BUSCH: Atlanta: News of note, schedule

* Loop Data: Biffle could be a major factor at Atlanta * Upstate New York native Regan Smith roots for Syracuse in NCAA Tournament NEWS & NOTES Sorenson looks for hometown advantage ... Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge) is...

* Loop Data: Biffle could be a major factor at Atlanta

* Upstate New York native Regan Smith roots for Syracuse in NCAA Tournament

NEWS & NOTES

Sorenson looks for hometown advantage ... Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Co. Dodge) is another driver attempting to run full schedules in both the NASCAR Busch Series and in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. The 20-year-old finished fourth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings last year and is a strong contender for the title this season. He comes to Atlanta in 11th place in the standings, only seven points behind Burney Lamar. Considered one of the top young drivers in NASCAR, Sorenson has the added spotlight this week while driving in his hometown -- he is a native of Peachtree City, Ga., and will undoubtedly race in front of family and friends this weekend. Sorenson led 47 laps at Atlanta in his first NASCAR Busch Series race at the track in 2004 before an accident took him out of contention.

Luck o' the Irish for O'Quinn? ... Danny O'Quinn (No. 50 Stonebridge Life Ford) has had a bit of a rough start to his rookie season in the NASCAR Busch Series except for his eighth-place start and 18th-place finish in the season-opening race at Daytona. The 20-year-old Roush Racing driver is ever-optimistic, especially with his Irish heritage and this weekend surrounding St. Patrick's Day. "St. Patrick's Day weekend weekend might be our lucky charm," he said. "I'm going to have to put a little stripe of green on the car somewhere. Every race I've ever won in the past I've had something green on my car. You know everybody says that green is unlucky [in racing], but with this being St. Patrick's Day weekend, having some green somewhere on the car and me being Irish -- it should be a lucky weekend for us."

IN THE LOOP: Keep an eye on Biffle ... Following his third-place finish at Las Vegas last week, Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ameriquest Ford) heads to Atlanta with momentum -- and numbers -- on his side according to some of NASCAR's key Loop Data Statistics. Biffle currently leads all series drivers with a 115.1 Driver Rating and also is best among drivers with a 6.25 Average Running Position. He is also first among Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (2.5 average ranking), which cites the fastest speed during the first 25% of laps of a standard green flag run. The 2002 NASCAR Busch Series champion, who won at Atlanta in 2003, was one of the most consistently-ranked drivers in various categories in this event last year. He was first among Closers (+15) and was also Fastest on Restarts (178.807 mph). He was second among Fastest Drivers Early in a Run (180.640) and fourth in Driver Rating (113.6). Last year's winner Carl Edwards put down seven of the top 25 Fastest Laps at Atlanta last year.

Smith caught up in March Madness ... Regan Smith (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) is a native of Cato, N.Y., roughly 25 miles from Syracuse. Like most drivers, Smith is all racing all the time, but at this time of year, he is juiced for his Orange -- his Syracuse University men's basketball team. Smith informed all who would listen of his team's Big East Tournament success while in Las Vegas. "Last week was so exciting to watch Syracuse pull upset after upset," he said. "The last-second wins were such a thrill for for me. Growing up in that area, I became a real big fan of Syracuse. We moved down to North Carolina in my teenange years, but I never forgot about Syracuse. With the way they are playing, anything is a possibility in the NCAA tourney." Smith's bracket has Syracuse, a No. 5 seed, going all the way. He may not have many fans on his side at the Team Rensi Motorsports shop in Mooresville, N.C. -- UNC-Wilmington is Syracuse's first round opponent.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Jason Keller has started 13 of the 14 NASCAR Busch Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. ... Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ameriquest Ford) has five top-five finishes in seven series races at Atlanta, including a win in 2004. Kenseth's next series start will be his 180th. ... Mark Martin, the all-time leader in NASCAR Busch Series wins (47) also leads all drivers with three series wins at Atlanta; 11 different drivers have won the other 11 races there. ... Jeff Gordon won his first NASCAR race at the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race at Atlanta in 1992. ... Carl Edwards is the only driver to record a NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup weekend sweep at Atlanta.

ETC.

Series leader Kevin Harvick has three top fives and four top-10 finishes in his first four races. Harvick is only $31,266 shy of $6 million in career money won, a mark reached by only six other drivers. ... Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) has been running at the finish in 29 consecutive races. ... Only 65 points separate 11 drivers -- seventh-place Jason Leffler (489) from 17th-place Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet -- 424) -- in this week's standings. ... Jon Wood is entered in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Atlanta, his final scheduled start of 2006 in that series before turning the No. 20 Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Ford over to Australian driver Marcus Ambrose. ... Dodge moved into the win column with Kasey Kahne's (No. 9 Ragu Dodge) victory at Las Vegas last Saturday. The win moved Dodge into a second-place tie with Ford in the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series Bill France Performance Cup standings. Both manufacturers have one win and 25 points, just one point behind leader Chevrolet (two wins, 26 points). Chevrolet has the most series wins (eight) at Atlanta, but Ford has won the last two races there. ... Michael Waltrip's No. 99 Chevrolet sponsor, Aaron's Sales and Lease, is based in Atlanta while Brad Akins, who shares ownership of the No. 38 Great Clips Dodge driven by rookie A.J. Foyt IV with Doug Stringer, calls nearby Winder, Ga., home. ... Denny Hamlin's current second-place standing in the driver points is the highest of his 40-race NASCAR Busch Series career. ... Chris Wimmer (No. 23 Keith Coleman Chevrolet) is scheduled to visit the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on Thursday afternoon. He will get a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium and its "residents" as well as an up-close experience with the feedings. "I have heard that the Aquarium is amazing and I can't wait to check it out," he said. "They've only been open a few months and they are already very widely-known. I'm thrilled to be able to have a special visit."

QUOTEBOOK

"We are out of mulligans. There are no more excuses." -- Stacy Compton (No. 59 Kingsford Sure Fire/Bush's Baked Beans Ford).

"I like running up top so look for me to be one of the first to test the waters up there. This is a fast track, so I have been practicing holding my breath to prepare for my qualifying lap." -- Denny Hamlin on Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"Our driver development program is off and running. The only way to be competitive in this sport is to cultivate new drivers and crew. That's what this is all about." -- Jon Wood on Wood Brothers/JTG Racing's growing program.

FROM THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES 25th ANNIVERSARY ARCHIVES

The final NASCAR Busch Series victory of a storied career took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 1994. "Handsome" Harry Gant won the Busch Light 300 in his final season of competition. It was the 21st victory in a career that dated back to the series' inaugural season of 1982.

Gant, one of the most popular drivers in series history, qualified 23rd that day. He found himself on the lead by Lap 70, then held on for the next 15 laps. Gant battled with Mark Martin over the next 70 laps, again taking the lead with 40 laps to go. Gant held on for the win, beating two-time series champ Larry Pearson by over two seconds.

Harry Gant was 54 years of age when he hung up his helmet at the end of the 1994 season.

NASCAR BUSCH SERIES 25th ANNIVERSARY QUOTABLES

"When you came home from the racetrack with a glove box full of fives, tens and 20s, it may not have been a lot of money, but it sure was a big pile." -- Jack Ingram, two-time -- and inaugural -- NASCAR Busch Series champion.

Note: A NASCAR Busch Series 25th Anniversary Media Kit CD is available at-track each race weekend and also on-line at nascarmedia.com. A CD can also be obtained by contacting NASCAR PR.

ON DECK: BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY

The final race in a six-week stretch before the first NASCAR Busch Series off-week is set for Bristol Motor Speedway next Saturday afternoon. One of seven tracks to have hosted events since the series inaugural year in 1982, Bristol is the first short track on the schedule this season. Kevin Harvick is the defending race winner, one of four wins at Bristol -- two in this race -- on his NASCAR Busch Series resume. Harvick swept the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races last spring, and there hasn't been a back-to-back NASCAR Busch Series winner at Bristol since 1993 series champion Steve Grissom captured both the spring and summer events in 1995.

Fast Facts

What: Nicorette 300 (Race No. 5 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.

When: 3:05 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 18.

Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval.
Race Length: 300.3 miles/195 laps.

Posted Awards: $1,094,876.

TV: FX, 2:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.

2005 Winner: Carl Edwards.
2005 Polesitter: Carl Edwards.

2006 NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 642. 2. Denny Hamlin 600. 3. J.J. Yeley 595. 4. Jamie McMurray 560. 5. Clint Bowyer 538. 6. Carl Edwards 518. 7. Jason Leffler 489. 8. Jon Wood 472. 9. Jason Keller 465 10. Burney Lamar 464.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Fri., March 17 -- Practice, 12:15 -- 1:20 p.m.; "Rookie Practice," 1:35 -- 2:05 p.m.; Final Practice, 2:20 -- 3:20 p.m.. Sat., March 18 -- Qualifying, 12:10 p.m. (Impound).

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Stacy Compton , A.J. Foyt IV , Jon Wood , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Steve Grissom , J.J. Yeley , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards , Regan Smith , Clint Bowyer , Burney Lamar , Chris Wimmer , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Danny O'Quinn , Harry Gant , Mark Martin