By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: After a six-week run atop the Sprint Cup standings, Jeff Gordon fell to second place after Dover, only to regain the top spot after Sunday's race at Pocono. Gordon leads second-ranked Matt Kenseth by 16 points and third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 22 points.
MICHIGAN RECORD: 42 career starts, 2 wins, 18 top-5s, 25 top-10s, 5 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 1998 and spring 2001. Finished 39th in this race last year and was 17th in the mid-summer race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Michigan has been a good track for Gordon, but not of late, with finishes of 28th, 39th and 17th in his last three races there. Now that he's back atop the points standings, Gordon needs to win a second race this season to completely assure he'll make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and Sunday at Michigan would be the perfect place to do so. One thing that will be on Gordon's mind is drafting during knock out qualifying, which should prove interesting, he says: "While you would want somebody to be quite a bit ahead of you to get a tow in a perfect world, I think we'll be better off just being in clean air to get through the corners. But if you're able to get just a little bit of a draft from a car at a distance, every little bit will help. You just can't get too close, though."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon led two laps and had a top-five car for much of the race at Pocono, but fell back near the end of the event and ultimately finished eighth.
ETC.: Gordon has completed 94.6 percent (7,844) of the 8,295 total laps contested in 42 career starts at Michigan. His average start there is 11.6 and average finish is 12.5. He has six DNF's there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After seven weeks in second place, Matt Kenseth climbed to first after Dover, only to fall back one week later after Sunday's race at Pocono. He trails Jeff Gordon by 16 points and leads third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by six points.
MICHIGAN RECORD: 29 career starts, 2 wins, 12 top-5s, 18 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2002 and summer 2006. Finished sixth in this race last year and was 15th in the mid-summer encore race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Michigan is one of Kenseth's favorite tracks and one he's enjoyed a great deal of success at. He'd love to add a third career win there and the first in a Toyota, after the previous ones were in Fords. ""Every week you go out with the idea of doing everything you can to try to win the race," Kenseth told the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call. "People always ask about changing strategies and trying to do this and do that, but if it was that easy you'd win every week. I've never not wanted to win. If there was a way to force wins, I'd force it every week."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing third in the last two races, Kenseth struggled at Pocono, a track he's never done particularly well at. He ultimately finished 25th there.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 97.8 percent (5,572) of the 5,695 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Michigan. His average start there is 17.7 and his average finish is an excellent 9.6. He has one DNF there.
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved up two spots from fifth to third after his win Sunday at Pocono. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 22 points, is six points behind second-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads teammate and fourth-ranked Jimmie Johnson by one point.? MICHIGAN RECORD: 29 career starts, 2 wins, 6 top-5s, 10 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in late spring 2008 and again late spring 2012. Finished 37th (engine issues) in this race last year and was 36th in the mid-summer encore race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Now that he is locked into the Chase with his second win Sunday at Pocono, Earnhardt can go for his third career win at Michigan. Prior to his win in this year's season-opening Daytona 500, Earnhardt had not won since 2012 at Michigan, and before that in 2008, also at Michigan. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "(Earning back-to-back wins) would be awesome. I haven't done that since the Nationwide days back in '98 or '99. We won a couple there back to back, I think. That's a really good feeling. Puts you right on top of the world. A win gives you a lot of confidence, but you know and realize how difficult those are to come by and how competitive this garage is, but man, when you win two in a row, man, that sets you apart a bit from your competition. That would be a great thing for us."
LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt drove a very smart race at Pocono. While he only led 11 laps, he was at the right place at the right time, passing Brad Keselowski in the closing laps to earn his second win of the season.
ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 97.5 percent (5,554) of the 5,695 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Michigan. His average start there is 14.6 and average finish is 16.3. He has three DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in fourth place for the second consecutive week after Sunday's race at Pocono. He trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 23 points, is one point behind fellow teammate and third-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr., and leads fifth-ranked Brad Keselowski by 27 points.