Atlanta II: Matt Kenseth preview

Race to Chase Heats Up: Two to Go, Heading into Atlanta The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heats up as the series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first of two showdowns that will determine the 2009 Chase for the Cup field. TWO TO GO:...

Race to Chase Heats Up: Two to Go, Heading into Atlanta

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heats up as the series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first of two showdowns that will determine the 2009 Chase for the Cup field.


With just two races remaining before the Chase cutoff mark, Kenseth finds himself in a tight battle to keep his perfect Chase record in tact. Kenseth (along with Jimmie Johnson) is one of only two drivers to qualify for the Chase in each of its first five seasons. This season's race sees a tight battle with only 80 points separating eighth and 14thpositions. The good news is while Kenseth only leads 13th place Kyle Busch by 34 points and 14th-place Brian Vickers by 39 points, he trails 11thplace Kasey Kahne by only 18 and he's just 41 points out of eighth with races remaining at AMS and Richmond.


While not spectacular, the No. 17 team has been consistent down the stretch, posting five straight top-15 finishes and having finished 14th or better in six of the last seven races. Kenseth finished 10th in the last race at Bristol and the team will look to build on that this weekend in Atlanta.


This will be Kenseth's 20th Sprint Cup start at AMS, where he has totaled seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. In addition, he captured the pole there in the fall race of 2006. He has two wins, a pole and eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts in the Nationwide Series at Atlanta. Last season he led 128 laps en route to a fourth-place finish in this event.


While still looking for his first win at AMS, Kenseth has finished inside the top 10 in five of his last six races and inside the top five on four of those five accounts. In addition, Kenseth has scored the second most points (929) in the last six Cup races at Atlanta.


The No. 17 Ford Fusion will carry the green and gold colors of R+L carriers this weekend at Atlanta. It will be the third of four races this season with R+L Carriers as the primary on the No. 17 Ford. Kenseth has carried the R+L Carriers paint scheme 12 times since 2006. In his 12 previous starts in the No. 17 R+L Carriers Ford, Kenseth has achieved 12 top-12, 10 top-10, and four top-five finishes.


Kenseth and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer teamed together in Atlanta for a victory in the Nicorette 300 Nationwide race last season. The duo now looks to repeat that feat this weekend at the Cup level.


"Basically, you have to finish in front of the five cars you are racing. I don't put any added pressure on myself. You do the best you can do and that's it. You certainly don't want to make any kind of mistakes, but there are 26 races that go into who makes the Chase and these just happen to be the last two (Atlanta and Richmond).

"The way everyone else is running 12thand 13thplace finishes won't get us in. The No. 18 and No. 83 cars behind us are not going to run worse than that unless they break or have a problem, those type finishes won't be good enough to get in.

"These are two good tracks for us (Atlanta and Richmond) and tracks I like, but we could finish 30 both weeks and make it or finish third both weeks and make it. Basically you just have to beat those five or six cars both races and I look around and all of those cars are capable of winning. I think we are going to have to run well both weeks to get in the Chase and hopefully we can get that done."


* Kenseth has finished top 10 in five of the last six at Atlanta.

* Kenseth has finished fop five in four of the last six at Atlanta.

* Kenseth led 128 laps in this event last season.

* Kenseth has seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 19 starts at AMS.

* Kenseth has two wins in the NWS at AMS, including one last season with Drew Blickensderfer as crew chief.

Last Year at Atlanta...

10/26/08 - Started: 17th - Finished: 4th

After Kenseth posted fast times during both of Saturday's practice sessions, it looked as though team 17 was well on their way to a strong run -- and they were. From the drop of the green flag in Sunday's 325-lap event, Kenseth's Ford was among the fastest on the track.

Though the Killer Bees were awesome in the pits -- logging pit stops of less than 13 seconds all day -- and Kenseth led a race-high 128 laps, Kenseth would finish the race in fourth place after contending with late-race cautions, lapped traffic, and unclean air.

-credit: rfr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers