9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 14 points out of the top 10. Gained four spots last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: Still looking for his first top-10 finish. Best finish in eight starts is 21st.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "We have a lot of confidence that we can continue this level of performance (following his top-five run at Bristol). California is a tough track, really fast with a lot of grooves, but we're ready to step it up there and get a good finish. We haven't had the results we wanted there, but we've put in a lot of work with these new rules to get better."
LOOKING BACK: Ambrose finished fifth at Bristol for his second straight top-eight finish at the track and third in the last four races. "It was a great night for Richard Petty Motorsports," said Ambrose. "My teammate Aric Almirola was a couple of spots in front of us, so we're really proud of our team tonight. These cars go a lot faster around this track than the old style cars and we had to really dig in our feet. The groove went to the very fence and we had to really watch ourselves there and keep adjusting on the car all night."
ETC.: Because of the new Chase format this year, Ambrose is quick to say, "You just don't know how it's going to shake out, but if we get ourselves a win, it takes care of a lot. At the same time, we need to put ourselves in the best points position too so we can possibly grab a spot that way. Right now, we're really close. There is still a lot of time (before the Chase for the Championship begins), and a lot of things can happen, but we're not in a bad position after Bristol."
1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 22 points out of the top 10. Lost five spots last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: Five top-10 finishes including three top-five's in 18 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "The give-up on tires is the first thing that comes to mind (at Auto Club Speedway) as far as qualifying goes with this new format. I think teams will only be able to make just one run to advance to the next rounds. As far as racing at Fontana, it's a really fun track. It's so wide, you will see guys running the bottom, the second lane and the third lane all the way up (against the wall). It's a really good track."
LOOKING BACK: McMurray ran in the top 10 for most of the race and was running fifth when he got caught up in an accident with 78 laps to go. The car was damaged severely enough that McMurray was unable to continue as he ended up 38th. "Such a disappointing end to a strong run for our team," said a dejected McMurray. "Our car was really good and the guys on this McDonald's team had great pit stops to keep us up front throughout the night, until our misfortunate in the closing laps. I ran into some oil from the car (Kevin Harvick) in front of me. I couldn't turn and just went straight to the wall. It was such a tough way to end a race when our car was so good."
ETC.: Even though Bristol didn't end well for McMurray, he thought it was another example of how far his team has come in 2014. "We had another great car," said McMurray. "We've had good cars everywhere we've been. That is why I feel good about California and why I feel good about this season as a whole."
27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 23 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: Finished eighth last year for his best career finish at Auto Club Speedway in 11 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "Auto Club Speedway is a track where you need to have a good motor package because of its size (two miles). The speeds we reach going into turn three seems to be creeping up there higher and higher, which puts more demand on our ECR (Earnhardt Childress Racing) engines. With the way the bumps are, you need to put a good enough set-up in the car to either race through them or around them. It will be interesting to see what changes we need to make to keep up with the track's changes since the last time we were there."
LOOKING BACK: After changing engines on Saturday, Menard was forced to start at the back of the field. But it didn't take long for Menard to show that he had a real good car as he quickly moved into the top 15 when the race was halted for rain after 124 laps. After a three-hour and 19-minute delay, Menard seemed headed for a top-10 finish when he ran into tire problems forcing an unscheduled pit stop. As a result, he had to be content with a 21st-place finish. "We had a really strong race car," said Menard. "Bad part was we got trapped laps down when we pitted under the green there in the middle of the race. The finish doesn't show how good we really were out there."
ETC.: Menard will be racing a new car this weekend. "With the new rules package, we are building a lot of new cars," said Menard. "It is always a challenge to stay ahead of the game and we are confident we are doing that with these new cars."
55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 23 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
CALIFORNIA RECORD: Finished eighth in his last start at Auto Club Speedway.