TALLADEGA RECORD: Finished fourth in the fall race last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "I like plate races and we've had some measurable success at Talladega and Daytona. We're taking the same car we ran up front with in the Daytona 500, so we know how it handles from an aerodynamic standpoint. The toughest thing about restrictor-plate racing is you can have a great car, set up and engine package. But, your finish can be determined by something that is totally not of your doing. I look forward to the fast racing and we'll give it our all to do well."
LOOKING BACK: Menard limped home in 24th place Saturday night at Richmond. "We started out pretty good, but then the car just would not turn after the competition caution (on lap 42)," said Menard. "We kept trying to make adjustments to improve through the turns, but they didn't turn out the way we wanted. I thought the 'wave around' was going to help us out, but then that (left front) tire started to go down and I just had to nurse it to the end. Our finish wasn't for lack of effort, that's for sure."
ETC.: When asked how he thought the new qualifying format would work at Talladega, Menard replied, "It's going to be interesting to see how it goes at a plate track. I don't think you'll see large packs of cars during qualifying, but you will see four, five or six cars trying to draft for a good qualifying position."
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 30 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
TALLADEGA RECORD: Won the fall race last year for his second win at the Alabama facility.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "The car that we won with at Talladega in October is the same car that we raced in the Daytona 500 and unfortunately it was wrecked on the last lap, so we will bring a brand new McDonald's Chevy to Talladega and hope we can run up front again. It will be interesting to see how the new qualifying format goes for the first time on a superspeedway like Talladega or Daytona."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 13th at Richmond. "We had a car that was really good on the long runs tonight," said McMurray. "The last few cautions near the end didn't really play into our hand, but the guys on the McDonald's Chevy worked hard and made some great adjustments on this car to help us pick up a few spots on that last restart with only nine laps to go."
ETC.: McMurray will be part of a fan question and answer session at the start-finish line on Sunday morning from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. "It's always neat to be part of one of these deals because you never know what the fans are going to ask you," said McMurray. "They can ask some pretty interesting questions."
4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 36 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
TALLADEGA RECORD: One win and 10 top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 26 races.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick feels "it's better to stay up front (at Talladega) and try to keep yourself there throughout the day. Obviously, if you don't qualify well, you go with the opposite strategy. I still think track position is pretty important, just for the fact that it seems like it takes longer to make a move and to make things happen. So, I think, as you look at this current car and this current rides package, you want to be somewhere toward the front (for the final 10-15 laps)."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick led twice for 23 laps during the first 56 laps Saturday night, but he ran into major handling problems afterwards and was glad to finish 11th at Richmond. "We never could get the car to turn through the center of the corner," said Harvick. "We lacked rear grip and got behind on one run with a funky set of tires. We kind of got caught back in the swarm and were never able to quite make it up. We were just a little bit off tonight with our Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet."
ETC.: Harvick believes that having two wins this early in the season means there is no reason to "lay back and try to avoid all the wrecks" at Talladega. "For us, having a couple of wins in the bank, I think you race as hard as you can all day to try and keep yourself up front and have a complete day of hopefully keeping the car rolling when it's time to be around at the end," said Harvick.
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 36 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week.
TALLADEGA RECORD: Two wins and eight top-10 finishes including four top-five's in 16 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Crew chief Brian Pattie is very optimistic about this weekend. "Clint is good at plate tracks," said Pattie. "He knows how to see the air and put himself in the right situation. Qualifying is going to be quite interesting too. I think the fans are going to enjoy it. It's certainly going to be exciting." Adds Bowyer, "You're going to have to play your cards right because you're obviously going to have to get back there and have to get a good run on the field and get a good pull. I would say luck will play a little bit into it (qualifying) as well."
LOOKING BACK: Tire problems and a fire underneath the right-front wheel ended Bowyer's night long before he wanted as he finished 43rd and last at Richmond. "What a bad night," said Bowyer. "It was on fire. It was just one thing after another and not a very good night." After pitting for a blown right-front tire, Bowyer left his pits with flames coming out from underneath the right-front wheel. By the time he got back to pits, the fire had caused major damage to the right side of the car. The fire was put out once he got back to the pits.
ETC.: Bowyer was quick to apologize for hitting pole-sitter Kyle Larson on the very first lap of the Richmond race. "I really hate that happened," said Bowyer. "I really like Kyle and I'm a big fan of his. Him and the 2 (Brad Keselowski) kind of spun the tires (on the start) and I just got such a big run on him (Larson) when he moved up (as they raced into the first turn). Then at the last moment he arched it in and I just wasn't ready for him. I tried to get on the brakes and just got into him. I'm so glad he didn't hit the wall."