Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 28 points out of the top 10. Lost four spots last week.
RICHMOND RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in eight starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski knows the odds are against him in his bid to defend his championship. "We don't dictate our own fate, which is never good," said Keselowski. But he quickly adds, "I'm ready to go to Richmond and win the race. I'm not going to worry myself with where this car is or that car is during the race. We're going to win the race and when it's over we'll see if that was good enough to get us in (this year's Chase for the Championship)."
LOOKING BACK: Keselowski was leading the race on lap 243 when suddenly he began to slow down. He immediately told his crew over the radio "we've lost at least one cylinder. The engine is going." And it finally did expire with 15 laps to go as Keselowski ended the day in 35th place to severely damage his hopes of defending his Sprint Cup championship. "It's beyond frustration," said Keselowski. "What can you do? You can sit here and be mad and stomp your feet and be a jerk about it, but it just broke. That's racing. It's kind of been the story of our year. At least, we were leading when it happened." Keselowski, who won his first Cup championship a year ago, now has nearly as many finishes of 30th or worse (six) as he does top-five finishes (seven). And to make matters worse, all of these poor finishes have come in the last 17 races to all but kill his hopes of making this year's Chase for the Championship.
ETC.: Keselowski admits, "It's really easy to sit here and say that it just wasn't our year but I'm not one to make excuses. There are several things you can point to over the course of the year that begin to add up. We hit a rough patch in the middle of the year, plain and simple. Most every team goes through it and it's something that we will definitely learn from."
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 39 points out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: Only three top-10 finishes in 21 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: The only way McMurray can earn a spot in the Chase is by winning the Richmond race and outpointing Martin Truex, Jr. by 25 points and Ryan Newman by 19. "We have one last shot to make our way into the Chase so our guys will be focused on the task at hand," said McMurray. "I am running the Nationwide race on Friday night so I hope the extra track time will help us on Saturday night. I look forward to having a good weekend in both cars."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 11th at Atlanta to keep alive his slim hopes of making the Chase for the 2013 Sprint Cup championship. "We had a really good Chevy tonight," said McMurray. "We just got a little loose on that last run and weren't able to get back up into the top-10 in the closing laps. Overall we had a good night for our team."
ETC.: During the press conference to announce Kyle Larson as the new driver of the 42 car last week, car owner Chip Ganassi said he had just recently signed McMurray for 2014. "We were never worried about it," said McMurray. "We knew where we would be in 2014. We knew everything would be the same for the 1 car."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 61 points out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished 13th in the spring race to equal his best finish in 13 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "We had a decent finish earlier this year at Richmond, and we are hoping to build on that this weekend. We are hoping to start a streak of top-10's on Saturday night. Richmond races like a track much bigger than it is (three-quarters of a mile), so as a driver, I've got to approach the track differently."
LOOKING BACK: Menard said it best when he stated "it was a long night for the No. 27 Moen/Menards crew. We got caught up in pit road congestion during the first stop of the night putting us behind and then the 11 (Denny Hamlin) put us in the wall a few laps later. We lost laps making repairs and we were never able to get them back. The crew worked really hard all night making adjustments and the car wasn't too bad considering the damage." Menard finished 24th.
ETC.: Menard feels turn three at Richmond is "almost like a Martinsville turn. It has a really sharp entrance and it's not very open. On exit, it opens back up with the 'D' shape. There is a really big arch going into turn one, but you carry a lot of speed into turn one, you get hard on the brakes and then the groove opens up as you exit turn two and you can run where your car wants to run."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 79 points out of the top 10.
RICHMOND RECORD: Finished eighth in the spring race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "There is a lot of stuff on the line at Richmond. Unfortunately we are outside the Chase, but we are still going to try to run as well as we can - maybe even spoil the event and get a win. With the Chase out of the picture, we are going to focus on winning and racing up front and not worry so much about the points. The fun thing about Richmond is that the tires fall off really bad. You get to slipping and sliding around, and forward drive is really important. You really have to focus on your setup there and get it right."