ETC.: Hamlin was elated with how well his Short Track Showdown at South Boston (Va.) Speedway went last week. "We won't know for a few weeks (how much was raised for his foundation) until everything comes in," said Hamlin. "It was a huge success. It was the biggest event by far we've had as far as attendance and competitor participation - everything was just really, really good. There was no seat available and there was four deep all the way around the race track with people (standing). We estimate probably eight or nine thousand people at South Boston, which doesn't hold that many. To me, it was a home run."
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 13 points out of the top 10. Lost three spots last week.
TALLADEGA RECORD: One win and 13 top-10 finishes including six runner-up finishes in 29 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart is quick to point out that Daytona and Talladega are "different tracks with their own characteristics, but its plate racing and that really doesn't change. Daytona has always been the track billed as being more of the handling track, but we're still drafting and will be in a pack where you've got cars on top of each other. It's all about being in the right place at the right time, and that's the same whether we're racing at Daytona or Talladega."
LOOKING BACK: It was another long, long night for Stewart as he battled major handling problems throughout the 400-lap event. As a result, he finished 25th. "Tight, middle (of the corner), need forward bite, need to cut the center of the corner, loose in, tight in the middle, loose off," said Stewart over and over again during the race. "It was just not a good night."
ETC.: It has been an up-and-down season for Stewart so far. He does have four top-10 finishes, but he also has three finishes of 25th or worse in the first nine races. And he rarely has been in contention for a win late in the going. Yet Stewart is not too concerned about his own team as he heads to Talladega. "The season is still real young," said Stewart.
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 14 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
TALLADEGA RECORD: One top-10 finish in 10 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose has high hopes for this weekend. "Our car at Daytona was awesome," said Ambrose of the first restrictor-plate race this year. "It was fast for the two weeks and every race. We just need to avoid the accidents because a good day always comes down to leaving there (Talladega) without getting torn up. I feel confident our car will be capable of winning. I think we have a good shot (at a win)."
LOOKING BACK: It was quite an eventful evening for Ambrose. After finishing 18th at Richmond, Ambrose and Casey Mears got into a heated discussion with first Mears grabbing and shoving Ambrose. Naturally, Ambrose didn't take too well to this and retaliated with a right cross to the side of Mears' face. The two were then separated by race crews and NASCAR officials. Ambrose refused to comment on the incident. On Tuesday, NASCAR announced it had fined Ambrose $25,000 and placed him on probation until May 28 for his part in the altercation.
ETC.: Richard Petty returned to the race track last weekend for the first time since wife Lynda passed away last month. They had been married for 55 years. He and Lynda began dating while she was still in high school. Petty skipped the races at Martinsville, Texas and Darlington. "I needed to sort of have a little time on my own," said Petty. "Learn to live all over again. Get back in the saddle again." Petty said he had never missed three straight Cup races before in his long racing career.
47 A J ALLMENDINER, Chevrolet
Team: JTG Daugherty Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 16 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
TALLADEGA RECORD: Best finish in eight starts is 11th.
LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger believes "the racing at Talladega is a little bit different than Daytona. The track is wider at Talladega and there's more room to work with if you want to try to get to the front of the pack. I think it is a little bit safer than Daytona because there you can get stuck in a lane and it is three wide and there is not a lot of space to maneuver around. In the end, the 'Big One' still has a real good shot of happening. I think we will at least have a decent car."
LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger rallied in the final 20 laps to finish sixth at Richmond for his best finish of the season. "It was a good race for us," said Allmendinger. "It is just a fine line between being too tight and burning the rear tires off or just being too loose the whole time. I thought there were two or three long runs where I thought the car was awesome. Then another couple runs it was not as good. We probably stole one or two spots there finish wise at the end."
ETC.: Brad Daugherty, co-owner of the team, said the recent race at Darlington was a perfect example of how far the team has come in 2014. "We were a little off," said Daugherty. "Last year, we would have finished 35th. Instead, we finished 15th. Those are the type of results I have been waiting on and I have been looking for over the years. The technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing has been phenomenal."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 30 points out of the top 10.