LOOKING AHEAD: Amirola said, "We tested there (Chicagoland) a few weeks ago and had two really good days. Todd (Parrott, crew chief) and the guys really learned a lot, and hopefully, that will pay off when we get to the track this weekend. We were pretty fast there last year, and we should be even better this time back, and hopefully, we can contend for the win."
LOOKING BACK: Almirola was one of a handful of drivers who had just pitted when the yellow flag was waved with only 57 laps to go. As a result, Almirola went from contending for a top-10 finish to two laps down. He ended the night in 20th place. "To say I am disappointed is an understatement," said Almirola. "We had a great car all weekend. The caution during green-flag pit stops really killed us. We outraced most of the guys who finished up front, and that's tough to see when some bad luck gets you stuck a lap down (He got one of his laps back via the wave around)."
ETC.: Almirola is quick to point out that while he is "disappointed that we didn't make the Chase, I think we can play the spoiler role just as much as anyone. We still feel confident that we can get a win before the end of the year. We have put a lot of time into this race (at Chicagoland), so hopefully it will pay off."
42 JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, Chevrolet
Team: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 94 points out of 13th place.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: One top-10 finish in six starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Montoya said, "To be honest with you, we haven't had very much luck at Chicago. There's a lot of long green-flag runs there and when the handling is off it can be a nightmare. I think my best finish there is 10th. The Target team has come a long way this year and our cars have been fast so I think we'll be good this weekend as long as we get our hands around the handling right away."
LOOKING BACK: It was night filled with penalties for Montoya. As a result, he finished 16th at Richmond despite having a "fast car." Early in the race, Montoya was forced to return to pit road because of a missing lug nut and had to start at the rear of the field. Later he was penalized for speeding on pit road and for not dropping to the tail-end of the field on the restart. "What a crazy night for the Target team," said Montoya. "The car was really good, but we just couldn't catch a break. Everything that could go wrong did for us tonight - missing lug nuts, speeding on pit road and then a pass-thru penalty. We had a top-five car. Pretty disappointing."
ETC.: Montoya met with Furniture Row Racing officials last week as the team begins the process of finding a driver to replace Kurt Busch, who will be leaving at the end of the season to drive for Stewart-Haas. "We're down to a couple of guys," said Joe Garone, the team's general manager. "We have to decide if we want to stay with a veteran or go with a younger rookie and bring a kid up. He (Montoya) has been around a while and obviously can win races." Garone said he expects crew chief Todd Berrier to return in 2014. "We're a pretty solid race team and a tight group of guys," added Garone.
17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR., Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 106 points out of 13th place. Gained one spot last week.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut. Won the Nationwide race in September 2012 after finishing second in the July event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stenhouse feels "our strong finish at Richmond gives us momentum going into Chicago. I enjoy racing at the mile-and-a-half tracks so I'm looking forward to this weekend. Last time I raced at Chicago, we picked up the win so hopefully we can get a strong finish in our Best Buy Ford Fusion this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Stenhouse got a lucky break when he was one of 11 cars that had not pitted when the caution came out on lap 343. This allowed Stenhouse to move into the tenth position for the restart with 49 laps to go. He was able to stay in the top 10 as he finished tenth for his first top-10 finish of his Sprint Cup career. "It feels great," said Stenhouse. "We have been working so hard and have been in situations where it appeared we were going to finish in the top 10 and something would happen. Hopefully this is the first of many in the upcoming races."
ETC.: Crew chief Scott Graves said, "We feel we are going to be much stronger the second time around at the tracks coming up. Now that we have finally got our first top-10, we are hoping to add to that number in the coming weeks. We want to finish the season on a high note."
9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford
Team: Richard Petty Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 114 points out of 13th place. Lost a spot last week.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Best finish in 11th in four starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "We have been running a lot better these past few months, and our test went really well at Chicagoland. I think that gives us a great chance to really be up front all weekend. We had a good result at Michigan (sixth) just a few races ago and again at Atlanta (13th), and Chicagoland is a high-speed, momentum track similar to those. Everyone feels confident about this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Ambrose struggled with an ill-handling race car all night as he finished 27th at Richmond. "It was a tough night for our DeWalt team," said Ambrose. "The long green-flag runs certainly didn't help us. Then the bump stop broke about halfway through the race and it just made the car a handful. It was just a long, long night."
ETC.: Ambrose feels "it would be very cool to come into this race and spoil the party for the guys in the Chase. Our mile-and-a-half program has improved greatly from the beginning of the season to today. We feel like we can compete each time for a top-10, top-five or a win."
31 JEFF BURTON, Chevrolet