ALL-STAR RECORD: Finished 16th a year ago in his only appearance in the special event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Menard must finish in the top two in the Sprint Showdown to qualify for the All-Star Race. "The great thing about this weekend is there are no points on the line," said Menard. "We can just go out there, race hard and have fun. It's a fun night also because with the race being in Charlotte, a lot of the crew guys can have their families come out and watch. Hopefully we can put on a good show for them."
LOOKING BACK: Menard finished 19th at Darlington. "It was a tough night for the 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards crew," said Menard. "We struggled with handling issues for the majority of the day, and I put us behind late with a pit-road penalty. Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) made adjustments all night, and we were able to catch a break at the end with those caution flags. But we didn't get the finish we thought we would when the night began."
ETC.: Menard knows the key to running well in the Showdown is "start up front and stay up front. You don't have a lot of time to get to the front if you don't qualify well." The race consists of two 20-lap segments. Teams can elect to pit after the first segment or can decide to stay out as Dale Earnhardt Jr. did a year ago in leading all 40 laps.
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, only four points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week.
ALL-STAR RECORD: Three wins and nine top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 19 starts. His three wins ties him for the top spot in this special event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon points out "The All-Star race is kind of a 'win-or-nothing scenario, and that's not the case on other race weekends. I've always approached it being as aggressive as I possibly can. We push hard trying to win every race, and this weekend is no different. The only difference is there are no points on the line. I really enjoy this event and I love the energy from the crowd. Those last 10 laps should be exciting for them. And us."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon made his 700th career start a special one as he finished third, his 300th top-five finish. Only three other drivers - Richard Petty, David Pearson and Bobby Allison, all members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame - have accomplished this feat. "The last run was the best the car had been," said Gordon. "We got a good restart. Very happy - a great result for us. We had good pit stops, the last one being a great one. Great calls by Alan (Gustafson, crew chief), staying out when we needed to stay out, coming in when we needed to come in. Just a great battle by this team."
ETC.: Gordon has decided to sell his New York condo. According to the New York Times, Gordon's Central Park condo is "an inventively embellished three-bedroom condominium at the reigning superstar of Manhattan's trophy residences." Gordon brought the condo in 2007 for $9.67 million. Gordon listed the condo at $30 million after his neighbors sold their condo for $32.5 million in December.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, only four points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week.
ALL-STAR RECORD: Three top-10 finishes including a second in 2008 in nine starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle said he is "looking forward to the All-Star race" for several reasons. "We've struggled some this year, so it will be nice to have a non-points race and try to learn some things for the Coca-Cola 600 next weekend," added Biffle. "Charlotte has been good to us in the past and a win would help us gain momentum going into this summer stretch."
LOOKING BACK: Biffle finished 13th at Darlington. "It's a little disappointing," said Biffle. "I know it's different being out front. The car will drive a lot different, but we still don't have the grip we need. We're missing it ever since the season started with this (new Gen-6) car. We've got to figure it out. We've tested and practiced and are still struggling, so it's something you can't really fix on a pit stop. We'll just have to keep working and try to figure it out."
ETC.: Crew chief Matt Puccia said "the All-Star race is a fun non-points race where you can let it all hang out and take some chances. But you can also learn some things to apply to the 600. It's just a fun weekend where you can do some gambling and maybe hit on something that will be a big help the following week."
56 MARTIN TRUEX JR., Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 14 points out of the top 10. Lost one spot last week.
ALL-STAR RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in four starts including a second in 2010.
LOOKING AHEAD: Truex really likes the new format for the All-Star race. "I think you're going to see all-out racing all night long, which is a great thing," said Truex before adding, "Obviously, we hope to be a part of that." To accomplish that goal, Truex must finish in the top two in the Sprint Showdown or win the fans' vote. Truex won the Showdown in 2007 and 2010.
LOOKING BACK: Truex ran in the top 10 during the first half of the race, but ran into handling problems during the late portions of the event as he finished 12th. "I am disappointed," said Truex. "I don't know how we missed it tonight. I really thought we were going to have a shot at the win. It didn't work out. We'll regroup and get ready for Charlotte race weeks."
ETC.: Michael Waltrip Racing has decided to move its annual Fan Fest to October. The event at MWR's headquarters has traditionally been held in May, but the race shop is undergoing some capital improvements to future enhance the visitor and employee experience. The organization began construction of a new 7,500-square-foot training facility earlier this month. "We can't wait to showcase our upgrades," said Waltrip.