WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon had a great run in Sunday's Daytona 500, ultimately finishing fourth. Gordon is tied with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for fourth place in the standings. The duo trails points leader and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. by eight points each, are two points behind third-ranked Brad Keselowski and are two points ahead of sixth-ranked Matt Kenseth.
PHOENIX RECORD: 30 career starts, 2 wins, 10 top-5s, 20 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in 2007 spring race and 2011 spring race. Finished ninth in this race last year and was 14th in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is off to a good start, exactly what he needed to do if he hopes to win a fifth Sprint Cup championship this year (and if he does so, he's already said he'll retire then). Here's Gordon's thoughts on Sunday's race at Phoenix: "I feel we have made some great improvements with how competitive we are at Phoenix and a lot of that is just confidence in how far you can push the car. And the grip level has improved - it was like a razor's edge when they first repaved and reconfigured the track. It was difficult to judge where that 'edge' was. The last race here I thought we had a car capable of winning or finishing top three, but we had some difficulty on a late-race restart (and finished 14th). Better restarts are something I'm focusing on this year."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon helped teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. late in the race, including giving him a good push forward when he needed it in the closing laps. Earnhardt may have won the race, but Gordon definitely gets an assist.
ETC.: Gordon has completed 98.0 percent (9,201) of the 9,386 total laps contested in 30 career starts at Phoenix. His average start there is 10.7 and his average finish is 11.5. He has three DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson rallied back from deep in the pack to finish fifth in Sunday's Daytona 500. Johnson is tied with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for fourth place in the standings. The duo trails points leader and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. by eight points each, are two points behind third-ranked Brad Keselowski and are two points ahead of sixth-ranked Matt Kenseth.
PHOENIX RECORD: 21 career starts, 4 wins, 14 top-5s, 17 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2007, spring and fall 2008 and fall 2009. Finished second in this race last year and was third in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Phoenix is one of Johnson's strongest tracks, with four career wins there. He came oh so close in the last two races there, finishing second in this race last year and then third in the Chase race in the fall that sent him into the season finale at Homestead in perfect position to clinch his sixth Sprint Cup championship the following week. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "With all the rule changes we have had this year, Phoenix is going to be an interesting race. I think everyone will be in the same boat and it's going to be somewhat of a crap shoot. We have had some good luck and some bad luck there, so we will always be hoping for the best."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson began his quest for a record-tying seventh career Sprint Cup championship with a strong fifth-place finish at Daytona. He had a car that was strong enough to bring him from back in the pack to one that challenged for the win, but just came up a bit short.
ETC.: Johnson has completed 99.4 percent (6,594) of the 6,633 total laps contested in 21 career starts at Phoenix. His average start there is 12.0 and his average finish is an incredible 6.3. He has zero DNFs there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth comes into the second race of the season in sixth place. He trails points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 10 points, is two points behind the fourth-place tie of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and leads the seventh-ranked tie of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle by one point.
PHOENIX RECORD: 23 career starts, 1 wins, 5 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in 2002. Finished seventh in this race last year and was 23rd in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth would love to have the same kind of season he had last year, including a series-high seven wins and potentially end up with his second career Cup championship this season.
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth was hoping to earn his third career Daytona 500 win, but came up short, finishing sixth. Here's Kenseth's thoughts on how the 500 played out: "No (he's not disappointed with his finish). For the way the whole week went and we finished sixth, it could be a lot worse than that. I'm glad Dale Jr. got the win - he needed that. That was good for him and Denny [Hamlin]. Denny was super-fast all week and it looks like he almost pulled it off too."
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 92.2 percent (6,693) of the 7,257 total laps contested in 23 career starts at Phoenix. His average start there is 19.9 and his average finish is 17.4. He has four DNFs there.
17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got off to a great start in his sophomore season on the Sprint Cup circuit, finishing seventh in the Daytona 500. He is tied in the Sprint Cup standings with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle. The duo trails points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 11 points, is one point behind sixth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads ninth-ranked Austin Dillon by one point.
PHOENIX RECORD: 2 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 12th in 2013 fall race. Finished 16th in his first career Sprint Cup race at Phoenix last spring and was 12th in the fall Chase race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Now it's a matter of Stenhouse continuing what he did in the season opener at Daytona. He's had a lot of experience at PIR, especially in the Nationwide Series, so look for him to likely have another top-10 day this Sunday.
LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse drove an intelligent race, stayed out of trouble, kept pace with the leaders and came home with a very good seventh-place finish. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's Daytona 500 run: "We came home seventh and that is a good way to start the year. We just needed a little bit more there at the end. We needed a couple cars behind us to be able to get to the 2's bumper and we just didn't quite get it."