LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers hopes the team's ability to rebound from a disastrous start to the Bristol weekend will carry over to this weekend. "The team did a great job last week turning a bad qualifying performance into a top-10 run," said Vickers. "This week we just need to start off better and finish it like we did last week. If that is the case, it will be a real good weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Vickers finished ninth for his fifth consecutive top-10 finish at Bristol. "Just really proud of everyone on this Aaron's Dream Machine team," said Vickers. "They made the most out of this Toyota Camry. I'm ashamed to say, we legitimately qualified 37th on Friday - we just really missed it. It's uncharacteristic of this team, but it happens to the best of them. I've seen it happy to Jimmie (Johnson) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) - they've won six championships. You have to keep fighting and never give up. All the guys on this team hustled and did an incredible job. Completely wholesaling the car on Saturday and gave me a really fast car today."
ETC.: Vickers missed most of the 2010 season with blood clots in his legs and around his lungs. And then last year, he was forced to sit out the final four races after doctors discovered a blood clot in his right calf. So it is no surprise that team is running a special paint scheme this weekend to promote greater awareness about the dangers of blood clots. "I want people to be mindful of what the signs and symptoms are," said Vickers.
13 CASEY MEARS, Chevrolet
Team: Germain Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 25 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in 17 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Mears said, "I always enjoy going to Fontana because I'm from Bakersfield (Calif.) and family and friends usually come out to support us at the race. We had a strong car at Bristol until the tire issue got the best of us late in the race, so Fontana is our opportunity to rebound and have a good run. The guys on this Germain team have worked hard, so I know we'll have something for them when race day comes around."
LOOKING BACK: Mears finished a disappointing 27th in the rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol. "Coming into the race, we were really confident in our race set-up," said Mears. "We were gaining early on and if we could have stayed green I really think we would've been good. But after the delay (three hours and 19 minutes for rain), the track just didn't respond the same. And then we had a bad vibration and had to make an unscheduled stop. Just not the day or night we thought we would have."
ETC.: Although Mears is driving for a single-car team, he believes his chances of surprising a lot of people and making the Chase are "a lot better than people think. We are just a better team this year, and the help we are getting from RCR (Richard Childress Racing) and Chevy is making us even better."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 27 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: Finished 14th last year for his best finish in six starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: After a 25th-place finish at Las Vegas, Almirola knows the team must have a much better intermediate package for this weekend if he hopes to continue the momentum from his great run at Bristol. "We weren't happy with our result at Vegas for sure, but I know Trent (Owens, crew chief) and the guys have been working really hard to bring a car that will race well on Sunday at California," said Almirola. "I'm confident our team can put together a package that will make us competitive on Sunday."
LOOKING BACK: Almirola finished a career-best third at Bristol. "It's a great day for us and I'm not disappointed at all with third, but when you see it and you can taste it and it's that close, you wonder what you could have done different," said Almirola. "It's frustrating because I had one shot to race Carl (Edwards) for the lead (on the restart with 38 laps to go) and these races are so hard to win, obviously. If our car would have taken off a little bit better, things might have gone different, but, all in all, it was a great day."
ETC.: Almirola hadn't expected to run that well at Bristol. "We changed every part and piece on our race car (Sunday morning) because we weren't very good in practice, so I'm really proud of Trent and all our guys. We thought when we brought Trent over that he would come up with some new ideas. We were not very happy with how our season went last year and we've made a lot of changes and all of those changes seem to have been positive."
4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 33 points out of the top 10. Lost seven spots last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: One win and five top-10 finishes in the last six races.
LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick said, "I enjoy how the track has really spread out and the groove you can run is from the bottom to the top. It's a lot of fun to move around, you can go four or five wide in the corners and down the straightaways. It's become pretty worn out over the last several years. You have to really pay attention to what your car is doing, to try and get it balanced throughout the whole run because there is so much fall off (in time) from start to finish."
LOOKING BACK: Harvick led once for 28 laps and was running fourth with 50 laps to go when he ran over something on the track and cut an oil line and slammed hard into the turn two wall. He drove the battered Chevrolet back to the garage area with the right-front wheel on fire where safety crews put out the blaze. Harvick escaped unhurt. "We had another strong car tonight," said Harvick. "Our luck just hasn't been too good the last two weeks."
ETC.: Harvick believes he could have won two or maybe three of the first four races of the season. "This team has done a great job all year," said Harvick. "They have given me great cars in all four races. We had a tough Friday (at Bristol), but everybody just sits down and we are all new together and trying to figure out what I like and all the new rules and everything that goes into everything we have going on with the new team as well. They just do a great job at figuring what we need in the car. We just haven't had any luck the last two weeks (after winning the second race of the year at Phoenix)."
42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet