Chase for the Cup: Atlanta

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: Atlanta DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 23, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the seventh event of the 10...

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup: Atlanta

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 23, 2006) -- The following is a rundown of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 heading into Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the seventh event of the 10 that make up the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup."

The Bass Pro Shops 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) is the 33rd of 36 races on the series' schedule. The first 26 races of the season determined the drivers involved in the third annual Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup contested over the final 10 races. The "Chase" includes drivers in the top 10 or who were within 400 points of the standings' leader.

No. 1 -- Matt Kenseth No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,848. Kenseth finished 11th at Martinsville to take the lead in the standings. He has top-10 finishes in three of six Chase events. Kenseth has ranked among the top five since the season's second race, a victory at California, 31 consecutive races ago. He has six top-10 finishes in 13 events at Atlanta, where he has a 17.461 average finish, sixth among Chase drivers. Kenseth's best Atlanta showing was fourth twice, most recently in March 2003. He finished fifth in this race a year ago and 13th in March. Kenseth has one top-10 finish in his last four races at the 1.5-mile track. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kenseth is ranked first in Driver Rating (102.8).

No. 2 -- Kevin Harvick No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet): Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,812. Harvick finished ninth at Martinsville to jump one spot in the standings. He has ranked among the top 10 in the last 26 races, since Texas in April. Harvick was 12th in the standings at this point in 2005. He has 17 top-10 finishes this season. Harvick has one victory (March 2001, in his first Atlanta start) and two top-10 finishes in 11 races at Atlanta, where he has a 24.636 average finish, ninth among Chase drivers. He finished 22nd in this race last year and 39th in March. Harvick has led in two of his 11 Atlanta events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Harvick is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Restarts (11.125).

No. 3 -- Jimmie Johnson No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,807. Johnson won at Martinsville to climb from seventh to third in the standings. He has ranked among the top 10 for 101 consecutive races, since Atlanta in March of 2004. Johnson has a series-leading 20 top-10 finishes this season. He has one victory (2004) and six top-10 finishes in 10 races at Atlanta, where he has an 11.8 average finish, second among Chase drivers. He finished 16th in this race last year and sixth at Atlanta in March. Johnson has led in four of his 10 Atlanta events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Johnson is ranked first in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run (7.933).

No. 4 -- Denny Hamlin No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). Team: Joe Gibbs Racing. Points: 5,801. Hamlin finished second at Martinsville to advance from sixth to fourth in the standings. He has three top-10 finishes in six Chase events. Hamlin is the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to make the Chase. He has 16 top-10 finishes in 2006, the most among rookies. Hamlin has been the highest-finishing rookie in 15 of 32 races this year, and has been running at the finish in the last 26. His two Atlanta starts include a 19th-place finish in this race last year and a 31st-place effort in March. Hamlin has a 25.0 average finish at Atlanta, last among Chase contestants. Season-to-date Loop Data: Hamlin is ranked fourth in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (8.585).

No. 5 -- Jeff Burton No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet). Team: Richard Childress Racing. Points: 5,800. Burton lost an engine at Martinsville to finish 42nd (his first Chase DNF) and tumble from first to fifth in the standings. He has 19 top-10 finishes in 2006. Burton was ranked 18th at this point last season. He has 10 top-10 finishes in 24 races at Atlanta, where he has a 17.958 average finish, seventh among Chase contestants. Burton finished eighth in this race last year and 25th in March. He has led in seven races at Atlanta, but only one lap in his last nine starts there. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Burton is ranked second in Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (8.143).

No. 6 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Team: Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Points: 5,754. Earnhardt finished 22nd at Martinsville to drop one spot in the standings. He was ranked 21st in the standings at this point last season. Earnhardt has one victory (March 2004) and eight top-10 finishes in 14 races at Atlanta, where he has an 11.857 average finish, third among Chase drivers. He placed fourth in this race a year ago and third in March. Earnhardt has led in nine of his 14 Atlanta events. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Earnhardt is ranked fourth in Green Flag Passes (2,673).

No. 7 -- Mark Martin No. 6 AAA Ford). Team: Roush Racing. Points: 5,752. A hole in the radiator gave Martin a 24th-place finish at Martinsville, costing him three positions in the standings. He has yet to win a race in 2006; his best Chase showing is third at Kansas. Martin has two victories (1994 and 1991) and 21 top-10 finishes in 41 races at Atlanta, where he has a 15.707 average finish, fifth among Chase contestants. He placed third in this race last year and second in March. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Martin is ranked seventh in Average Running Position (13.312).

No. 8 -- Kasey Kahne No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge). Team: Evernham Motorsports. Points: 5,749. Kahne finished seventh at Martinsville to retain his spot in the standings. He has won a series-leading six races in 2006. Kahne has 17 top-10 finishes this year. He was ranked 21st in the standings at this point last season. Kahne has one victory (March 2006) and four top-five finishes in five races at Atlanta, where he has a 9.8 average finish, first among Chase contestants. Kahne placed 35th in this race last year, his only DNF and lone finish outside the top five. He has led in two of his five Atlanta starts. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Kahne is ranked first in Fastest Drivers on Straightaways (7.560).

No. 9 -- Jeff Gordon No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,707. Gordon finished fifth at Martinsville to climb one position in the standings. He is the only driver with three DNFs in six Chase races. Gordon has four victories (2003, 1999, 1998 and 1995) and 17 top-10 finishes in 28 races at Atlanta, where he has a 13.607 average finish, fourth among Chase drivers. He has placed in the top 10 in six of his last eight Atlanta starts. Gordon finished second in this race last year and fourth in March. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Gordon is ranked first in Average Running Position (10.955).

No. 10 -- Kyle Busch No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet). Team: Hendrick Motorsports. Points: 5,677. Busch finished 18th at Martinsville to drop one spot in the standings. He has 17 top-10 finishes in 2006. Busch ranked 19th in the standings at this point last season. He has finished outside the top four in four races at Atlanta. Busch placed 12th in this race last year and 12th in March. He also has finished 43rd (a DNF) in his first Atlanta start. Busch has led in one of his four starts at Atlanta, where he has a 19.75 average finish, eighth among Chase drivers. Season-to-date Loop Data highlight: Busch is ranked third in Fastest Laps Run (476).

Fast Facts

Top 10 following Martinsville (race 32 of 36):
1. Matt Kenseth 5,848 (pts)
2. Kevin Harvick 5,812 (-36)
3. Jimmie Johnson 5,807 (-41)
4. Denny Hamlin* 5,801 (-47)
5. Jeff Burton 5,800 (-48)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,754 (-94)
7. Mark Martin 5,752 (-96)
8. Kasey Kahne 5,749 (-99)
9. Jeff Gordon 5,707 (-141)
10. Kyle Busch 5,677 (-171)

Weeks at No. 1: Kenseth (1).

Contending for 11th:
11. Tony Stewart 4,108
12. Carl Edwards 3,862
13. Greg Biffle 3,616
14. Casey Mears 3,537
15. Brian Vickers 3,483

* Denotes Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing