Atlanta: News of note, schedule

* Photo Finishes: Atlanta Known For Last-Lap Wins * Generosity Continues For Victory Junction Gang Camp * In The Loop: Atlanta Perfect Site For Greg Biffle * Focus On The 2007 Raybestos Rookie Class Keys To Victory: Atlanta Motor ...

* Photo Finishes: Atlanta Known For Last-Lap Wins

* Generosity Continues For Victory Junction Gang Camp

* In The Loop: Atlanta Perfect Site For Greg Biffle

* Focus On The 2007 Raybestos Rookie Class

Keys To Victory:

Atlanta Motor Speedway's keys to succeed this Sunday:

* Racing groove will be wide -- Atlanta typically provides drivers with a wide racing groove to operate on. Those who take advantage of it best will have the most success.

* Maintain good balance -- It's important to keep the car balanced from start to finish.

* Track Grip -- It's the time of year that weather could be a factor. A cool afternoon could result in more grip on the race track; a warm day could lessen the amount of grip.


Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is 36th in the standings and looking forward to coming to Atlanta. Only two races remain until the field will be set each week by the 2007 car owner standings. Currently the top 35 in the final 2006 car owner point standings are guaranteed starting positions through the first five events of the season. That will change prior to the sixth event of the season when the top 35 slots revert to the 2007 owner standings.

Atlanta kicked off Kahne's momentum last year; it's where he went posted his first win of the season. Kahne went on to win six races and race his way into the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. ... Bill Elliott (No. 37 Front Row Motorsports Dodge) will attempt to qualify for this weekend's KOBALT Tools 500. Elliott has had much success at Atlanta, sweeping both races in 1985 and '92. Elliott also won in 1987 totaling five wins at one of NASCAR's fastest track. ... Mark Martin is leading the standings heading into Atlanta this weekend, and the big question on everybody's mind is, will he step out of the driver seat going into Bristol? Coming into the season, Martin had planned to share his ride with Regan Smith, but getting out of the car may be more difficult than it sounds. Martin has posted three consecutive top fives. He is scheduled to run 22 races, and tutor newcomer Regan Smith in the other 14 events.

Atlanta Motor Speedway Is Known For Close Finishes

Some of the closest finishes in NASCAR history have happened at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Since NASCAR started electronic scoring in May 1993, Atlanta has been producing close finishes. The track has been hosting NASCAR-sanctioned events since 1960, and some of the best names in the sport have had success there. Atlanta has had three of the top-11 finishes since the advent of electronic scoring. Two of the three rank in the top five.

The most recent was in 2005 when Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) edged out Jimmie Johnson on the last lap to beat him by .028 seconds for the 11th closest finish.

The next closest finish happened in 2000 when the late Dale Earnhardt crossed the finish line just before Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge), beating him by .010 seconds for the fifth closest finish.

Perhaps the most well-known close finish at Atlanta was in 2001, when Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) beat Jeff Gordon just by the nose of his car. Harvick's photo finish edged Gordon out by .006 of a second making it the third closest finish.

Driver Generosity Keeps Victory Junction Gang Camp Rolling

When Kyle Petty (No. 45 National Tire & Battery Dodge) decided to honor his late son, Adam, he partnered with actor Paul Newman to come up with a camp for seriously ill children. The NASCAR community continues to embrace his vision, which began with Richard Petty donating the land in North Carolina for the camp's site. Victory Junction Gang Camp opened its doors in June 2004.

One of the best parts about the Victory Junction Gang Camp is the fact that every child who wants to attend the camp can do so free of charge. Each child while at the camp gets to do everything a healthy child even more.

NASCAR drivers have taken it upon themselves to help the Petty family and the camp. Most recently, Jimmie Johnson has donated money to build the newest addition to the camp, Jimmie Johnson's Victory Lanes, a bowling facility that allows campers to enjoy one of Johnson's favorite leisure activities - bowling.

Some of the more recent donors include Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), who donated a large amount of money to the camp in 2006. In June 2006 at New Hampshire, Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) pledged $1 million for the second time to help support the camp.

Johnson, the Petty family, and Victory Junction campers will bowl their first strikes on Thursday, March 29, 2007 from 2-4 p.m.

In The Loop: Perfect Timing For Biffle

The numbers induce head scratching.

How in the world could Greg Biffle (No. 16 Jackson Hewitt Ford) dominate so completely at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but leave the storied track with no better than a third-place finish?

In this race in 2005, Biffle led 151 laps, five less than lap leader Jimmie Johnson. Yet he wasn't even a blip on the sidebar radar as Carl Edwards nipped Johnson at the finish line.

Then, last year, Biffle led a race-high 128 laps, but ran out of gas at the end of the race and settled for a 16th-place finish.

So, if there is such a thing, Biffle is due.

The track owes him one. And with Biffle sitting in 16th in the standings, it's coming at a perfect time.

If Biffle continues his past performances, you have to believe he'll visit Atlanta's Victory Lane sooner than later.

The Loop Data has his back. Biffle has a pre-race average Driver Rating of 116.0 over the last four races at Atlanta, higher than any other driver and four points higher than second-place Johnson. His Average Running Position is higher than anyone else at Atlanta -- 6.192. And he has the highest number of Fastest Laps Run at 181 -- second place Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 123 Fastest Laps Run.

He's fast all over the track. Biffle was the Fastest Driver on the Frontstretch, Turn 1 and Turn 3 over the past four races. And he was the third-fastest on the Backstretch and Turn 4.

But that's not all. He's not only fast, he's skilled at the Hampton, Ga. track. In the past two years, Biffle has negotiated it with almost unparalleled skill. Biffle's Pass Differential, which is the number of passes a driver has compared to the number of times he's passed, is 54. That is the third-highest number of anyone over the past four races at Atlanta. Only Jeff Gordon (60) and Jamie McMurray (58) have higher Pass Differentials.

Biffle's consistency may be the most impressive figure. Biffle has spent 1,226 laps in the top 15, which is 94.3% of the laps run at Atlanta over the past two years. He's led more laps than anyone over that span with 284. And when he has 141 Quality Passes, which is second only to Mark Martin (148).

But Biffle isn't the only driver glad to see Atlanta next on the schedule. Kasey Kahne and Earnhardt Jr. are hovering near the all-important top 35 in owner points and have past success at Atlanta. Earnhardt has a seventh-best Average Running Position of 12.405 and a sixth-best Driver Rating of 103.1 at Atlanta. Kahne has the eighth-best Average Running Position at Atlanta (14.303) and the seventh-best Driver Rating (92.1).

The Rookies Are All About Business This Year

David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford) is leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings and is surprising most of his competitors. Coming into this year, Ragan was not the favorite to win the rookie of the year award, but has been posting finishes that contradict the critics' picks. Ragan's best finish came at the start of the season with a top five at Daytona International Speedway. Since then he has finished 16th at California and 37th at Las Vegas.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge) has been one of the most anticipated rookies in years. He is currently second in the rookie standings, just seven points behind Ragan. Montoya has had a full plate, balancing full seasons in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the NASCAR Busch Series. His top finish was 19th at Daytona.

Paul Menard (No. 15 Menards Chevrolet) is the new car out of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. stable. Menard didn't make the Daytona 500, but made a comeback at California with a 20th-place finish. He finished 32nd at Las Vegas. Menard was the highest finishing NASCAR Busch Series regular last year, finishing the season sixth in the standings.

David Reutimann (No. 00 Domino's Toyota) has not had the start he hoped for this season. Reutimann was caught in accidents at Daytona and California, finishing 40th and 33rd, respectively. His bad luck continued at Las Vegas, where he did not qualify for the race.

AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota) is fifth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings but he can't seem to get things to work out in his favor. He is part of a new team and has to qualify for every race he enters. Allmendinger has yet to make a race this season. He has three rookie points for attempting to qualify.

Brandon Whitt (No. 72 Dutch Quality Stone Chevrolet) is last in the rookie standings with two points; he has failed to qualify for any of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events.

On Deck: Bristol Motor Speedway

The fifth race on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series schedule will be Sun., March 25 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kurt Busch won last year's race, his only win in 2006. The Car of Tomorrow will make its debut in the Food City 500, the first of 16 races scheduled this season.

The Race: KOBALT Tools 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 18
The Time: 2:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval
Distance: 500 miles (325 laps)
Purse: $4,957,097

2006 Winner: Kasey Kahne
2006 Pole: Kasey Kahne

Pre-Race On-Track Schedule:

Friday -- Practice, 3:30- 5 p.m.; Qualifying, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday -- Practice, 10-10:50 a.m.; Final Practice, 1:20-2:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya