WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, no points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in 10 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Mears said, "We're looking forward to getting to Las Vegas and getting on the track. We've definitely started this year on a strong note and the new relationship with Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing has been working really well. Mile and a half tracks have been a challenge for us over the years so we're hoping to be able to close the gap and have a strong run with our new Chevy. Thursday's test will be beneficial as we continue to learn about the new car."
LOOKING BACK: Mears finished 14th at Phoenix. "We had a good car and the Germain Racing crew did a good job of making adjustments to the 13 Geico Chevrolet, which clearly helped me as the race went on," said Mears. "We're focused on getting better and continuing to learn more about the car and working closely with RCR and Chevrolet in building the Geico program."
ETC: Mears is quite pleased with how the season has started and feels 2014 could be his best season since joining the 13 team in 2010. "We're sitting 11th in points, which says a lot about our team and how hard these guys have worked," said Mears. "We all feel our new working relationship with RCR is already paying big dividends and will pay a lot more dividends as we get into the season."
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, no points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 11 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "I am really looking forward to heading to Las Vegas this week. We are coming off a strong run at Phoenix, and Vegas is a track I really like. We have had really good cars the first two weeks of the season and I hope to carry that momentum to Vegas. I think having the test on Thursday will help us to know where we will be for this weekend. I am really excited with the program and effort from our team early in this race season."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 10th at Phoenix, only his third top-10 finish in 22 starts at the one-mile track. "Overall a good day," said McMurray. "It's really hard to pass here. I think a top-10 is a great way to start (the year), especially after being really quick in all the practices and qualifying in what I would say is our first race of the season. We have had solid cars in both races so far this year and I can't wait to get to Las Vegas."
ETC.: McMurray is a big fan of the new qualifying format, but he believes NASCAR needs to change the rules on how the teams cool their engines. "I think NASCAR needs to look at letting us cool the engines down on pit road so we can run full tape the full time," said McMurray. "The whole running around (the race track at drastically reduced speeds) with that difference in speed is not good. We need to be able to work on cooling the engines down on pit road. I feel confident that everyone would have the same opinion I do."
17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, one point out of the top 10. Lost six spots last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: Finished 18th in his Vegas debut a year ago.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse calls Las Vegas Motor Speedway "one of my favorite tracks. So I am excited to race there this weekend. The guys have been working hard over the off-season on new cars, so we should get a good feel how our cars are compared to the rest of the field."
LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse battled an ill-handling race car for most of the day as he finished 18th at Phoenix. "Overall today was frustrating," said Stenhouse. "We just missed something so we will go back to work. I am proud of my team as they never gave up and helped me get my lap back. You have to look at the positives and learn from the negatives to make us better and a top contender."
ETC.: Crew chief Mike Kelley believes Las Vegas "really suits Ricky's driving style. Last weekend was our first time under the new qualifying format so we learned a few things which we feel can help our qualifying efforts this weekend. We get an extra day out there for testing so hopefully we can get the 17 Zest Ford dialed in to Ricky's liking. I'm confident we will have a strong showing on Sunday."
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, only three points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: One win and five top-10 finishes including four top-five's in 10 starts. Finished fourth a year ago after leading 27 laps.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch is the youngest pole winner and race winner in Las Vegas track history, but it has been five years since he scored his lone win at his hometown track. "We need to be a little better than we have been there recently," said Busch. "We had a good car last year so hopefully that means we are back to running as well there as we did earlier in my career (when he put together five straight top-11 finishes including a win, a second and a third-place finish)."
LOOKING BACK: Busch finished ninth at Phoenix for his second consecutive top-10 finish and fourth in the last five races at the Arizona facility. "We fought hard all day with our Skittles Chevy," said Busch. "Just didn't have the speed we were looking for, especially getting off the corner. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys made the car better during the day, but we just didn't have the handle to run with the leaders."