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Dodge Motorsports Notes & Quotes - Race Weekend Recap - Atlanta
September 6, 2011 , HAMPTON, Ga - KURT BUSCH, BRAD KESELOWSKI CLINCH CHASE BERTHS


HAMPTON, Ga. (Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011) – Dodge drivers Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski clinched berths in the 2011 Chase to the Sprint Cup with stellar finishes in Tuesday’s rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

After heavy rain from Tropical Storm Lee hammered the Atlanta area Sunday, NASCAR officials were forced to postpone the race nearly 48 hours as lingering showers swallowed up the central Georgia area. It was the first Tuesday start for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since the August event at Michigan International Speedway in 2007.

It was well worth the wait for the Dodge Boys as Kurt Busch (fourth-place) and Brad Keselowski (sixth-place) guaranteed themselves a spot in the 12-driver field that will determine the 2011 series championship. Busch clinched via his ranking inside the top 10 in the driver point standings while Keselowski clinched one of the two Wild Card spots for the drivers 11th to 20th in the point standings with the most wins. Keselowski could still qualify for a spot in the top 10 – he currently trails 10th-place Tony Stewart by 23 points heading into Richmond, the final race to set the Chase field.

Once race day finally arrived, cool and overcast conditions were a stark contrast to the 90-degree temperatures teams experienced during the weekend. Both Penske teams used patience and critical adjustments during the race to put themselves in position for quality finishes in quest of the points needed to clinch berths in the Chase.

The race was slowed by nine cautions including two for weather (the race was red flagged for nearly 25 minutes due to rain). Teams experienced a much more difficult race track than they encountered on Friday and Saturday. The hot and slick conditions of the weekend were replaced by a cool and tricky surface on Tuesday.

Kurt Busch (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) proved again why he is a former champion in NASCAR’s premier series. Busch clinched his sixth Chase appearance with his fourth-place finish.

Keeping up with the track conditions proved to be a challenge, but crew chief Steve Addington made the right adjustments in the closing laps to put Busch in position to challenge for a top-five finish. Busch never led, but ran as high as second and was in the top five over the final 61 green-flag laps following the ninth and final caution in the 325-lap event.

“A great day for Penske and the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge team today,” said Busch. “It was a great run, a Chase-type effort. To come home fourth, Tony (Stewart) was coming out of nowhere. We somewhat surprised ourselves. We made great adjustments as the race went on. Good adjustments during the race and solid pit stops during the race. A great run for our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. It's great to be locked into the Chase.”

Addington earned his second-consecutive Chase berth with the elder Busch brother. With only Richmond remaining in the regular season, Busch has one win along with six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Tuesday’s performance at AMS was emblematic of the consistency that the “Double Deuce” has shown all season long. Busch is the only Sprint Cup driver that’s remained in the top 10 through all 25 races.

“It feels great,” said an elated Addington. “Our first year with Shell/Pennzoil and we get in the Chase. It's just a great effort by everyone that puts a hand on these race cars. I want to thank everyone back at Penske Racing who helps with these race cars, those that work behind the scenes and don't come to the race track. They work their butts off to put us in this position."

Addington went out of his way to thank the Dodge Motorsports engineering group for their efforts in providing the technological expertise provided to Penske Racing.

“I have to thank everybody that supports us,” Addington added. “Dodge gives us incredible support and everything that we ask out of them. We really appreciate those guys doing all the work behind the scenes and working with our engineering group to give us what we need to go racing. A great effort by everyone involved."

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) had three million reasons to win the AdvoCare 500. One of four drivers participating in the Sprint Summer Showdown bonus program, a win would have brought the second-year Penske driver a cool $3 million that would have been split evenly between Keselowski, a lucky fan and a charity.

The red-hot Keselowski didn’t get the win, but collected his sixth-consecutive top 10. Needing only a 16th-place finish to secure his first appearance in the NASCAR playoff, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe methodically wrenched on the Blue Deuce with “big picture” thinking the priority.

“Yeah we were just a little bit off all day,” said Keselowski. “It seemed like we got really close the next to last run and drove up to fourth there and then that last run got back off and ended up sixth. It was just really good to have solid finish like we did in sixth. I wanted another top-five and it would have been great, but I’m just really proud of my guys.”

When asked about joining the ranks of former champions that have already earned berths in this year’s Chase, Keselowski was all smiles.

“It’s amazing,” Keselowski said. “I was thinking about it this week. I’ve lived my whole life wanting to have a shot at a Cup championship and here I am. I’ve got a legitimate shot at it.

“We were just a little off all weekend. The run next to last, I felt like we were close. We were a second or third-place car there and just kind of got stuck behind some on track position. I think we were running fourth or fifth and got back off on the last pit stop. All in all, it’s good to come out of a race where we felt like we were off all weekend and get a sixth out of it. That’s what we need to do going into the Chase, bring home cars without scratches on ‘em and get solid finishes when we’re not at our best. I’m proud of my guys and everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge team.

“I’ve got a team that’s firing on all eight, so to speak, and now a Chase berth here today. It’s a very amazing feeling.”

Nine drivers have clinched Chase spots – eight via points and one via the Wild Card. Those include – Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. Brad Keselowski (clinched) and Denny Hamlin hold the Wild Card spots.

Robby Gordon (No. 7 SPEED Energy Dodge Charger R/T) qualified 33rd, but retired after 34 laps due to a bad vibration. He finished 39th.

NATIONWIDE SERIES

Brad Keselowski returned to the driver’s seat of his No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger R/T in the Nationwide Series after a month-long hiatus recovering from his broken left ankle. The reigning NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, Keselowski used a workman-like effort to earn his 14th top-10 finish of the season, finishing seventh in Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“It felt good to be back out there,” said Keselowski. “Certainly would like to get a little bit better finish. I didn’t quite get it done there at the end of the race. I’ve got no one to blame but myself. We still just need to find a little bit more speed. Our cars are not that far off, so we’ll keep plugging away with our Discount Tire Dodge team.”

After qualifying on the outside pole, Keselowski and the No. 22 team quickly realized they had a top-10 car, nothing more. Unable to find the speed to run up front, he still managed to run in the top 10 throughout the race and finished seventh.

Race Results
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
AdvoCare 500
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011

1. Jeff Gordon
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Tony Stewart
4. Kurt Busch
5. Carl Edwards
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Matt Kenseth
10. A.J. Allmendinger
39. Robby Gordon

NASCAR Sprint
Cup Point Standings
(After 25 of 36 races)

1. Jimmie Johnson 873
2. Kyle Busch -21
3. Carl Edwards -38
4. Matt Kenseth -39
5. Jeff Gordon -43
6. Kevin Harvick -54
7. Kurt Busch -84
8. Ryan Newman -87
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -120
10. Tony Stewart -122
11. Brad Keselowski -145

Race Results
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Great Clips 300
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011

1. Carl Edwards
2. Kyle Busch
3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Justin Allgaier
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Aric Almirola
9. Jason Leffler
10. Elliott Sadler

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Point Standings
(After 26 of 34 races)

1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 909
2. Elliott Sadler -13
3. Reed Sorenson -40
4. Aric Almirola -64
5. Justin Allgaier -69
6. Jason Leffler -98
7. Kenny Wallace -162
8. Steve Wallace -172
9. Brian Scott -185
10. Michael Annett -198

(Only drivers that have declared for the Nationwide championship are eligible for points)
 
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