55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 28th, 20 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers said, "In some ways this is like the first race of the season. We only restrictor plate race at Daytona and Talladega, but the thought process of being successful at Phoenix is more like what we will experience for the whole year. Success at Phoenix will be about getting your car right in practice, getting a good qualifying spot and then putting together a good race program."
LOOKING BACK: Vickers knew he was probably in the wrong place, but he didn't any place to hide as he got caught up in an accident on lap 163 of the Daytona 500. As a result, he finished 30th. "We had a good car, but just got caught up in one of the wrecks," said Vickers. "A couple of those guys (rookies Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson) were just racing really aggressive and bouncing around, moving a lot. I knew it was just a matter of time. I thought about dropping back out of the pack, but the problem was there was no second pack to go to."
ETC.: Vickers said he is really looking forward to the 2014 season "for a lot of reasons. One, my first full-time year back in quite some time. Being out of the car with health issues is tough. I'm really trying to be a forward-thinking person with some reflection upon the past in regards to not making mistakes (health wise) again. You want to learn from the past. But, I don't want to dwell on the past. At the end of the day, you just have to point forward and just go."
5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 29th, 20 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Finished second in the November race after leading 41 laps. Has finished sixth or better in four of the last six races including winning the fall race in 2011.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne is a big fan of the new qualifying format. "It brings a little more excitement to Friday and adds some drama so I like it as a driver. Basically, it's an hour program and you get a few chances to make those laps and get a pole award so that's great." As for the race, Kahne knows qualifying well is important "for track position. That is another reason why the new qualifying format will be exciting since everyone knows how important it is to start up front at Phoenix."
LOOKING BACK: Kahne was not a very happy camper after the Daytona 500. "Things just didn't go our way tonight," said Kahne after finishing 31st. "We got caught up in two wrecks, spun out when we hit a slick spot as we left the pits and then got a pit-road speeding penalty," said Kahne. "I had no choice on that penalty. I had to speed up to keep that spinning car from hitting me. We had such a good car, but nothing went right for us tonight."
ETC.: Kahne said he got his work ethic "from my dad. He taught me at a young age that you have to work hard for things and if you want something, you have to work hard to get it and stay after it. I just kind of always had the same outlook on working and getting up in the morning and doing things like that. He applied it when I was pretty young and I've always kept it because he was up and gone at five in the morning, every morning. So I just learned from a pretty young age that you've got to get up and get things done."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 30th, 21 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "I always look forward to going to Phoenix because the size and layout of the track makes for some fun racing. After coming from a place like Daytona last weekend where the aero package is everything, it's different racing at PIR because it doesn't mean as much. We've ran well at Phoenix in the past and I'm looking for the entire 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menard team to have a great run."
LOOKING BACK: Menard led three times for 29 laps - more than any other driver outside of winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who led six times for 54 laps. But Menard's hopes of challenging for the win were wiped out on lap 145 when he was involved in a 13-car accident. As a result, Menard ended the day in 32nd place. "We had a really fast car, we could run the bottom better than the top, but were fast in both lanes," said Menard. "It felt good to lead laps and know we brought a good car here. I wish the ending was a little different for us, but it wasn't meant to be this time."
ETC.: Menard is looking forward to the 2014 season and his new teammates. "The 27 team is pretty intact with the exception of two new engineers, but for the most part we have same core group of guys," said Menard. "There are a lot of changes around us with Ryan (Newman) and Austin (Dillon) which is exciting. Ryan brings a new outlook to RCR and a level of experience to our group as a consistent Chase driver with multiple wins and has worked with several premier racing organizations. Austin has more championships than Ryan and I combined. He's a young kid full of energy, and he's a lot of fun to be around."
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 32nd, 25 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Finished eighth in this race a year ago. Overall has one win and 12 top-10s including eight eight-five's in 23 starts.