PHOENIX RECORD: Finished seventh in the November race for his third top-seven finish in the last four events. Overall has one win and 11 top-10 finishes in 18 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "I'm glad to be back at a race track where drivers matter and car handling matters. I ran really well at Phoenix in both races two years ago, but we struggled there as an organization last fall. I think the guys at JGR have worked really hard to make sure we turn that around, so I'm looking forward to getting back there, for sure. The best way to get over the disappointment of the Daytona 500 is to get back in the car and have another chance at winning the next one. I wish the race was today, to be honest."
LOOKING BACK: Busch was another driver caught up in the last-lap accident as he finished 19th in the Daytona 500. Busch had overcome a pit-road infraction to run up front late in the race but got shuffled back on the final restart. "On one of our green-flag stops a (air) hose got hooked underneath the left rear quarter panel and when Kyle took off it pulled the pit gun out the changer's hand and it brought the equipment outside the pit box and we had to serve a stop-and-go-penalty," said crew chief Dave Rogers. "Kyle did a good job of keeping the nose clean and racing for the 'lucky dog' spot. We had a shot there on the closing laps, but we got shuffled back and contact with the 4 (Kevin Harvick) ended our day."
ETC.: When asked how much the new, ride-height rules have impacted the teams, Busch replied, "It's affected us enough where we've been testing an awful lot this offseason, already, trying to figure things out and trying to come up with what's going to be best. Is running the old way going to be best? Is running a new way or running something entirely different going to be good? What is it? We've been to Nashville twice. Nashville is going to get a lot of business this year."
32 TERRY LABONTE, Ford
Team: Go Fas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 10 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Will not be racing in Phoenix. Travis Kvapil will be behind the wheel. Kvapil has one top-10 finish in 14 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: The team will have a unique sponsor this week. Author Michael Alden has decided to promote his book "Ask More Get More" on the car. "I had never been to a NASCAR race before, and when I was invited to the Daytona 500 and had a chance to meet the team and all the NASCAR fans, I knew that this was a great opportunity to promote my new book," said Alden.
LOOKING BACK: Labonte, who says this was be his last Daytona 500, ran in the top 10 on and off all evening, but got caught up in a late-race accident to end any hopes he had of a top-10 finish. Labonte ended the 500 in 20th place. "We had a good car, and we really thought we were going to have a real shot at a top-10," said Labonte. "But things got a little too wild there at the end."
ETC.: On Friday before the 500, Labonte was named one of the 20 nominees for the 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. The two-time champion was "surprised" at being on the list of nominees in his first year of eligibility. "I didn't really think about it but that's exciting to be named with those other guys that were named," said Labonte. "That's pretty cool." Labonte doesn't feel his chances of being one of the five inductees next year are very good. "I think there are more deserving (individuals) than me to be in the Hall of Fame," said Labonte. "There's been so many people that have been in this sport for so many years that accomplished so many things back in the early days whether it was drivers or crew members or team owners. It's an honor to be mentioned in that category with those people but there's a lot of people I think that really made our sport great."
41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 10 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Finished fifth in the November race for his second top-eight finish in the last three events. Overall has one win and 12 top-10 finishes in 22 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch believes tire management will be key in the new qualifying format. "A set of sticker tires versus scuffs can be three tenths (of a second)," said Busch. "Three tenths on the stopwatch in normal qualifying is 1st to 25th. So that'll be interesting to see how that is balanced out. You can't cool the cars down during qualifying. So we'll have to let the rough edges drag in the beginning of qualifying sessions to see what patterns develop. But places like Phoenix the tires don't drop off very quickly. Vegas, they're okay, but Fontana, you're going get that one good lap and then you're going to wish you had stickers on, and that's when it's going to be very difficult to control a car at qualifying speeds with old tires. So tracks that are abrasive on the tires, that's when you're going to see a big discrepancy in qualifying results."
LOOKING BACK: With 10 laps to go, Busch and Bobby Labonte got together with Busch spinning down pit road. No caution flag was thrown. Busch was able to get the car straightened out and returned to the race to finish 21st. "That was a disappointing finish for the 41 team," said Busch. "We had a great car early on, led some laps and stayed up front. But after the long delay (six hours and 22 minutes for rain), we got hit coming to pit road and that really changed the characteristics of the car. It's just disappointing after seeing what the car was capable of early on."
ETC.: Busch remembers his "first wheels. My dad gave me a plastic truck to gnaw on and check on before I even had teeth. So it was always about cars with him. Mom, she loved baseball, and so I played baseball a lot as a kid. And that is why I guess I am such a big baseball fan now -- especially the Cubs. But cars, we had them all the time. There was always a car in the garage."
31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 12 points out of the top 10.
PHOENIX RECORD: Finished 10th in the November event. Overall has one win and nine top-10 finishes including eight top-five's.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman said, "The key to running well there (Phoenix) is handling in all four corners. Each one is unique and you really cannot favor one corner over another. Plus, you have to have a good qualifying effort there because of track position. It's a tough place to pass. So qualifying will really be of interest even more so because of the new qualifying format that NASCAR is implementing this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: It was not a good night for Newman as he was involved in two wrecks. Still, he was able to finish 22nd in the Daytona 500. "I honestly don't know what I could have done differently," said Newman. "I guess we could have taken a risk and raced to the front and led some laps. But it's a matter of luck. This is restrictor-plate racing and wrecks happen."
ETC.: Krissie Newman, Ryan's wife, believes "kids have a better compassion level when they're raised around animals." For that reason, she and Ryan have started Rescue Ranch. "We want to get remote controls out of their hands and give them an understanding of the outdoors," said Newman. Rabbits, turtles, lizards and birds now make up the family of resident animals who will spend the rest of their lives on the ranch helping to educate children and their families. Other animals will be added later. "I have a beautiful wife with a passion and a dream and I'm right there with her," added Newman.