Time is dwindling and stakes are skyrocketing as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams prepare for Sunday nights Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Only two races remain in the Race to the Chase the 10-race stretch that precedes the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the Labor Day weekend event at Atlanta, which was moved from its previous October slot this season, is one of them.
Heading into the weekend, three drivers have already secured spots in this years Chase to the Championship (Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson) while nine spots remain to be decided. The 12-driver Chase field will be set following next weeks race at Richmond. Those 12 will compete for the season championship and Sprint Cup over the final 10 races of 2009.
Mix history with drama Sundays Atlanta event is the tracks first series night race and possibilities resound.
In short, any driver who leaves Atlanta with a 196-point lead over the 13th-place position will clinch a spot in the Chase. Kurt Busch (+192 points) and Kasey Kahne (+52) are the only two Dodge drivers with a mathematical chance to make this years Chase.
All seven Dodge teams are inside the top 35 in owner points and assured starting spots in Sunday nights race. Dodge has earned seven wins at AMS.
Kurt Bush (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway where he dominated the spring race leading 234 of 330 laps en route to his 18th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. In doing so, Busch recorded a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 – the eighth perfect rating since the inception of the Loop Data statistic in 2005. A two-time AMS champion, Busch looks to extend a six-race streak of top-15 finishes at Atlanta.
Its definitely a race that weve had a bulls-eye on since our big win there back in the spring, said Busch, who will be attempting to become the third driver since 2005 to sweep both Sprint Cup races at Atlanta in the same season. It will definitely be a challenge to even come close to the performance we had there at Atlanta in the spring race. That was a special day and will always stand out as a special win.
Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) hopes to use past Atlanta success to increase his chances of gaining a spot in this years Chase. Kahne has recorded one win (2006), four top-fives and six top-10 finishes in 11 starts at the 1.54-mile oval. Kahne sits in a pack of six Cup drivers positioned seven through 12th who are separated by only 86 driver points heading into Sunday nights race. Kahne is no stranger to Chase drama. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver erased a 90-point deficit over two races in 2006 to make what was then a 10-driver Chase field.
Its a tight battle, said Kahne. Any little mistake can definitely cost you a lot of points and hurt your chances. We had a lot bigger point cushion heading into Bristol and just one race later, our points were cut in half. I just try and focus on my race car. Were doing the same things that weve been doing, trying to get the balance where it needs to be so that we can race and be competitive on race day. Hopefully it works out. You definitely think about it, but theres nothing that you can do. All you can do is perform and try and run strong on race day. If we can do that, the rest will take care of itself.
AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Hunt Brothers Pizza) has finished 16th, 14th and 17th in three starts at AMS.
Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Air Force Dodge Charger) has won three NASCAR Nationwide Series races at AMS.
Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Stanley Dodge) started from the outside pole in 2007.
Driver Standings After 24 Races (Chase Field Set Following Race 26)
Pos. Driver Points Point Lead Over 13th Position
1 Tony Stewart 3,564 +653
2 Jimmie Johnson 3,344 433
3 Jeff Gordon 3,310 399
4 Denny Hamlin 3,141 230
5 Carl Edwards 3,110 199
6 Kurt Busch 3,103 192
7 Ryan Newman 2,995 84
8 Greg Biffle 2,986 75
9 Juan Montoya 2,975 64
10 Mark Martin 2,971 60
11 Kasey Kahne 2,963 52
12 Matt Kenseth 2,945 34 (ahead of final Chase spot)
13 Kyle Busch 2,911 -34
14 Brian Vickers 2,906 -35
15 Clint Bowyer 2,833 -112
2009 Dodge Motorsports Driver Statistics
Driver Rank Points Behind Starts Poles Wins Top 5s Top 10s Earnings
Kurt Bush 6 3,103 -461 24 0 1 6 13 $3,245,730
Kasey Kahne 11 2,963 -601 24 0 1 4 9 $3,858,310
AJ Allmendinger 25 2,258 -1,306 24 0 0 1 3 $2,847,930
Elliott Sadler 26 2,255 -1,309 24 0 0 1 3 $2,736,510
Sam Hornish Jr. 27 2,234 -1,330 24 0 0 2 6 $2,947,080
Reed Sorenson 28 2,193 -1,371 24 0 0 0 1 $3,247,420
David Stremme 31 2,084 -1,481 24 0 0 0 0 $3,113,820
What You Need To Know
The Race: Pep Boys Auto 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, September 6
The Time: 7:45 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 1.54-mile
The Distance: 500.5 miles/325 laps
Television: ESPN, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Dodge Weekend Motorsports on TV
(All Times Eastern)
Saturday, Sept. 5
11:00 a.m. Sprint Cup Practice at Atlanta (SPEED)
12:30 p.m. NASCAR Live (SPEED)
1:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Final Practice (SPEED)
2:30 p.m. Drafting Partners – Michael Waltrip, Richard Childress (GAC)
2:30 p.m. Nationwide Series Pole Qualifying at Atlanta (SPEED)
4:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Pole Qualifying at Atlanta ((SPEED)
6:30 p.m. Nationwide Series Countdown (ESPN2)
7:00 p.m. Nationwide Series Race at Atlanta (ESPN2)
9:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series SetUp (SPEED)
9:45 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Race at Iowa (SPEED)
Sunday, Sept. 6
10:00 a.m. NASCAR Now (ESPN2)
3:30 p.m. NASCAR Performance (SPEED)
4:00 p.m. NASCAR Smarts (SPEED)
4:30 p.m. NASCAR In A Hurry (SPEED)
5:00 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay (SPEED)
7:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Countdown (ESPN)
7:00 p.m. SPEED Report (SPEED)
7:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Race at Atlanta (ESPN) [green flag 7:46 p.m.]
9:00 p.m. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain (SPEED)
11:00 p.m. Inside the Headsets (SPEED)
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Now (ESPN2)
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane (SPEED)
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