2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Dodge

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: With his win in the opening race of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, Brad Keselowski went from a three-way tie for second place into sole possession of first place. He leads second-ranked Jimmie Johnson by three points and third-ranked Tony Stewart by eight points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 6 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 3 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: second in this race last year. Finished fifth in this year's mid-July race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski did exactly what he wanted to do in the Chase opener, and that was to take the checkered flag first. Nothing changes with the second Chase race at Loudon, N.H., this weekend. Keselowski has become quite the proficient short-track driver very quickly in the Cup series, and he has a great track record thus far at Loudon, a record that he wants to add a win to now. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "Loudon is always a lot of fun when we go up to race there. The fans really love what we do and they show it by filling the stands. It's one of those tracks we can go to and almost guarantee that it will be sold out. The racing that we put on at New Hampshire sometimes gets a bad rap, but I think it has produced some of the most exciting finishes over the last few years. It's a one-mile track, but it races like a short track. There is a lot of beating and banging going on, and the fans love to watch it unfold. Loudon has been an underrated track for us over the last couple of years. I think we can run well there again and keep the points lead."

LOOKING BACK: Keselowski led 76 laps and snookered Jimmie Johnson late in the race to win the opening event of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. His thoughts on being No. 1 in the Chase now? "The points lead is nice. It means we won the first race in a 10-race playoff format. But that's really all. I refuse to let it sink in because there is so much work left to be done. We need to keep our eyes looking forward."

ETC.: Keselowski has completed 97.4 percent (1,730) of the 1,776 laps contested in his six career Cup starts at Loudon. His average start is 15.7; average finish is 15.3. He has 0 DNFs there.

48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Johnson essentially didn't gain any ground in the standings, per se. He came into the Chase tied for second place and he left Chicagoland after the Chase opener still in second, although this time he was in sole possession of the No. 2 position. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by three points and leads third-ranked Tony Stewart by five points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 21 career starts, 3 wins, 7 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 1st in summer and fall 2003 and summer 2010. Finished 18th in this race last year and was seventh there in mid-July this year.

LOOKING AHEAD: While Johnson continues to search for his first career Cup win at Chicago, he doesn't have that problem at New Hampshire, which is one of his favorite and most successful tracks on the circuit, including three wins. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "It's tough because the balance when you have clean air and the whole race track to yourself, you need a race car to drive a certain way. When you get in traffic you need the car to turn a lot stronger to run a tighter radius and inside of someone. It's tough to blend those two worlds. That is the thing we fight so much as we work in practice running by ourselves. You get in the race you are rarely by yourself, then trying to find a way to make your car work in traffic."

LOOKING BACK: Johnson dominated Sunday's race at Chicago, leading a race-high 172 laps, but fell to Brad Keselowski late in the event and finished second. Still, to finish second in the race and be second in the standings was a great way to kick off the Chase.

ETC.: Johnson has completed 98.9 percent (6,107) of the 6,175 laps contested in his 21 career starts at Loudon. His average start is an outstanding 10.7; his average finish is an even better 9.9. He has 0 DNFs there.

14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: In a sense, Stewart dropped one position after Chicago. He came into the Chase in a three-way tie for second; he exited in sole possession of third, eight points behind points leader Brad Keselowski, five points behind second-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads a three-driver tie for fourth (Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin), all by seven points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 27 career starts, 3 wins, 14 top-5s, 16 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: first (three times) in summer 2000, summer 2005 and fall 2011. Finished first in this race last year and was 12th there in mid-July this year.

LOOKING AHEAD: Although Stewart didn't start this year's Chase like he did last year's edition -- with a win at Chicagoland -- he still left there Sunday with a decent sixth-place showing. Now it's on to one of his favorite tracks, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Here are Stewart's thoughts on racing there: "It just has long, sweeping corners. The corners in comparison to where we normally race, we're used to having a lot of banking, but New Hampshire is pretty flat. It's one of those tracks where you're either fighting entry-loose, entry-exit and nice in the center, or you're fighting tight in the center and you're good on entry and good on exit. It's a juggling act trying to get the car balanced for all three sections of the corner."

LOOKING BACK: Given how much Stewart struggled with handling at Chicago for much of the race, it's almost a miracle that he came home with a sixth-place finish. Still, he got off to a good start in the Chase, and that's the most important thing.

ETC.: Stewart has completed 94.7 percent (7,525) of the 7,948 laps contested in his 27 career starts at Loudon. His average start is 11.6; his average finish is also 11.6. He also has 2 DNFs there.

5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Kahne went from a four-way tie for ninth to start the Chase to a three-way tie (with Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin) for fourth after the Chase opener at Chicago. The trio stands 15 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski, seven points behind third-ranked Tony Stewart and two points ahead of seventh-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 17 career starts, 1 win, 2 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best finish: first in July 2012. Finished 15th in this race last year and won the mid-July race this season.

LOOKING AHEAD: Considering that he finished third in the Chase opener and is coming off a win the last time he raced at New Hampshire, Kahne is in line to have another strong outing Sunday. Here are Kahne's thoughts about Sunday's race: "It feels really good to go back to New Hampshire during the Chase. The win in July was a big turning point for the team and should give everyone some more confidence this weekend. I think we found a good setup for the car last time, so we should have a good place to start from when we unload."

LOOKING BACK: Kahne said the most important thing for him in this year's Chase was to get off to a good start, and that's exactly what he did with his third-place finish behind winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. While he didn't lead any laps, he was in the right place at the right time when the checkered flag fell.

ETC.: Kahne has completed 91.4 percent (4,630) of the 5,068 laps contested in his 17 career starts at Loudon. His average start is a respectable 13.3; his average finish is 16.8. He also has 3 DNFs there.

15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Bowyer moved up one position, from a two-way tie for fifth heading into the Chase into a three-way tie (with Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin) for fourth after the Chase opener Sunday at Chicago. The trio stands 15 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski and seven points behind third-ranked Tony Stewart and is two points ahead of seventh-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 13 career starts, 2 wins, 3 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: first in fall 2007. Finished 26th in this race last year but improved to third in this year's mid-July race there.

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer loves racing at New Hampshire, and his record proves it. It took him some time to learn the nuances of the flat one-mile track, but every time he goes on there now, he has a bona fide chance of winning. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I look at the short tracks and think the best opportunity to win races is on those short tracks. We did OK in Chicago, not great, but just OK. New Hampshire -- we have a pretty damn good roll going to New Hampshire. I think we can win at New Hampshire and get things started off right. If we can do that and keep this buzz going at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), I think we can compete. The 1.5-mile tracks, I've never won on one of those; I know that and everybody else does. I have to pick up my game on the 1.5-mile tracks -- but we've been running better than I ever have with these MWR cars on that type of track. I think if I ever could win on those, it would be in the Chase in the last 10 races. If I can do that with the success I have on the short tracks, again we can be a force to be reckoned with."

LOOKING BACK: Bowyer would have liked a better start to the Chase, but what he did in Chicago wasn't all that bad, all things considered. He finished 10th.

ETC.: Bowyer has completed 99.7 percent (3,857) of the 3,868 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Loudon. His average start is 12.7; his average finish is 15.9. He also has 1 DNF there.

11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Hamlin entered the Chase leading the point standings, but he fell into a three-way tie with Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne for fourth after the Chase opener Sunday at Chicago. The trio stands 15 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski and seven points behind third-ranked Tony Stewart and is two points ahead of seventh-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 13 career starts, 1 win, 6 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in summer 2007. Finished 29th in this race last year and rallied to finish second in this year's mid-July event.

LOOKING AHEAD: Although he fell out of the No. 1 spot in the standings after the first Chase race, Hamlin is still in great position. And now he comes into the kind of track he loves: flat and a mile or less in length. With nine top-10s in 13 starts at Loudon, he has to be considered among the favorites Sunday. Here are his thoughts on where he's at in the standings heading into Sunday's race: "We're only 15 (points) back -- we can make that up easily. We're fast enough to do that. We're optimistic about (New Hampshire and) about trying to get a win. For this tough ending (at Chicago), we're going to need to perform well. It's just getting past these first three and trying to still be in contention is key. You can't have self-induced problems, and this isn't luck or anything like that. It's tough, but we're strong enough and fast enough this Chase that we can make up 15 points easily."

LOOKING BACK: Hamlin appeared headed toward a top-five finish at Chicago, but a miscalculation on the amount of fuel put into his car on the final pit stop left him four laps short -- and he eventually ran out of fuel, dropping him from an almost certain top-five to a disappointing 16th-place finish.

ETC.: Hamlin has completed 99.9 percent (3,866) of the 3,868 laps contested in his 13 career starts at Loudon. His average start there is 12.2; his average finish is an outstanding 8.5. He has 0 DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Earnhardt essentially stayed where he was in the standings, going from a tie for seventh heading into the Chase to sole possession of seventh after the Chase opener at Chicago. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 17 points, trails a three-way tie for fourth by two points and leads eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by two points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 26 career starts, 0 wins, 7 top-5s, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: third, fall 2004. Finished 17th in this race last year, rallied back to finish fourth in this year's mid-July event.

LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt didn't exactly have the start to the Chase that he wanted, but at the same time, he's still well within striking distance over the next few races to make a big surge upward in the standings. He has done well at New Hampshire over much of the last five seasons and is primed to do well again after finishing fourth there in July. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's second race of the Chase: "New Hampshire kind of lends itself to the short-track mentality and that style of racing. I enjoy racing at short tracks, have a great track record at all the short tracks we run at. I feel like that's a bit in my wheelhouse, and this place sort of fits toward that."

LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt was forced to start 42nd at Chicago after crew chief Steve Legate elected to make an engine change after qualifying. Earnhardt quickly worked his way up through the field but hit a plateau once he got into the top 10, ultimately finishing eighth.

ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 93.9 percent (7,183) of the 7,648 laps he's contested during his 26 career starts at Loudon. His average start is 16.5 and average finish is 16.2. He has 4 DNFs there.

16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Biffle, who led the points for 14 of the first 26 weeks, fell from a tie for fifth place entering the Chase to eighth place after the Chase opener at Chicago. Biffle is 19 points behind new points leader Brad Keselowski, two points behind seventh-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr., and two points ahead of ninth-ranked Martin True Jr.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 20 career starts, 1 win, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: first in fall 2008. Finished 3rd in this race last year and was ninth in this year's mid-July race.

LOOKING AHEAD: New Hampshire is one of those tracks where Biffle has been hot and cold. In 2008, he won there and the following week at Dover to take the early lead in the Chase, only to watch Jimmie Johnson eventually pass him for what would be his third of five consecutive championships. Here are Baffle's thoughts on Sunday's race at Loudon: "I'm looking forward to Loudon; it's been a good track for us. I have a win there and I feel like it's a track where we can get back into the hunt. We certainly aren't out of it, but a good run will help. Hopefully we can get a good top-five finish or a win in our 3M Ford this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Biffle didn't have the car to mount much of a challenge in the Chase opener at Chicago. Still, he was the highest-finishing Ford driver, ending up 13th.

ETC.: Biffle has completed 96.1 percent (5,647) of the 5,875 laps contested over his 20 starts at Loudon. He has an average start of 15.6 and average finish of 16.2. He has 2 DNFs.

56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Truex went from a four-way tie for ninth to sole possession of ninth, so he didn't really make much progress at Chicago. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 21 points, eighth-ranked Greg Biffle by 2 points and leads 10th-ranked Kevin Harvick by 2 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 3rd in summer 2007. Finished 16th in this race last year. Was 11th in this year's mid-July race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Even though Dover is his "home" track (Truex grew up in southern New Jersey), much of his developmental racing career was spent at New Hampshire. He's looking for nothing short of a win Sunday. Here are Truex's thoughts about Sunday's race: "New Hampshire hasn't been one of my best tracks since joining Michael Waltrip Racing. I don't know why. We've struggled a little bit. In the spring race, we had a decent run and showed some gains. It is a tough track to get a hold of. It's almost impossible to get your car to turn in the corners, and the tires chatter. It's the same for everyone, it is just a matter of being smarter. I feel like we are taking some new stuff back there and our NAPA Toyota should be a whole lot better. Hopefully we can go there and continue to run up front like we have been doing lately. It's a place that has always been special for me. I enjoy going there, so I hope I can keep our momentum going and have a strong run."

LOOKING BACK: Truex and Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Clint Bowyer had decent cars in Chicago, finishing ninth and 10th, respectively.

ETC.: Truex has completed 97.4 percent (3,768) of the 3,868 laps contested over his 13 career starts at Loudon. He has an average start of 11.8 and average finish of 14.8. He has 1 DNF.

29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: Harvick slipped slightly after the Chase opener at Chicago. He entered the Chase seeded in a four-way tie for ninth place. After Chicago, he has sole possession of 10th place in the 12-driver field. He trails points leader Brad Keselowski by 24 points, ninth-ranked Martin Truex Jr. by 3 points and leads 11th-ranked Matt Kenseth by 2 points.

NEW HAMPSHIRE RECORD: 23 career starts, 1 win, 5 top-5s, 12 top-10s, 1 pole. Best finish: first in fall 2006. Finished 12th in this race last year and was eighth in this year's mid-July race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick has struggled in much of his last seven starts at Loudon. He needs a big boost there this weekend and is one of the best flat-track racers on the circuit. While he's only 24 points behind points leader Brad Keselowski, Harvick needs to keep that gap from growing appreciably larger after Loudon. Here are his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I always look forward to going to New Hampshire. I like that type of track because it's flat, similar to the tracks out west where I started my racing career. There's a lot of braking. You have to really work on getting your car through the center of the corner and still have the forward drive you need up off the corner."

LOOKING BACK: Harvick fought handling issues much of Sunday's Chase opener at Chicago, finishing 12th. For a guy who had two prior wins in the past there, he did not start the Chase the way he wanted to. The good news is he loves flat tracks and is looking to bounce back at Loudon.

ETC.: Harvick has completed 99.2 percent (6,721) of the 6,775 laps contested in his 23 career starts at Loudon. His average start is 14.0 and average finish is 13.8. He has 0 DNFs there.

CUT-OFF FOR "CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP"

17 MATT KENSETH, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 26 points out of first. Lost three spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Finished sixth in the fall race a year ago. It was his 12th top-10 finish in 25 starts. He has one second-place finish.

LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth said, "Loudon has been a place that I've struggled at, but our goal is to get a good clean run on Sunday in order to make up some of our position in the point standings that we lost last weekend at Chicago." Added crew chief Jimmy Fennig, "We're going to look at some different setups that we've been working on. We know this is one of our worst tracks, but we're going to work as hard as we can in order to get a good run this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: It was a long afternoon for Kenseth after the right-front shock fell off the car with just over a 100 laps to go. The team was able to re-install the shock during a caution flag on lap 189 of the 267-lap event and kept Kenseth on the lead lap. He was able to rally in the final laps to finish 18th. "We had a brake line get loose at Bristol and a shock fell off today, so obviously we have to get to the bottom of that," said Kenseth. "But we just didn't have a fast car to start with. I don't think today has anything to do with next week and going on, but we have to do a better job."

ETC.: A year ago, Kenseth finished 21st at Chicagoland Speedway in the first race of the Chase. But Kenseth rebounded with finishes of sixth, fifth and fourth before winning the fifth race of the Chase at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That victory vaulted Kenseth into third place. "We know we can get back in the hunt (for the championship)," said Kenseth. "We did it last year."

24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 47 points out of first place.

LOUDON RECORD: Will be seeking his third straight top-six finish. Overall has three wins and 15 top-fives and 20 top-10s in 35 starts. Also won three poles. Stands first in both top-fives and top-10s and is the track's all-time lap leader with 1,309.

LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon said, "We'll put that event (Chicago) behind us and focus on trying to win Loudon this weekend. There is still a long way to go (in the Chase for the Championship)." Added crew chief Alan Gustafson, "It's way too early to panic. We still have nine races to go, so we won't change our strategy. The plan is continue to fight and 'stay the course.' "

LOOKING BACK: Gordon was running fourth when suddenly the throttle stuck and he slammed hard into the wall on lap 189 of the 267-lap event. As a result, Gordon ended the day in 35th place, putting a serious dent in his championship hopes. "We were having a good day," said Gordon. "The guys did an awesome job in the pits and tuning on the car, and who knows what we could have done with them at the end? But we had a throttle stick. It didn't stick wide-open; I just let off the throttle and it just didn't come all the way back and it was probably half-throttle, which is enough to do a lot of damage. It's just very disappointing."

ETC.: Gordon knows he has plenty of time to erase the 47-point deficit he faces in his bid to get to the top of the standings. All he has to do is look back at the first New Hampshire race. At the time, he was 191 points out of the lead, but six top-six finishes in the next eight races allowed him to cut 54 points off that margin.

18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 13th place.

LOUDON RECORD: Won the pole for the July race and led 72 laps but finished 16th when a late race caution dropped him to the rear of the lead-lap cars. Overall has one win and six top-10 finishes in 15 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "Loudon is tricky for me. For some reason, I haven't been able to figure it out that well there with the current car. The first race there this season was the best car I've had there with JGR. We just had some bad luck hit us like we've had a lot this year. I know that place is pretty special to Dave (Rogers, his crew chief) and his family, so I'm hoping we can deliver for him this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: After starting 21st, Busch finished fourth at Chicagoland Speedway. "The day started off really good," said Busch. "We had a strong Doublemint Camry. We didn't want to make a lot of changes to it early just to see where the track as going and then we started working on it -- just getting a little more grip and more side bite. Just didn't quite have enough for the top three today, but we had a fourth-place car and we got a fourth-place effort out of it."

ETC.: Busch believes "you're always on edge there (New Hampshire Motor Speedway). You're trying to go as fast as you can into the corners, as deep as you can into the corners while rolling as much speed, or just a bit higher than everyone else so you are able to get back on the gas sooner. It's definitely a challenging race track -- not one of my best race tracks, I'll admit that. I have won there in the past, so if we can get a good car, we might have a shot to win there."

39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 41 points out of 13th place. Gained two spots last week.

LOUDON RECORD: In the last six races has one win and five top-10 finishes. Also won two poles during this stretch. Overall has three wins and 14 top-10 finishes in 21 starts. Has won six poles.

LOOKING AHEAD: Newman said, "We're going to New Hampshire this weekend, and this is really our place to shine. I'd like to be that non-Chase driver who shakes it up a little bit. New Hampshire has always been a good place for me. I'm not 100 percent sure why. It's the place I got my first win, and when I hadn't won in a long while, 70-some races, I won again there. So I really look forward to it, obviously."

LOOKING BACK: Newman was all smiles after finishing fifth at Chicago. "I have to give it to crew chief Tony Gibson -- he had a great call on strategy on two tires there at the end of the race, that really helped us to get this finish," said Newman. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be in the top five again. We were all pretty disappointed after last week and not making the Chase. I'm proud of our performance today."

ETC: Newman believes the key to having success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is "being aggressive and patient all at the same time. There is a different style of driving that you have to have there. It's kind of a combination of patience and aggressiveness. It's kind of clicked with me since the beginning. I really like the race track and obviously know how to drive it, which is a big part of it. It's a good place to start up front because it's a short track and it's not the easiest place to pass."

99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 42 points out of 13th place. Lost one spot last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Only three top-10 finishes in 16 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards said, "This track is big for us because it's home of the Red Sox and our partnership with the Fenway Sports Group, so it would be huge honor to be able to get a win there for them. Qualifying is very important. I think having a good pit stall will be important, starting up front and have clean air. All of that stuff comes from a good qualifying effort."

LOOKING BACK: A pit-road speeding penalty ended any hopes Edwards had of a top-10 finish at Chicago. Instead, he had to settle for a 19th-place finish. "The pit road speeding penalty hurt us for sure," said Edwards. "We kept working on the car during every stop and could have had a top-10 finish today. We've still got nine races left this season and we are determined to get this team in Victory Lane."

ETC.: Edwards said his "number one goal" for the rest of the year is "to build our team to be the best it can be for 2013. But I think more importantly, I can help Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle to be best that they can be (in the Chase), so they'll virtually have a test driver over here in Carl Edwards and the 99 team, and we can help them to try things in practice, we can give them more information than we normally would -- anything I can do to help them to win (the championship)."

27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 54 points out of 13th place. Gained one spot last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Still looking for his first top-10 finish. Best finish in 11 starts is 17th.

LOOKING AHEAD: Menard hopes this is the weekend he finally gets his first top-10 finish at Loudon. His finish of 17th in July is his best finish ever at the one-mile track. "We qualified pretty well the last three or four races; we just need to race better," said Menard. "We learned some things in the first race that we hope will help us this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: After finishing 15th at Chicagoland Speedway, Menard said, "It's not the finish we hoped for, but the 27 guys never gave up. We kept searching for the right adjustments to neutralize the Libman/Menards Chevrolet's balance and made some progress when we added the rubber to the left rear spring. The pit crew did a great job on pit road, but with the long green-flag runs, it was difficult to make up a lot of ground."

ETC.: The team decided to appeal the suspension of Grant Hutchens, the team engineer, to National Stock Car Racing chief appellate officer John Middleton in hopes of getting Hutchens' six-race suspension reduced. But Middleton ruled in favor of the original penalty. The penalties stemmed from a failed postrace inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Aug. 21 following the race at Michigan. The original penalties were a loss of 25 points for Menard and car owner Richard Childress and a $100,000 fine for crew chief Slugger Labbe. Labbe, Hutchens and car chief Craig Smokstad were suspended for six weeks apiece.

9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 62 points out of 13th place. Lost two spots last week.

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

LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "I'm ready to put last weekend behind us and get a fresh start in New Hampshire this weekend. Mike Ford (his new crew chief) brings a wealth of knowledge to our team, and his record at Loudon is stellar. I thought our communication was better than expected last weekend, and we'll look to improve that even more in New Hampshire."

LOOKING BACK: Ambrose battled a "sick engine" all day, and even when his crew changed all eight sparkplug wires the problem didn't go away. As a result, he finished 27th at Chicago. "We had mechanical issues that plagued us all day, and we just could not seem to fix the problem," said Ambrose. "Even though we had a tough day, we need to keep our heads up and go into Loudon next week with positive energy."

ETC.: Ambrose does not have a contract for next year and he admits, "It worried me a little bit. I've got unfinished business here in NASCAR. I want to be in NASCAR and I'm working with RPM. Hopefully we can be with them for a long time to come, but there is no guarantee. We've all got good intentions to keep it all together, so I don't see why it wouldn't work out."

20 JOEY LOGANO, Toyota

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 99 points out of 13th place.

LOUDON RECORD: One win and three top-10 finishes in eight starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Logano said, "A lot of people ask me about New Hampshire since I won there back in 2009. But this is not one of my favorite tracks. I've always just kind of struggled at this track. It's just the type of place that you have to hit the setup on just right and if you aren't just right, then you can have a long day."

LOOKING BACK: Logano was in the top 10 for most of the day, running as high as third, before ending up seventh for his ninth top-10 finish of the season. "I feel like we were a top-three or top-four car all day long," said Logano. "At the end, we were just too loose. There were a couple of cars that were ahead of us that were able to gamble and take two tires, and that helped them be ahead of us. We were catching them, but track position at places like this is so key."

ETC.: Logano said he is "really encouraged as to how we have been running as of late. In Chicago, we were strong all weekend long. We practiced in the top 10, qualified in the top 10 and raced all day in the top 10. Now, I think we can build on that and keep that momentum going. I really think that there are two or three race tracks left on the schedule that we have a good shot at winning."

31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet

Team: Richard Childress Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 147 points out of 13th place.

LOUDON RECORD: Four wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 35 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, "We've run really well in most of the races at New Hampshire. Recently, we haven't performed well there at all though. We've run well there, just not on a consistent basis. New Hampshire and Richmond have many similarities, and I expect us to get back on track this weekend." Burton finished sixth at Richmond.

LOOKING BACK: Burton finished a disappointing 24th at Chicagoland Speedway. "We tried some things today with our 1.5-mile program as we prepare for next season and just couldn't find the balance on the car," said Burton.

ETC.: Burton said, "The best way we can help Kevin (Harvick, his teammate) win a championship is to run well. If we run well, we can provide valuable feedback and information for his team to use. If we aren't running well, we aren't going to be able to provide much help on Sundays. The help will come Monday through Saturdays by providing information to make all RCR teams better."

1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 150 points out of 13th place.

LOUDON RECORD: Only four top-10 finishes in 19 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray admits, "Loudon hasn't been one of my better tracks. We just haven't found the right balance at that place. It is an extremely challenging track, and we hope this is the race where we finally figure out what we need to run well there."

LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 21st at Chicago. "We were really loose for a couple runs and then we got caught a lap down when the caution came out just after we pitted," said McMurray. "We raced hard to get the lap back and tried some strategy to pick up a few spots in the end. Our car was better in the closing laps, but just not enough time to make up the difference."

ETC.: McMurray hopes the team can "end the year on a high note. We've been making progress to get back to the level we were in 2010 (when he won three races). Sometimes we have a little hiccup along the way, but all in all we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel."

OTHERS

43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 199 points out of 13th place.

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

LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola is looking forward to his second race with new crew chief Todd Parrott. "My first week with Todd and the guys went really well," said Almirola. "We had a really good car at Chicago and a great qualifying effort to show for it. I can't wait to get to Loudon and see how we do this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: Almirola started second and passed pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson on the first lap of the race to grab the lead. He led the first three laps and was running fourth when he pitted for the first time on lap 44. NASCAR penalized the team for what was ruled an "uncontrolled tire." After his pass-through penalty, Almirola was 30th and a lap down. The team appealed the penalty and NASCAR said it had been wrong and gave Almirola his lap back. "But still we were on the tail end of the lead lap, so you go from running fourth to 23rd or 24th. Track position was everything," said Almirola, who ended the day in 17th place. "It was extremely hard to pass today."

ETC.: Almirola does not have a contract for next year, but "I would love nothing more than to continue my career here," said Almirola. "I think as a race team we have a lot of things up in the air. I think right now there are a lot of fires that they are trying to put out. I fall somewhere in that mix. I would really love a chance to take everything I have learned this year and start fresh with a clean piece of paper next year."

47 BOBBY LABONTE, Toyota

Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 24th, 239 points out of 13th place.

LOUDON RECORD: 11 top-10 finishes in 35 starts, including one second-place finish.

LOOKING AHEAD: Labonte said, "Loudon is a good track for me. I've been close to a win a few times. I've finished second there and third three times. It should be a good track for us. It would be nice to come away with a solid finish this weekend."

LOOKING BACK: After battling an ill-handling race car for most of the afternoon, crew chief Brian Burns decided to try "something really different" by adding spring rubbers in both rear tires and the left front tire. The gamble paid off as Labonte's lap times were a "lot better" in the waning laps of the race, and he finished 26th.

ETC.: This weekend JTG Daugherty Racing is presenting a check for $25,000 to Hannaford Helps Schools. "We want to thank the team for their contribution to our program and help raise awareness of our program to help schools in New England and New York," said Shawn McBreairty, category manager for Hannaford Supermarkets.

55 MARK MARTIN, Toyota

Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 292 points out of 13th place. Gained one spot last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Brian Vickers will drive the 55 car this weekend. He has two top-10 finishes in 14 starts. Finished 15th in the July race.

LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers said, "It's going to be great to get back to New Hampshire. We had a great car at the end of the race last time we were there. It will be a solid platform to start from. We had an amazing run the second time back at Bristol, so I know we can build on our first race at New Hampshire."

LOOKING BACK: Martin ran in the top 10 until an ill-timed caution flag dropped him a lap down. He spent the rest of the race trying to rally from the "bad luck." Martin ended the day in 14th place. "That was a rough afternoon," said Martin. "We got a decent finish in the Aaron's Dream Machine, but I was hoping for a lot better. We raced hard all day long but just couldn't get the handle or break we needed at the end."

ETC.: Vickers believes "the energy level of the whole organization has been elevated now that the Chase has started. All of MWR should be proud of the accomplishments of this season. Having Clint (Bowyer) and Martin (Truex Jr.) in the Chase is a big feat. It shows how hard the entire team has worked."

51 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

Team: Phoenix Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 303 points out of 13th place. Lost one spot last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Three wins and 11 top-10 finishes in 23 starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Busch hopes this is the weekend that the team's run of "horrible luck" comes to an end. "If we can run a full race without something happening, I know we can have a good day," said Busch. "We've run well at times in race after race, but we can't seem to go a whole race without something bad happening."

LOOKING BACK: Busch's bad luck continued at Chicago as a broken axle ended any hopes he had of challenging for a top-10 finish. Instead, he had to be content with 32nd place. "In all my years of racing I have never had an axle break," said Busch. "We've had so many promising races just blow up on us for the craziest things. We're not giving up, though. The guys have worked hard all year, and we are going to work just as hard these last nine races."

ETC.: Car owner James Finch said he might be forced to shut his team down at the end of the season. "We just haven't got the sponsorship that we need to keep going," said Finch. "We have run well at times, but our luck has been horrible. And we just haven't found the sponsorship that we have to have to keep going."

22 SAM HORNISH JR., Dodge

Team: Penske Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: His team stands 21st in the car owner point standings. Gained one spot last week.

LOUDON RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in seven starts.

LOOKING AHEAD: Hornish said he can't wait to get to Loudon. "It'll be great to finally get to a track where we'll be racing for the second time this season," said Hornish. "The race at Loudon (in July) was my very first race where I was able to practice, qualify and race the car (after AJ Allmendinger was suspended for failing a drug test). When I look back to that weekend, I realize just how far we've come. When I think how well we have been able to mesh as a team, it's pretty cool."

LOOKING BACK: Hornish finished 11th at Chicagoland Speedway. "Another solid day for the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge," said Hornish. "We had a fast race car all day. We ran in the top 10 for much of the day. We just got too tight on our last run when we opted to put on (just) two tires. That cost us two or three spots. Still, it was a good day for us."

ETC.: NASCAR announced on Tuesday that it had reinstated Allmendinger upon his successful completion of NASCAR's Substance Abuse Policy Road to Recovery program. Allmendinger spent last weekend at Auto Club Speedway as a guest of car owner Roger Penske. "I told AJ I wanted him to come to a race; I think he had been kind of undercover for quite a bit of the time, and I thought it would be good for him to get out and see people, talk to some of the team owners (on the IndyCar circuit)," said Penske. When asked if he would hire Allmendinger again, Penske said, "He could be an option for us, for sure. He did a great job when you think about what he did in Champ Car (winning five races in 2006 before moving to NASCAR)."