* Speeds And Tire Strategies Crucial At Atlanta * In The Loop: Johnson Scores Best Driver Rating In Chase * Reed Sorenson Returns Home To Site Of Series Debut Keys To Victory At Atlanta: Tires, Speed And Room To Race Atlanta Motor...
* Speeds And Tire Strategies Crucial At Atlanta
* In The Loop: Johnson Scores Best Driver Rating In Chase
* Reed Sorenson Returns Home To Site Of Series Debut
Keys To Victory At Atlanta: Tires, Speed And Room To Race
Atlanta Motor Speedway is known for its high speeds -- the track record is over 197 mph -- but its 1.54-mile layout also features multiple racing grooves. The result is close racing and fantastic finishes. Pure speed and horsepower are needed here, but many other important details and strategies cannot be overlooked.
Changing Lanes. At Atlanta, a driver's speed slows significantly over the course of a fuel run (the time on the track in between pit stops for fuel), due to wear of the tires during this same period. As tires wear down, drivers will adjust their "line" and search for the best lane to maximize their speeds based on chassis setups and level of tire wear. For most, this means beginning a fuel run at the bottom of the track, then gradually shifting towards the top.
Camber is Crucial. Camber is the amount that a tire is tilted in or out from its vertical axis, perpendicular to the race track. Changing the camber affects handling and tire wear and this will be a crucial adjustment in Atlanta. Because of tire wear, crew chiefs must strive for near-perfect camber angles to get maximal performance from the tires. This is especially true on the front of the car, where tires take more of the weight load as the car enters the corners.
Room to Race. In addition to the high speeds, Atlanta has plenty of room to race. Drivers have multiple choices of racing grooves when they get to all four corners. As drivers adjust their line to get the most out of their cars, watch for different strategies as some choose the high line while others stay down low.
In The Loop: Driver Rating A Reliable Source; Johnson's And Kenseth's Numbers Are Up
According to NASCAR's new Loop Data statistics, it's no surprise that Jimmie Johnson is coming on strong in the second half of the Chase.
Johnson, who was ranked as low as ninth after the first race of the Chase, at New Hampshire, is now just 41 points out of first place.
Over the first six races of the Chase, Johnson has the best Driver Rating among the top-10 drivers, at 104.5. He also leads in other key categories, including the highest percentage of Fastest Laps (12.2%) in the Chase; percentage of Laps in the Top 15 (80.5%); percentage of Laps Led (21.5%) during the Chase and the best Average Starting Position (8.3) of any Chase driver.
Johnson has the fourth-best cumulative Driver Rating at the remaining tracks in the Chase and the third-best Driver Rating heading into this weekend at Atlanta.
Driver Rating has proven to be a good predictor of performance. In 32 races this season, the drivers with the top 10 pre-race Driver Ratings have won 18 times. The driver with the best pre-race Driver Rating has won seven times.
Based on the entire season, Chase participants have 10 of the top 13 Driver Ratings. Matt Kenseth leads all drivers with a 102.8 Driver Rating for the entire season, followed by Johnson at 100.2.
Among drivers outside the top 10, Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford) has the best season-to-date Driver Rating at 95.4.
Manufacturers' Standings: Johnson's Victory Grows Chevy Lead
Jimmie Johnson's victory at Martinsville added to Chevrolet's lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Manufacturers' Championship standings.
Chevrolet now leads Dodge by 61 points with Ford in third.
All three manufacturers have visited Atlanta's Victory Lane in recent seasons. Chevrolet teams won four times in a row in 2003-04 and Ford twice with Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) in 2006.
Locked In: Sadler's Effort Keeps Evernham In Top 35
Evernham Motorsports has teams on both ends of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup spectrum.
On one end, Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is competing in the Chase in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and returning to the site of his first win of 2006 in Atlanta.
Evernham's other team finds itself battling to remain in the top 35 in the car owners' point standings and thus retain a "Locked In" position in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup starting field.
Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) aims to rebuild this Evernham team and has performed well since joining it. In 10 starts with the No. 19 team, Sadler has posted two top-10 finishes and kept it in the top 35.
Bobby Ginn's No. 14 Ginn Clubs and Resorts Chevrolet team retains the 35th and last locked in position this week.
Crew Member Spotlight: No. 48 Pit Crew Gets Job Done For Johnson
In the close quarters of Martinsville Speedway's pit road, Jimmie Johnson's pit crew played a vital role in his win last week -- and will continue to have a major impact on his championship hopes. Johnson predicts that the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title won't be decided until the last lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. Johnson's pit crew has kept him at the front of the field and also in the running for NASCAR's Checker's/Rally's Double Drive-Thru Award, which is decided by the team's time spent on pit road. The award carries a $105,000 bonus at the end of the year.
Four times this season, Johnson has spent the least cumulative time on pit road, placing him in a three-way tie for the Checker's/Rally's award.
Along with crew chief Chad Knaus, Johnson's race day crew includes Ron Malec, Franklin, Wis. (car chief); Mike "Slinger" Knauer, Cambridge, Md. (catch can); Art Simmons, Kirksville, Mo. (front tire changer); Mike Trower, Waterloo, Iowa (front tire changer); Rich Gutierrez, Yorba Linda, Calif. (gas man); Chris Anderson, Brooksville, Fla. (jack man); Tim Ladyga, Norwich, Conn. (rear tire changer); and Darian Grubb, Floyd, Va. (lead race engineer) -- who gained widespread recognition as the substitute crew chief during Johnson's Daytona 500 victory. Matt Clark, of North Haven, Conn., is the Pit Crew Coach.
Chase Primer: What-When-Where Of Championship-Deciding Format
What: 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup
When: Last 10 weeks of season
Playoff-Style Format: Top 10 drivers in points post-Richmond have their point totals "adjusted." They are separated by 5-point increments -- a total of only 45 points. Top driver in points starts the Chase with 5,050 points, down to the 10th-place driver who starts with 5,005.
Tracks: New Hampshire (Sept.17); Dover (Sept. 24); Kansas (Oct. 1); Talladega (Oct. 8); Lowe's (Oct. 14); Martinsville (Oct. 22); Atlanta (Oct. 29); Texas (Nov. 5); Phoenix (Nov. 12); Homestead-Miami (Nov. 19).
* Since the inception of the Chase in 2004, there are more drivers than ever in the running for the championship, down the stretch of the season.
* There is more fan interest than ever.
* All drivers -- not only those in the Chase -- continue to compete for race victories, race purse money and season-ending point-fund money.
* In '04, the first Chase resulted in the closest championship battle in history, with Kurt Busch beating Jimmie Johnson by eight points.
* Last year, Tony Stewart's margin over Greg Biffle was only 35 points.
Rookie Report: Reed Sorenson Returns Home To Atlanta Motor Speedway
Peachtree City, Ga., native Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge) made his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup debut at Atlanta in 2005, before stepping up to a full-time program and contending for the 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award.
Sorenson is ranked third among six rookies, 83 points behind leader Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet) in the rookie standings.
Thirty-four races into his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career, Sorenson is ranked 25th overall in the championship standings with one top-five and five top-10 finishes this season.
Hamlin, meanwhile, continues to re-write the rookie record books with his stellar performance (three poles, two wins and six top-five finishes in 32 starts) and the fourth-place berth in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Where In The World Is Ken Schrader?
For Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford), this week may provide a relatively calm schedule -- just one short track visit is in store for the prolific racer.
Schrader plans to race at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Cecil, Ga., on Wednesday, before attending a sponsor event on Thursday. He competes at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday.
Ken Schrader's 2006 race totals
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series -- 25
NASCAR Busch Series -- 8
Budweiser Shootout -- 1
Copper World -- 2
Short track (dirt, late-model, etc.) -- 64
Atlanta Motor Speedway Is Top Track For Qualifying Ace Ryan Newman
Nowhere has Ryan Newman (No. 12 Mobil 1 Dodge) demonstrated his Budweiser Pole-winning prowess more effectively than Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Six of Newman's 37 career Budweiser Poles have come at Atlanta, the most he has won at any track. All six of his Atlanta poles came in six consecutive races there from 2003-05.
Newman has not converted that qualifying day speed into a win in Atlanta, although starting up front has proven to be an advantage. In 94 Atlanta events since 1960, 53 wins have gone to drivers who started in the top five.
Other top qualifiers at Atlanta include Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) and Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) with two poles each.
Fourteen different drivers have won Budweiser Pole Awards in 2006 and are eligible for the 2007 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.
On Deck: The "Chase" Continues In Texas
Texas Motor Speedway, near Fort Worth, Texas, was added to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup's 10-race slate in 2005. The 1.5-mile track will host its 12th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event next Sunday. TMS has been a favorite of Roush Racing drivers since it opened, with the team claiming five wins there by Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) and former team driver Jeff Burton.
The track is celebrating its 10th season and has been home to many memorable events. Texas native Terry Labonte thrilled fans with his victory there in 1999 and two-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) earned his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win at Texas in 2000. Jeff Burton also earned his first career win at Texas, in the track's inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.
Texas Motor Speedway hosts the Dickies 500 on Sunday, Nov. 5 (TV: NBC, 2:30 ET).
The Race: Bass Pro Shops 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
The Date: Oct. 291
The Time: 2:55 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBC 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval
2005 Winner: Carl Edwards
2005 Pole: Ryan Newman
Pre-Race On-Track Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 3:55-5:05 p.m. Qualifying, 7:10 p.m. Saturday -- Practice, 10:30-11:30 a.m. and 12:05-12:50 p.m.