Atlanta II: New of note, schedule

* Carl Edwards On The NASCAR Teleconference In The Loop: Johnson Needs Another Strong Showing At Atlanta To Gain On Gordon Time is slipping away for Jimmie Johnson, so he needs to make the present count. If Johnson wants to erase the...

* Carl Edwards On The NASCAR Teleconference

In The Loop: Johnson Needs Another Strong Showing At Atlanta To Gain On Gordon

Time is slipping away for Jimmie Johnson, so he needs to make the present count.

If Johnson wants to erase the 53-point deficit he faces in trailing Jeff Gordon in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings, he'll need to do the same thing this Sunday at Atlanta as he did at Martinsville -- excel at a track where he's had past success.

Johnson won at Atlanta in March, and looks to go for his third sweep of the season (Richmond and Martinsville are others). In the five Atlanta races since 2005, Johnson has notched a win, three top fives and four top 10s. He also has some of the top Loop Data statistics over that span. Johnson has a series-best Driver Rating of 118.3 and a series-best Average Running Position of 5.4. He trails only Greg Biffle (No. 16 Lumber Liquidators Ford) in Fastest Laps Run with 150 and is third in Laps in the Top 15 with 1,505 (92.6%).

Problem is, the man he's chasing -- Jeff Gordon -- is also solid at Atlanta.

The stats present nearly the same scenario as last week at Martinsville, with Johnson owning slightly better finishes and stats.

Gordon has a Driver Rating of 94.7 (eighth-best), an Average Running Position of 13.6 (10th-best), 69 Fastest Laps Run (seventh-most) and 1,161 Laps in the Top 15 (seventh-most).

Tony Stewart trails Gordon by 249 points, but could make a major gain this weekend at Atlanta. Stewart has finished in the top 10 at Atlanta in 11 of the last 12 races there. He won this race last season and finished second in March.

Stewart has a Driver Rating of 111.2 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 7.1 (second-best), 117 Fastest Laps Run (fifth-most) and 1,510 Laps in the Top 15 (second-most).

Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) is in third place in the Chase standings and sits 115 points behind Gordon. Last season, Bowyer struggled at Atlanta, but picked up an impressive sixth-place finish in March. In that race, he earned a Driver Rating of 107.4 and an Average Running Position of 7.7. He'll need a similar performance -- if not better -- this Sunday if he wants to stay in the championship hunt.

NNCS, Etc.

On The Line: Carl Edwards On Weekly NASCAR Teleconference

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor Carl Edwards was the guest on Tuesday's weekly NASCAR Teleconference. Edwards comes into this Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 in fifth place in the Chase standings. He has two victories, nine top fives and 13 top 10s on the season.

Q: You have a chance of clinching the NASCAR Busch Series title in Memphis this weekend. Talk about your mindset.

Edwards: "I face things head on and that's how I do it. So, I'm excited to go Sunday, and I'm excited about making things better on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup side. But, for Memphis, that's an awesome race track and the first place that I ever raced a NASCAR event, really in the series. I ran a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race there, I think in 2002. I really like going back there. Last year, I thought we were going to win the race. In the end, Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) got behind me, but it was an awesome race. So, I'm very excited to go back there and be able to clinch the NASCAR Busch Series title. As hard as my guys have worked on the (NASCAR) Busch team, that would be great."

Q: "With only one more Car of Tomorrow race remaining (Phoenix), what are your thoughts on the new car? And, how has your view changed since the first few races when everybody was trying to catch up with the Hendrick guys?

Edwards: "The Car of Tomorrow is a perfect example of how we can really succeed together. We started out with the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol. I'll never forget how bad we were. And through Robbie Reiser and all those guys, giving everything we can with the engineering department, all of us working together, I think our Car of Tomorrow program is great. So, I feel like that is the biggest win we've had this season; turning that around. I'm very excited about it for next year. I think Phoenix is going to be a blast. I can't wait to go. I think we can go there and compete for a win. So my view on that car has changed 180 degrees from the first time I got in."

Montoya Turns In Impressive Top-10 Finish At Martinsville Speedway

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) posted a strong eighth-place finish last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. It was the rookie driver's sixth top-10 finish in the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season and his best showing ever on a short track. Starting from the 26th position, Montoya ran in the top 10 the majority of the afternoon and even led eight laps. Montoya moved up two spots in the championship point standings and sits in the 19th position heading into this weekend's action at Atlanta.

Montoya extended his lead in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year competition to 19 points (231-212) over David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford).

"We had a good day," Montoya said following the race. "We couldn't get the car where we wanted it to be, but I think in general it was a great day. A top 10 here; it's a big deal. This was pretty good for a short track. We did the ultimate. We qualified bad, raced well and that is what you need to do. We were stronger on the shorter runs, but managed to keep up."

Ryan Newman Hungry For A Victory

Ryan Newman (No. 12 Mobil 1 Dodge) keeps knocking on Victory Lane door in hopes of returning to the Winner's Circle for the first time since the second New Hampshire race of 2005 (77 races ago).

Newman came close to winning two weeks ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway, when he took the lead with seven laps to go before spinning out and finishing 28th. A week ago at Martinsville, Newman came on strong to finish second behind Jimmie Johnson.

Newman has 12 career wins in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, with eight of those coming in 2003. He also has recorded 42 poles during his career. Newman heads to Atlanta 14th in championship points.

Bobby Labonte Looks Forward To Atlanta

Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios Racing/Betty Crocker Dodge) will be making his 30th career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car. Labonte leads all active drivers in victories at the track with six (1996-97-98-99, 2001, 2003). He also has posted 13 top-10 and 12 top-five finishes at this 1.54-mile oval.

Labonte heads to one of his favorite tracks and finds himself 17th in the championship point standings. He has posted three top-10 finishes thus far this season.

"The Atlanta track has been good to me and our Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team has good chemistry right now," said Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion. "We're probably at our strongest point right now in the season. I don't think we've come close to hitting a peak either. We're getting better."

Texas Motor Speedway On Deck

Race eight in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup is set for Texas Motor Speedway, Sunday, Nov. 4. The Dickies 500 will be televised nationally by ABC, with air time slated for 3 p.m. (ET). Tony Stewart is the defending race champion, while Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota) was last year's pole sitter.

Fast Facts

The Race: Pep Boys Auto 500

The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
The Date: Sunday, Oct. 28

The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
TV: ABC, 1 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN; SIRIUS Satellite Radio, Channel 128

The Track: 1.54-mile oval
The Distance: 500.5 miles, 325 laps

The Purse: $6,156,331

2006 Polesitter: None (weather)
2006 Winner: Tony Stewart

Pre-Race On-Track Schedule (ET): Friday -- Practice, 3:30 p.m. -- 5 p.m. Qualifying, 7:10 p.m.; Saturday -- Practice, 8:45 -- 9:30 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. -- 12:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya