2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 30 points out of 13th place.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Won the 2012 race after finishing fifth in 2011.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski said he will have no problem staying focused on his job the next 10 weeks even though he will be outside looking in when it comes to deciding the 2013 champion. "They still give trophies for race wins so that is motivation enough for me to go out and continue to give it my all for this team," said Keselowski. "We had a really good test at Chicago a couple of weeks ago, so I feel confident that we can make it happen this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski knew his lone shot at making the Chase for the Championship and defending his Sprint Cup title was by winning the Richmond race. And he led four times for a race-high 142 laps. But he faded in the final 100 laps and finished 17th. While running second, Keselowski had a spirited battle with Kevin Harvick. A few laps after losing the spot to Harvick, Keselowski told his crew "I pushed the car hard early in the run - paying the price for it" as he fell to seventh. And to compound his problems, a caution flag came out three laps after he pitted for four tires as he fell two laps down. "I don't really have any emotions right now," said Keselowski after the race. "We weren't good enough to make it (the Chase) and we didn't. That is the reality. This is just the way our cars have been all year. They haven't been good enough and we haven't executed as well as we needed to. We have work to do."
ETC.: Keselowski loves to spend time on twitter. But following NASCAR's decision on Monday to penalize Michael Waltrip Racing for trying to "manipulate the outcome of the (Richmond) race," Keselowski tweeted "Don't know how to say what I really think about MWR penalty without getting in a lot of trouble. Better stay off twitter for a while."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 52 points out of 13th place. Gained one spot last week.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: One top-10 finish in six starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "We've had some good runs the past couple of weeks and hopefully that continues this weekend in Chicago. Over the past couple of years the racing groove (at Chicagoland Speedway) has widened, which allows for more passing opportunities. The backstretch there is slightly curved, but it doesn't affect the car too much."
LOOKING BACK: Menard had a chance to win the race, but the team's decision to change only two right-side tires during the caution flag with six laps to go didn't work out as they had hoped. Menard was the leader on the restart with three laps remaining, but he was unable to hold off Carl Edwards as the green flag came out for the final time. Menard ended up fifth. "We tried strategy in hopes of bringing home a win, but two tires couldn't hold off the guys with four," said Menard. "Still, it was a good night and we had a good car - just not a winning car."
ETC.: Many people along pit road and the ABC/ESPN commentators all thought Edwards jumped the start and should have been penalized. But NASCAR ruled it was a "legal start." Menard felt "the start was okay. I just didn't get as good a start with older left-side tires as Carl did with four new ones".
56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 59 points out of 13th place. Lost five spots last week.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Finished ninth last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: No one will be surprised if Truex struggles this weekend after what he has been through since last Saturday night. When he got out of his car after the Richmond race, he wasn't sure where he stood even after finishing seventh. Then he was told he had made the Chase. Then less than 48 hours later, he was docked 50 points as part of the penalties handed down by NASCAR and was no longer part of the Chase.
LOOKING BACK: Truex was surprised he was able to finish seventh at Richmond. "We were terrible tonight - just terrible, terrible on the long runs," said Truex. "We fought and we fought and we fought just like we did last week (at Atlanta). I don't know how I kept him (Jeff Gordon) behind me - I tried to run where he was running, tried not to make mistakes. We never gave up. I'm happy and shocked (when told he had made the Chase). Such a tough night."
ETC.: Truex had a new cast for the Richmond race after the one he wore at Atlanta "almost melted. This one was a whole lot better," said Truex, who broke his right wrist in a crash at Bristol. "It hurt about half as much as last week. I don't think it will affect us (going forward)."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 86 points out of 13th place.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Finished 17th a year ago after starting second and leading three laps.