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Dodge teams head to Atlanta for weekend

Posted Friday, Mar 6, 2009, 9:39 am in Employee Motorsports

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for the Kobalt Tools 500, the fourth of 36 point-paying races on the 2009 schedule.

The event on the 1.54-mile track leads into a rare open weekend on the schedule followed by back-to-back races on the always action-packed short tracks at Bristol, Tenn., and Martinsville, Va.

Crew chiefs and drivers also are becoming increasingly aware of the top-35 in owner points. Following the fifth race of the season at Bristol, the top-35 guaranteed berths into each event is determined by the 2009 owner points.

Currently, all seven Dodge teams are inside the top 35. The top 35 in the next two events are determined by last year’s owner points.

Leading the Dodge charge continues to be Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) who sits seventh in the driver standings. Powered by the new R6P8 Dodge engine, Busch put together back-to-back top 10s and was battling for second last week at Las Vegas when a parts failure took him out of contention.

“I think the Dodge Charger has been really good this year,” Pat Tryson (crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger), said. “It seems like the new nose has helped us a little bit…giving (the car) a little better balance. We need to be better, but at least we’re competitive and having a shot at it (a win) right now. If we keep working on our setups and getting our cars a little better, hopefully we’ll be able to dominate some of these races.”

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) jumped 10 positions (to 13th) in the driver point standings after finishing 11th at LVMS last weekend. Kahne won the spring event at AMS in 2006. He started from the pole and led 85 laps en route to the win. In 11 career starts at Atlanta, Kahne has four top-five and five top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile speedway.

“Atlanta is one of my favorite race tracks,” Kahne said. “It’s a fast track and it’s wide enough so there are multiple grooves for racing. I like the fact that it lets the driver figure out where the car is handling best. It makes it a little more challenging but it’s also a lot of fun.”

Atlanta native Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Super 8 Dodge Charger) hopes to put the famed No. 43 back in Victory Lane at AMS where it collected six wins with driver and now team owner Richard Petty and legendary crew chief Dale Inman.

“Racing in front of my friends and a bunch of family is pretty cool,” the 23-year-old Sorenson said. “You always want to do well, but yeah, winning at Atlanta would be a dream come true. Right now we just want to run well. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do anything to win one of these races and this weekend would be a great time to get that first one.”

Other Notes:
AJ Allmendinger (No. 43 Charter Communications Dodge Charger) currently is the only Dodge driver who must qualify on speed during Friday’s session.

Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger) sits only 22 points out of the top-12 in the driver standings. Sadler has led the most laps of all seven Dodge drivers this year.

David Stremme (No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger) has earned top-10 starting positions his last two trips to Atlanta.

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger) ran consistently inside the top-10 last weekend at Las Vegas before finishing 16th. Hornish Jr. is 28th in the point standings.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings
(Top 12 after 3 of 36 races)

1. Jeff Gordon 459
2. Clint Bowyer 441
3. Matt Kenseth 419
4. Greg Biffle 419
5. David Reutimann 408
6. Kyle Busch 405
7. Kurt Busch 393
8. Tony Stewart 379
9. Carl Edwards 377
10. Bobby Labonte 360
11. Kevin Harvick 351
12. Michael Waltrip 346
What You Need To Know
Race: Kobalt Tools 500
Date: Sunday, March 8
Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway; 1.54-mile tri-oval
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Distance: 25 laps/500.5 miles
TV: Fox, 1:30 p.m. ET

Dodge Weekend Motorsports on TV
(All Times Eastern)

Friday, March 6
11:00 a.m. – NASCAR Live (Speed)
11:30 a.m. – Camping World Truck Practice – Atlanta (Speed)
1:00 p.m. – NASCAR Live (Speed)
1:30 p.m. – Camping World Truck Practice (Speed)
3:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Practice – Atlanta (Speed)
4:30 p.m. – NASCAR Live (Speed)
5:00 p.m. – NASCAR Now (ESPN2)
5:00 p.m. – NASCAR Smarts (Speed)
6:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Qualifying – Atlanta (Speed)
11:00 p.m. – Trackside at Atlanta (Speed)

Saturday, March 7
10:30 a.m. – NASCAR Live (Speed)
11:00 a.m. – Sprint Cup Practice (Speed)
12:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Final Practice (Speed)

Sunday, March 8
10:00 a.m. – NASCAR Now (ESPN2)
10:00 a.m. – NASCAR Performance (Speed)
10:30 a.m. – NASCAR Smarts (Speed)
11:00 a.m. – NASCAR in a Hurry (Speed)
11:30 a.m. – NASCAR RaceDay (Speed)
1:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Pre-Race Show (Fox)
2:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500 – Atlanta (Fox)
7:00 p.m. – Speed Report (Speed)
8:00 p.m. – NASCAR Victory Lane (Speed)
9:00 p.m. – “Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain” (Speed)
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