Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 95 points out of the top 10, only two points out of the top 20.
ATLANTA RECORD: One top-10 finish in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose is quick to point out "We have really been on a roll lately. We have been fast all season, but now, we are getting the finishes we deserve. The last few weeks, we may not have had the best car, but Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) and the team made the right calls to get us there at the end. We have been good at the intermediate tracks since the middle of the season and should unload quick this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Ambrose was all smiles after finishing eighth at Bristol. "That's two top-10s in two weeks," said Ambrose. "We had a good few weeks here and I've just got to thank everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to run like that. We didn't start off great tonight and we didn't finish great handling wise, but we fought hard all night and got some track position at the end that really helped a lot."
ETC.: Both Ambrose and Blickensderfer feel the recent Chicago test will boost the team's chances this weekend in Atlanta. "We're learning more about this car," said Ambrose. "So hopefully we can get us a third straight top-10 and maybe even a win." Adds Blickensderfer, "Our test at Chicago allowed us to try out some new things."
17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 103 points out of the top 10, 10 points out of the top 20. Lost two spots last week.
ATLANTA RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Won the Nationwide race last year after finishing third in 2011.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse said, "Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. It's an older track that is rough but fast. The rough tracks suit my driving style because of my dirt racing background. Our 17 team is getting better every week and I believe that we will get our first top-10 soon. I feel confident that we will have a strong run in our Best Buy Ford this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse was forced to pit for fuel with two laps remaining as he finished 18th at Bristol. "We gambled on staying out during that last caution, and we just came up a couple of laps short," said Stenhouse. "My guys fought hard all night, we just keep having some bad luck."
ETC.: Stenhouse is dating Danica Patrick and at the same time the two are competing for the Rookie of the Year title on the Sprint Cup Series. But Stenhouse said, "We don't really talk about it too much. I don't even know how many points I have in the Rookie of the Year standings (194 to 184 for Patrick). Away from the race track, we don't really talk much about racing."
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 229 points out of the top 10.
ATLANTA RECORD: Won the race a year ago after leading 105 laps. Will be seeking his third straight top-eight finish.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin said he still believes he can "win two to three races going down the stretch. Obviously, anyone that would hear me say that would think that's a stretch the way we've been running, but this is a team that is capable of winning a lot and we know that. We can turn it on at any time. We're just trying some things. Trying to get better. Trying to get a better feel so we have something to work on for next year. If we hit on something like we did at Bristol on Friday, then we can be pretty tough going into the Chase and be a spoiler."
LOOKING BACK: After winning the pole, Hamlin had high, high hopes for the weekend. But after leading twice for 23 laps, he was run into by Brian Vickers with only 53 laps to go. The contact cut Hamlin's right-front tire, sending him hard into Ryan Newman to trigger a multi-car accident that included several Chase contenders. "We cannot catch a break," said Hamlin, who ended up 28th. "You've got to laugh at it at this point. It's somewhat humorous. We had a car that could run in the top five. I thought we were better than the 5 (Kasey Kahne, who finished second). Who knows what would have happened."
ETC.: Hamlin admits he has chronic back pain. "My daily life is miserable," said Hamlin. "Once I'm strapped in (his race car) I'm fine." But he also said that Watkins Glen (earlier this month) "definitely took its toll." Hamlin described the situation as "a nagging pain that just won't go away." As for what the future holds, Hamlin adds, "I have to weigh the options. There are 10 different things you can do to help with either pain or the structure of your back. I just have to figure out which one is the right one for me."
55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: The team stands 19th in the car owner point standings, 48 points out of the top 10.
ATLANTA RECORD: Three top-seven finishes in his last four races.
LOOKING AHEAD: In 10 Cup starts this season, Vickers has one win, and four top-10 finishes. He believes he can improve on that impressive resume in the final 12 races of the year. "We've got a lot of good tracks coming up for us, beginning with Atlanta," said Vickers. "While we are looking forward to 2014 (and a full-time ride in the Cup Series), we want to finish this season on a high note."