsville, Tony Stewart earned back two of those spots – back to eighth place – at Texas. The defending Sprint Cup champion is now tied for eighth with Martin Truex Jr. Both drivers trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 80 points, seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin by seven points and lead 10th-ranked Greg Biffle by three points.
PHOENIX RECORD: 21 career starts, 1 win, 8 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in fall 1999. Finished third in this race last year, and was 22nd in this year's spring race there.
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. How he finishes Sunday in Phoenix will go a long way towards determining whether the three-time champ can finish the season in the top five or not. Here are Stewart's thoughts on Sunday's race: "When we went and did the Goodyear tire test last week, the track was narrower than it was when we tested there the first time. It’s tough to keep the track surface clean. It's out in the desert, and that track is real sensitive to being clean. It is a hard challenge for those guys."
LOOKING BACK: Stewart had a strong run at Texas, finishing in fifth place.
ETC.: Stewart has completed 99.8 percent (6,609) of the 6,622 laps contested in his 21 career starts at Phoenix. His average start is 13.5; average finish is 11.8. He has 0 DNFs there.
56 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Truex fell one spot in the standings, from seventh into an tie for eighth place with Tony Stewart. Both drivers trail points leader Jimmie Johnson by 80 points, seventh-ranked Denny Hamlin by seven points and lead 10th-ranked Greg Biffle by three points.
PHOENIX RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 5 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: fifth in fall 2009. Finished 20th in this race last year, improved to seventh in this year's spring race there.