LOOKING AHEAD: If Gordon wins the Richmond race Saturday night, he will earn a spot in this year's Chase for the Championship. Anything short of a win means he has to finish seven spots in front of 10th-place Kurt Busch or 15 spots in front of ninth-place Greg Biffle to move into the top 10 and clinch a spot in the Chase. "I've said all along that I think (the spots in the Chase) will come to the last lap at Richmond, and we're going to battle all the way to the checkered flag to try and earn one of those spots," said Gordon. "We missed it early (in the race) last year, but we were able to make some good changes and the car came to life (as he rallied to finish second and make the Chase). This year, I'm hoping we'll be strong from the drop of the green flag all the way to the checkered flag. Winning is our goal this weekend - it's what we want to do every weekend."
LOOKING BACK: At one point early in the Atlanta race, Gordon looked as if he had the car to beat as he led twice for 17 laps. But his victory hopes faded as the track changed. Still, he was able to rally in the final 20 laps to finish sixth to stay in the thick of the battle for the final five spots in the Chase for the Championship. "We had an excellent Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS and it just got away from us a little bit," said Gordon. "The track changed quite a bit and we just couldn't battle up front there for the lead and for the win like I thought we could have. Little disappointed in that, but a great effort by the team all weekend long and we will take the momentum of these last two decent finishes, solid runs, and fast cars and take it to Richmond and see what we can do."
ETC.: Gordon and Carl Edwards got into a heated discussion following the Atlanta race last Sunday night. On two different occasions the two talked about the way they raced each other during the 325-lap event. "I have a problem with a guy when I apologize for sliding him and he proceeds to tell me all the things I did wrong in the race," said Gordon. "I didn't hear him apologizing for any of the things that he did. I tried to have a regular conversation and that didn't seem to be possible with him." Added Edwards, "we don't agree on what happened and finally he (Gordon) got frustrated enough with the conversation that he just walked away, which might be smart."
5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only 10 points out of the top 10. Lost four spots to fall out of the top 10 last week. Has clinched a spot in the Chase for the Championship because of his two wins.
RICHMOND RECORD: One win and seven top-10 finishes in 19 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne is elated that he has clinched a spot in the Chase, but his goals for this weekend haven't changed. "We need to win the race and get back in the top 10," said Kahne. "We won't get any bonus points for our wins unless we are in the top 10. Those bonus points would be a big help (in his quest to win the championship). We really have nothing to lose since we are already in the Chase, so we can gamble if we need or whatever to win the race. That is our only goal."
LOOKING BACK: Kahne's victory aspirations ended early Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he was caught up in an accordion-type wreck on lap 29 of the 325-lap event. When teammate Jeff Gordon, running second, had trouble getting going on the restart, everyone behind him in the outside line were forced to slow down. Kahne was on the gas when he plowed into the back of teammate Jimmie Johnson. The damage was severe enough that the crew had to replace the radiator and oil cooler. When Kahne returned the race, he stood 42nd in the running. He ended the night in 36th place. "Everyone in front of me was jamming on their brakes and I didn't see that until it was too late," said Kahne. "I feel we were going to have a good night as the car ran pretty well after we got back out there."
ETC.: Kahne won his first Cup race at Richmond in May 2005. Starting from the pole, Kahne dominated the race, leading 242 of the 400 laps. "That is a day I will always remember," said Kahne. "It was one of those special days when everything just goes right. We really had a great car. It sure would be nice to get another win at Richmond."
56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 15 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week. Stands second in the wild card standings with one win.
RICHMOND RECORD: Only two top-10 finishes in 15 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Richmond has not been one of Truex's better tracks, but he knows he needs to run well there Saturday night if he wants to make the Chase. His edge over Ryan Newman in the race for the second and final wild card spot is only five points. "We did a test there and felt like we were better than when we were there in the spring," said Truex. "That place is very, very difficult. You practice in the day, you race at night, the track changes a lot. You never really know what you have until the race starts. All you can do is do your best."
LOOKING BACK: After breaking a bone in his right wrist during a multi-car accident at Bristol, Truex was forced to wear cast for the Atlanta race. And to compound things, his cast began to disintegrate by the end of the race. "The cast inside my hand got all soft," said Truex. "It's kind of broke right around my thumb. My wrist was moving around a lot more than I wanted it to. I mean, when you're steering back and forth here and you're out of control and you're holding on and you're sawing the wheel - it felt like every time I moved it somebody was hitting it with a hammer. It hurt like hell. The pain got to be real sharp." Despite all his troubles, Truex was able to finish third after having a shot at the win on the final restart with 21 laps to go. "Almost had Kyle (Busch) there on that last restart, almost had him cleared, he got into my right rear getting into (turn) three, he got me loose and once he got into me -- I was too tight and probably wouldn't have been able to hold him off even if I could have cleared him," added Truex. "Third is good night for what we had most of the night."
ETC.: Truex admits he hopes Kasey Kahne gets back in the top 10. "Right now, he has one of the wild card spots locked up so that means we are fighting for the other one unless we can get back in the top 10," said Truex. "Fighting for two spots is easier than one. We were able to have a good night when the pressure was on at Atlanta and we'll have to do it again at Richmond."
39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 20 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week. Stands third, only five points back of second-place Martin Truex, Jr., in the wild-card standings with one win.
RICHMOND RECORD: Has finished eighth in the last two September races at Richmond. Overall has one win and 13 top-10 finishes in 23 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman knows he has to finish at least six spots in front of Martin Truex, Jr. to have any shot at earning a wild card spot in the Chase. "We can still finish in the top 10, but we would have to have a lot of things go our way, so probably our best bet is to outrun the 56 (Truex)," said Newman. "Our short track program has been good all year so we feel good about the weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Despite getting hit on pit road, Newman was able to run up front for most of the evening as he finished fifth at Atlanta. "I'm really proud of everyone and the job they did tonight," said Newman. "We got squeezed on pit road and had to make an unscheduled pit stop to fix the damage and change the tires. The guys did a great job getting the fenders pulled out, and I almost forgot about it (the damage). We struggled a little bit with the handling, but still had a really strong Aspen Dental Chevrolet."
ETC.: In July Newman was told his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing would not be extended because the team was not in position to add a fourth team. A month later, co-owner Gene Haas hired Kurt Busch for a fourth team. When asked about the Busch announcement, Newman replied, "If they didn't tell Stewart why would they tell me. To me, it was more funny than any kind of frustration from my end, it won't affect me. Obviously, it frees up a situation for 2014 but in the end it doesn't affect me. All of Gene's comments don't make any sense to me in reference to anything I did, have done, sponsorship-wise, winning races. There's no logical explanation for it and I think 99 out of 100 people would say the same thing if they were being honest."
2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford