LAS VEGAS RECORD: Finished second a year ago after leading a race-high 114 laps. It was his second runner-up finish at the 1.5-mile track.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne feels "we have a couple of really nice changes with the Farmers Insurance team this season with engineer Chris Spaulding moving up and Kenny (Francis, crew chief) is excited - that's a big part of it, too, going into the season with a lot of excitement, momentum and motivation. And I feel like each year I can keep getting better (as a driver)."
LOOKING BACK: After battling an extremely "loose" race car at the beginning of the 312-lap event at Phoenix, Kahne rallied in the final half to finish 11th. "We struggled at the start, but Kenny made some great changes to the car and we were a lot better the last 100 or so laps," said Kahne. "If the race had been a few laps longer, we would have finished in the top 10. That is how much faster we were at the end than at the start."
ETC.: Kahne had a very special guest during the Phoenix weekend - Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson. "With Kasey being from the Washington area and all that, he's a big Seahawks fan and we have a connection," said Wilson. "We are teaming up for a charity event (a golf and concert event called The Drive on June 23-24 that will raise money for the Seattle-area Boys and Girls Clubs). I had a good time with Kasey this weekend."
36 REED SORENSON, Chevrolet
Team: Tommy Baldwin Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 23 points out of the top 10. Lost four spots last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: His best finish in four starts is 18th.
LOOKING AHEAD: Sorenson said he, too, is "excited about heading out to Las Vegas this weekend. We will have a full day of testing at the track on Thursday, which will definitely help out everyone on this 36 team. We are still learning and growing together as a new team. Hopefully, this weekend we will get a good finish and continue the momentum from Daytona."
LOOKING BACK: Sorenson struggled all afternoon as he finished 31st at Phoenix. "It was just a long weekend," said Sorenson. "We ran a lot better at the end than we did early on. We really struggled at the start. But Todd (Parrott, crew chief) kept throwing things at it and by the end we were a lot better."
ETC.: Parrott also feels the Thursday test will be quite beneficial to the 36 team. "Reed and I are still getting to know each other and having those four hours to test and understand what he likes in a car will really help me as we go forward. We can try a lot of different things without having to worry about qualifying or getting ready for the race. We can do all that on Friday and Saturday."
14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 27 points out of the top 10. Gained 12 spots last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: Won the 2012 event after finishing second in 2011. Has earned nine top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 15 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart said there is no "real key" to running well at Las Vegas. "It's just like anywhere you go. You just have to have a well-balanced car. It seems like track position is really, really key there, but as long as you can get your car driving well and stay ahead of it - it seems like as the day changes, or the longer the day goes, the more the track changes and the more you have to stay up with the changing track conditions as the day goes on."
LOOKING BACK: An ill-timed caution flag ended any hopes Stewart had of a top-10 finish at Phoenix. Instead, he had to be content with a 16th-place finish. Stewart made a routine four-tire stop on lap 237 while running in the top 10. But a caution for debris 11 laps later left him a lap down and in need of a "wave around" to get back on the lead lap. "We just needed better track position at the end," said Stewart.
ETC.: While Stewart wasn't happy with how his day ended, he was delighted with how teammate Kevin Harvick's day ended - in victory lane. "Kevin had the best car yesterday in practice, so I'm glad to see those guys finish it up," said Stewart after congratulating Harvick in the winner's circle. "Kevin had a lot of confidence in Rodney (Childers, crew chief). I didn't know Rodney that well, but Kevin's been pretty keen on all aspects of this. He's been confident all winter with our program, and today it showed."
43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 29 points out of the top 10. Gained 14 spots last week.
LAS VEGAS RECORD: Finished 16th last year for his best finish in five starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "It's going to be interesting when we get to Vegas to see how we stack up to the competition because we've gone to all these tests and are just comparing ourselves to ourselves. We're trying to make our car better based on what we just ran two sessions ago. I feel really confident going into Vegas. Our Charlotte test went really well. We were able to compare ourselves against other race teams there, and I felt like we were one of the cars that could pass people and my car drove really well there."
LOOKING BACK: Almirola finished 15th at Phoenix. "We had a good car and ran in the top-10 most of the day," said Almirola. "Trent (Owens, crew chief) made some good pit calls, and we were in a good position in the end. Unfortunately, the race didn't play out the way we hoped. We had a lot of cautions in the final laps and just couldn't get going at the beginning of runs. We had a lot of long runs early and really showed the speed of our Farmland Ford."
ETC.: On Thursday, Almirola will join Farmland Foods at Smith's Food and Drug Stores in North Las Vegas where they will donate 40,000 pounds of food. "This is one of my favorite parts of my job and a big reason I enjoy working with Smithfield Foods and their brands," said Almirola. "It's an honor for me to be a small part in giving back throughout the season and building awareness for the hungry."