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Busch looks to clinch Chase spot this weekend

Posted Thursday, Sep 3, 2009, 4:10 pm in Employee News

Time is dwindling and stakes are skyrocketing as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams prepare for Sunday night’s 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 year’s 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 week’s race at Richmond, Va. Those 12 will compete for the season championship and Sprint Cup over the final 10 races of 2009.

Mix history with drama—Sunday’s Atlanta event is the track’s 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 year’s Chase.

All seven Dodge teams are inside the top 35 in owner points and assured starting spots in Sunday night’s race. Dodge has earned seven wins at Atlanta.

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 Atlanta champion, Busch looks to extend a six-race streak of top-15 finishes at Atlanta.

“It’s definitely a race that we’ve had a bull’s-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.”

Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) hopes to use past Atlanta success to increase his chances of gaining a spot in this year’s 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 night’s 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.

“It’s a tight battle,” Kahne said. “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 (Tenn.) and just one race later, our points were cut in half. I just try and focus on my race car. We’re doing the same things that we’ve 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 there’s 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.”

Other notes

• 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 over 13th)
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)

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. (EDT)

The Track: 1.54-mile
The Distance: 500.5 miles/325 laps
Television: ESPN, 7 p.m. (EDT)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
DODGE Wins!

Kahne wins, race for last Chase spot tightens

Kasey Kahne scored his second victory of the season and while he didn't guarantee himself a spot put himself in a good position heading into this week's race at Richmond.

Not bad for someone many were picking to fall out of the Chase, especially after finishing 28th two weeks ago at Bristol.

"I got a new Dodge Ram this year that has Sirius (Satellite Radio) and I listen to (the NASCAR Channel). I was heading in the other morning ... heading to the shop and I think three of the four guys said Kahne is out, he won't make it. Why me? We always do good at Atlanta and Richmond. You just look at Bristol, we had a bad race. You take that one out, we've been consistent as any of the other cars in that area for the last few months. I kind of listen to that and laugh and think I'm going to prove these guys wrong.''

ON TO THE CHASE:

Denny Hamlin was the only driver to clinch a spot Sunday. He joins Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as clinching spots so far.

Here's a look at the points standings (those who haven't clinched) after Sunday night)



5. Carl Edwards .... 3,162 points ...105 points AHEAD OF 13th

6. Kasey Kahne ..... 3,153 points ... 96 points AHEAD OF 13th

7. Kurt Busch ..........3,152 points .... 95 points AHEAD OF 13th

8. Juan Montoya .....3,145 points .....88 points AHEAD OF 13th

9. Ryan Newman ...3,138 points .....81 points AHEAD of 13th

10. Mark Martin ......3,126 points ......69 points AHEAD OF 13th

11. Greg Biffle ........3,125 points ......68 points AHEAD OF 13th

12. Matt Kenseth ...3,077 points .......20 points AHEAD of 13th

13. Brian Vickers ...3,057 ponits ...... 20 points behind 12th

14. Kyle Busch .......3,040 points .......37 points behind 12th



"It's like your racing for some type of championship right now,'' Kasey Kahne said of the points standings. "It's going to be intense. From fifth to 14th, it's going to be really intense at Richmond this week.''


Said Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief for Matt Kenseth, said of how he's handling this stressful situation: "It got to the point about four weeks ago you've done all that you can do. I can either get sick every night and worry about it or just work hard and the outcome is the outcome.''

Said Steve Addington, crew chief for Kyle Busch, on what it will take for Busch to make the Chase next week at Richmond. "We've got to go there and win and let the chips fall where they may.''

ODDS AND ENDS

# The biggest winner Sunday wasn't Kasey Kahne but could be Atlanta Motor Speedway. At least this year, moving this Labor Day weekend race back to the South (from California) and holding it at night seems to be a success. The crowd looked as big as it has in years and those large swath of empty seats evident in previous years could be not be found. The estimated attendance was 111,300 -- that's 30,000 more than the estimated attendance for the Atlanta fall race last year when it was held in late October.

# Another big winner were the teams -- that this track is no longer in the Chase. It was something to hear so many drivers on the radio talk about how their cars were sliding around. And you could see it on the track. This place is becoming one of the more difficult tracks on the circuit. So, in that sense, it's a bit of a shame it's not in the Chase anymore but for economic reasons _ at least this year _ it makes sense to have this race on Labor Day weekend. Still, I've never heard Jimmie Johnson describe to Chad Knaus on the radio the loosensess of his being a 15 on a 1-10 scale. Wow.

# If Kyle Busch makes the Chase, he can look back at what he did in the final 11 laps. He restarted 18th and finished 13th. That's 15 points he gained with his late-race charge and is evident now, every point counts. It also helped that Matt Kenseth (12th in the points) wasn't as strong on short runs and fell from 7th to 12th in those last 11 laps. That's 19 points Kenseth lost. So that restart proved to be a 34-point swing in Busch's favor in comparison to Kenseth.

# Brian Vickers pulled one out by finishing seventh after having a broken axle. His team made repairs on pit road and kept him on the lead lap. Speaking of that last restart, he gained two spots _ 8 points _ in those last 11 laps. Again, every point is critical. Vickers thanked his crew after the race for the work they did on pit road and noted how their work saved their chance to still make the Chase. Vickers' run continued his hot sterak. He's finished 12th or better in each of the last eight races. Nice bit of momentum heading toward the Chase.

# Juan Pablo Montoya's third-place finish marked his 8th top 10 in the last 12 races.

# Did you notice that Bobby Labonte finished 18th in his first race for TRG Motorsports? Labonte lost his ride in the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing car for seven of the last 12 races because the team did not have sponsorship for those events and a sponsor came along for those races but wanted Erik Darnell in the car. So out went Labonte. Darnell finished 30th. Said Labonte: "(Crew chief) Slugger (Labbe) was giving me a lot of information, probably more than I have heard in a long time. Everything we tried during the race seemed like the right adjustments to make, but the car was not totally into the track. I am encouraged about this first outing with these guys and I am looking forward to the next one.''

# Matt Kenseth after the race: "I don't think we had much idea what we were doing, to be honest with you. We started so far off. We got it really good for one run and tried to change it just a little bit more and made it worse, so I don't know. We kept going one way or the other and could never get it really right. We had one run that was really, really good and that's it. We could never get it to drive like that again and I have no idea why.''

# Did you see that David Stremme, who will lose his ride to Brad Keselowski next year, finished 14th -- one of Stremme's best finishes of the year?

# Carl Edwards ran the entire race with his broken foot. It lasted better than the oil cooler. Edwards said something went through that and the team went back to the garage for more than 20 laps to make repairs. He finished 37th, one spot behind Jimmie Johnson, who struggled with the car's handling and then later had an axle break and lost laps as his crew made repairs.

# The 31 lead changes were the most at this track since the spring 2007 race, which also had 31 lead changes that day.

# Kevin Harvick's runner-up finish was his best finish of the year. It came a night after he won the Nationwide race here. Still, Richard Childress Racing has yet to win a Cup race this season.


# Paul Menard finished 15th, one of his best efforts of the season.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX



OTHER NOTES

# Geoff Smith, president of Roush Fenway Racing, did not seems too optimstic the organization could find suitable funding for the 26 team for next year. Recall, the Roush folks have said that that team will move to Yates Racing next year but will need sponsorship since Crown Royal is moving to Matt Kenseth's team next year.

# GM executive Brent Dewar reaffirmed the company's commitment to the sport. Just don't expect the Chevy camp to grow in term of more teams.

# NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter says there will be additional discussions by series officials at the possibility of making wins more valuable.

"Some drivers are going to go for the win and some aren't no matter what the system is,'' Hunter said.



Hunter calls this issue within NASCAR a "mild topic. I don't think it's on the cutting edge. No matter what the points systems is, you're going to have flaws in it. There's no doubt in my mind we have created more interest in the last third of the season with the Chase format, whether that creates additional points racing up to that point? Probably. But the end result is that there's a heck of a lot more interest in this race here than there normally would have been because of the implications for the Chase. Same thing at Richmond.''



HERE'S THE RESULTS OF SUNDAY'S RACE

1. Kasey Kahne

2. Kevin Harvick

3. Juan Pablo Montoya

4. David Reutimann

5. Mark Martin

6. Denny Hamlin

7. Brian Vickers

8. Jeff Gordon

9. Ryan Newman

10. Greg Biffle

11. Tony Stewart

12. Matt Kenseth

13. Kyle Busch

14. David Stremme

15. Paul Menard

16. Robby Gordon

17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

18. Bobby Labonte

19. David Gilliland

20. AJ Allmendinger

21. Elliott Sadler

22. Joey Logano

23. Marcos Ambrose

24. Scott Speed

25. Casey Mears

26. Martin Truex Jr.

27. Reed Sorenson

28. Jamie McMurray

29. Clint Bowyer

30. Erik Darnell

31. John Andretti

32. Michael Waltrip

33. David Ragan

34. Jeff Burton

35. Sam Hornish Jr.

36. Jimmie Johnson

37. Carl Edwards

38. Kurt Busch

39. Terry Labonte

40. Max Papis

41. Mike Bliss

42. Joe Nemechek

43. Dave Blaney

Article Link:
Kahne wins, race for last Chase spot tightens | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com
 

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Kahne wins Atlanta

Kahne wins Atlanta; closes in on Cup Chase

Posted Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009, 9:44 am in Employee News

Last modified on Tuesday, Sep 8, 2009, 10:14 am.


Kasey Kahne picked up his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season, driving the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger to victory in Sunday night’s Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The win greatly enhanced Kahne’s chances of making the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Kahne, who qualified second, jumped from 11th to sixth in the point standings. He now has a 96-point advantage over 13th with only one race—Richmond, Va.—remaining to finalize the Chase field. It was a gain of 40 points.

The top 12 drivers in the season point standings following Saturday night’s race at Richmond will compete for the season championship and the Sprint Cup over the final 10 races of the year.

Kahne’s Dodge, powered by the R6 engine, was strong throughout the race, but especially on short runs. His challengers excelled on longer runs. Kahne was third when the ninth and final caution appeared with just 15 of the scheduled 325 laps remaining. It was a made-to-order opportunity for Kahne and the No. 9 team.

All the leaders elected to pit for tires. Kahne’s over-the-wall crew made a four-tire change and had the No. 9 Dodge back on the track in the second spot. That was the norm most of the night as the No. 9 crew was flawless on pit road and frequently gained a spot or two in track position on each stop.

Race leader Kevin Harvick took the outside for the double-file restart with Kahne on the inside. When the green flag appeared for the final 11 laps, Kahne had the lead before the field reached the second turn and quickly built a comfortable advantage en route to his 11th career victory.

“The entire Budweiser Dodge team did great tonight,” Kahne said. “The pit stops were awesome. (Kevin) Harvick was best on the long run, but when we got that last caution, I knew we had a shot at the victory. It’s all about making the Chase. That certainly put us in a better position going to Richmond. I knew Harvick and (Juan Pablo) Montoya were going to be tough. I hadn’t gotten through the gears all night, but (David) Reutimann gave me a little push on the front stretch and got me going. It was a great win for Richard Petty Motorsports and the Budweiser Dodge team.”

If Kahne finishes 21st or better or 23rd or better and leads a lap at Richmond next week, he is assured a Chase berth.

“That was something else,” said Kenny Francis, crew chief for the No. 9 Dodge. “I said about three-quarters through the race that if it came down to a short run, we might have a shot at it (the win). Man, when that caution came out, it was perfect for us. Kasey had a great restart, got the lead and drove away. I just couldn’t believe it. The guys did a great job all night. The pit stops were flawless. We picked up spots just about every stop. The car was real good on short runs. It got a little too loose on the long run, but it still wasn’t bad. It just played into our hand tonight. We just thank the Lord for making us smart enough to make the right decisions.”

It was Kahne’s second victory and seventh top-10 finish in 12 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The win gives Dodge a sweep at Atlanta this season. Kurt Busch dominated the spring event, leading 234 laps en route to victory. The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge just didn’t handle as well this time around. Numerous attempts to tighten the car during pit stops fell short in correcting the issue. Running in the top 20, Busch was involved in a mishap in turn four on lap 246. Extensive damage ended the night for the Blue Deuce. Busch finished 38th.

“I had a loose race car all night,” Busch said. “We just couldn’t get a handle on our Miller Lite Dodge. I was sideways and I guess the 43 hit us. He had nowhere to go. It was a real hard hit; that was a bummer. We were just trying to get a handle on it, but couldn’t do it. I felt like we were on the spring (race) tires and everybody else was on the fall (race) tires.

“I was trying to hang on to it and get to the next pit stop, but it kept getting looser and looser. We just got bit tonight by the loose bug.”

Busch came into the event sixth in points with a 192-point advantage over 13th. He dropped one spot to seventh and the margin over 13th has been reduced to 95 points. Busch can secure a spot on the Chase by finishing 20th or better at Richmond or 22nd and lead a lap.

David Stremme recorded his second top-15 finish in the last three races. He finished 14th in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger. He started ninth, ran as high as eighth and was in the top 20 throughout the race.

AJ Allmendinger finished 20th and teammate Elliott Sadler was 21st as 21 cars were on the lead lap when the checkered flag appeared.

The Dodge Boys

Driver, team, finished

Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, 1st
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, 14th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge, 20th
Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Stanley Dodge, 21st
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Air Force Dodge, 27th
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge, 35th
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, 38th

Sprint Cup Series driver

(after 25 of 36 races)
Position, driver (points ahead of last Chase spot)

1. Tony Stewart, 3,694 (+637)
2. Jeff Gordon, 3,457 (400)
3. Jimmie Johnson, 3,404 (347)
4. Denny Hamlin, 3,296 (239)
5. Carl Edwards, 3,162 (105)
6. Kasey Kahne (Dodge), 3,153 (96)
7. Kurt Busch (Dodge), 3,152 (95)
8. Juan Montoya, 3,145 (88)
9. Ryan Newman, 3,138 (81)
10. Mark Martin, 3,126 (69)
11. Greg Biffle, 3,125 (68)
12. Matt Kenseth, 3,077 (20)
 
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