WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping from a tie for third to fifth after Martinsville, Kyle Busch climbed back one spot into fourth place following Texas. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 52 points, is 12 points behind third-ranked Kevin Harvick and leads fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 10 points.
PHOENIX RECORD: 17 career starts, 1 wins, 3 top-fives, 10 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2005. Finished third in this race last year (after starting from the pole) and was a disappointing 23rd in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Another Chase, another championship opportunity gone by the wayside. That's the case for Kyle Busch, who many thought would break through for his first Cup crown in 2013. Unfortunately, he will fall short. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race at Phoenix: "Barring Kansas, I think we've done a really nice job and the way - knock on wood - there wasn't a big one at Talladega that didn't get any championship contenders really, but that's where you try to make up ground when you can, when some of those guys have a bad day and you don't. That's when you make up big ground and nobody really did anything. It was just a little bit of swap here and there. Other than that, we've run a lot better this year than in years past. Apparently, there's still a lot more room for improvement just with the bar that those guys at the front have set."
LOOKING BACK: Busch struggled at Texas. Although he led two laps, he still couldn't do better than his eventual 13th-place finish.
ETC.: Busch has completed 96.3 percent (5,184) of the 5,382 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Phoenix. His average start is 13.1, while his average finish is 13.9. He has one DNF there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. climbed two spots, from seventh to fifth, after Texas. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson by 62 points, is 10 points behind fourth-ranked Kyle Busch and is seven points ahead of the sixth-place tie between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.
PHOENIX RECORD: 22 career starts, 2 wins, 5 top-fives, 9 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2003 and 2004. Finished 21st in this race last year and was fifth in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt is on the cusp of finishing with his best overall ranking in the Sprint Cup standings since he was fifth in 2006 (he was also seventh in 2011). Junior is also winding up his third consecutive Chase appearance for the first time in his career. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race at Phoenix: "Winning a race would really lift the team's spirits. You work too hard all season long not to get to Victory Lane. I know how much the guys want the win on the team, so that's what we're working for now. We've got two races to go and we'd love to get a win in one of them and continue to have a good run in the Chase." Earnhardt's last win was in June 2012 at Michigan, which was his first win since June 2008, also at Michigan).
LOOKING BACK: Although he didn't lead a lap, Earnhardt had an outstanding race at Texas, a place where he won the first Sprint Cup race of his career back in 2000. Unfortunately this time, he came close but couldn't beat the commanding performance by Jimmie Johnson, with Earnhardt ultimately finishing second in the Lone Star State.
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 93.0 percent (6,461) of the 6,945 total laps contested in 22 career starts at Phoenix. His average start is 17.8, while his average finish is an almost identical 17.6. He has three DNFs there.
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: After having his best weekend of the season with a win at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon had his worst weekend of 2013 at Texas. He crashed early and lost 42 points in the standings, dropping him from third and into a tie for sixth place with Clint Bowyer. He now trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 69 points, is seven points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and is four points ahead of eighth-ranked Greg Biffle.
PHOENIX RECORD: 29 career starts, 2 wins, 10 top-fives, 20 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2007 and spring 2011. Was 30th in this race last year (crashed) and ninth in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Even though he's out of contention for the Chase, Gordon is still looking for a big bounce back Sunday at Phoenix to hopefully end up the season with a third- or fourth-place finish. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "This is a track that has been on our radar - one that we need to perform better at. We were decent here earlier this year, but we need to step it up this weekend. I put this track in the same category as Kansas - not the kind of track we excel at because of a recent repave. But I hope we leave Phoenix similar to the way we left Kansas (third place five weeks ago). We executed well at Kansas, we had a great car there and we had great strategy. The performance surprised even me."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon wrecked at Texas fairly early, spent a lengthy time in the garage for repairs and ultimately finished a disappointing 38th.
ETC.: Gordon has completed 98.0 percent (8,889) of 9,074 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Phoenix. His average start is 10.9, and average finish is 11.4 He also has three DNFs there.
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer remained in sixth place for the second week in a row after Texas, only this time he's also tied with Jeff Gordon. Bowyer trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 69 points, is seven points behind fifth-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and is four points ahead of eighth-ranked Greg Biffle.
PHOENIX RECORD: 16 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-fives, 6 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in spring 2008. Was 28th in this race last year (wrecked by Jeff Gordon) and sixth in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Will Bowyer look for revenge from Jeff Gordon after last year's wreck at Phoenix? Unlikely now, given that both drivers are all but eliminated from the Chase championship. Still, Bowyer has goals for this Sunday's race. Here's what he had to say: "I have a lot of confidence coming into Phoenix and we still have some goals to finish up this season. I think a top-five for our team, with everything that we've gone through, a top-five finish in the Chase would be a great accomplishment and goal for us and that is where my mind is at right now."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing third at Martinsville the week before, Bowyer had a decent run at Texas, ultimately finishing 10th.