Atlanta: Round four preview

Ryan Newman: Goes For The All-time Pole Record Three Is A Charm For Jimmie Johnson At Atlanta In The Loop: Not A One Man Show In Atlanta 2008 Rookie Class - Who Is Going To Shine This Year? Ryan 'The Rocket' Newman Likes His First Lap Out ...

Ryan Newman: Goes For The All-time Pole Record
Three Is A Charm For Jimmie Johnson At Atlanta
In The Loop: Not A One Man Show In Atlanta
2008 Rookie Class - Who Is Going To Shine This Year?
Ryan 'The Rocket' Newman Likes His First Lap Out Front

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 4, 2008) -- Starting up front is nothing new for Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge), especially with a nickname like 'The Rocket'.

Newman is tied for first with Buddy Baker for the most poles at Atlanta Motor Speedway with seven each. But Newman has never been able to parlay his great starting position into a win at Atlanta.

Newman's longtime coach and mentor Baker has done just that winning the 1979 spring race from the pole. Fourteen drivers have won from the pole, more than any other starting spot -- most recently Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) in 2006.

Newman notched six consecutive poles through 2003-2005 and grabbed his seventh last year in this race.

This week leading up to the Kobalt Tools 500, Newman talked about how special breaking the tie with Baker would be.

"Atlanta has always been a place where I like to qualify, and it would be an honor to get the all-time pole record there. Buddy Baker really helped me throughout my racing career, and that's why we named the car we won the Daytona 500 with after him."

"We always drove the tracks backwards because it gives you a different perspective of entry and exit points. That's something we did at Atlanta when he was teaching me about the track and I have always qualified well there, so I think it would be an honor to both of us if I am able to get my eighth pole there this weekend."

Jimmie Johnson Looks To Be The First To Make It Three Straight

After one of the most impressive seasons in NASCAR history last year the two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway pursuing his third consecutive victory after sweeping both races last season. Atlanta has been one of Johnson's most proficient stops on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, posting eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes including three wins (2004, and sweeping both races in 2007) in 13 starts.

The NASCAR Loop Data statistics show Johnson is at the top of several pre-race categories at Atlanta, including Driver Rating (118.2), Average Running Position (5.652), and Laps in the Top 15 (93.7%).

Rick Hendrick co-owns the No. 48 with Jeff Gordon and Hendrick has the second most wins at Atlanta with 10, behind the Wood Brothers' 12.

This weekend Johnson looks to do something no other driver has done -- win three in a row at Atlanta. Six times a driver has swept both Atlanta races in a single season: Marvin Panch (1965), Bobby Allison (1972), Bill Elliott (twice: 1985, 1992), Carl Edwards (2005), and Johnson (2007). And although the No. 48 team struggled at Las Vegas last week - Johnson finished 29th with an ill handling car - with an Average Finish of 9.7 look for the No. 48 car to improve upon its 14th-place points position.

In The Loop: Johnson Not A One Man Atlanta Show

The clear frontrunner this weekend has to be Jimmie Johnson, who swept last season at Atlanta and since 2005 ranks first in the series in Driver Rating (118.2), Average Running Position (5.7), Green Flag Speed (176.654 mph) and Laps in the Top 15 (94%).

But then there's Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), winner of two consecutive races this season who swept Atlanta in 2005. Since 2005, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 102.8, an Average Running Position of 11.7, 131 Fastest Laps Run and 1,606 Laps in the Top 15. He's always a threat at the 1.54-mile track -- Edwards has finished outside the top 10 only once in seven starts, and was runner-up to Johnson in the last Atlanta race in October.

Another driver looking forward to Atlanta is Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota), who dropped from third to 11th after a 43rd-place finish at Las Vegas. Stewart finished second to Johnson in this race last season, and has two wins, seven top fives and 11 top 10s in his Atlanta career.

Since 2005, Stewart has a Driver Rating of 104.2 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 10.2 (third), 127 Fastest Laps Run (fifth) and 1,600 Laps in the Top 15 (fourth).

Also watch for a strong run from Greg Biffle (No. 16 Jackson-HewittFord), who is having a bit of a comeback in 2008. He's finished outside the top 10 in each of the last two seasons, but currently sits in sixth after a strong third-place run at Las Vegas. Biffle has yet to win a race at Atlanta, but has had solid runs since 2005.

In the last six AMS races, Biffle has a Driver Rating of 103.5 (third), an Average Running Position of 9.4 (second), a series-high 201 Fastest Laps Run (first) and 1,651 Laps in the Top 15 (second).

A Sit Down With NSCS Director John Darby at the Phoenix Test

This week's two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test at Phoenix International Raceway has proven extremely beneficial to the 47 participating teams, said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby on Tuesday afternoon.

Sandwiched between last week's event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and this Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the two-day session marked the fourth of six NASCAR-sanctioned tests in 2008. This season marks the first full year of competition for NASCAR's new race car; teams ran it in 16 of 36 events in 2007, including both events at Phoenix.

"I guess the Phoenix test is a little bit different than some of the other testing we've done this year because we've already competed at Phoenix twice," Darby said Tuesday afternoon as testing laps wound down, citing pre-race preparations done by teams' research and development programs.

During testing teams can load their cars with telemetry and data-acquisition devices -- something not allowed during competition -- to compile a road map of Phoenix's one-mile surface. All that research will be dumped into computer and simulation banks for further, detailed research.

That data also translates to similarly-shaped Richmond International Raceway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which host future 2008 events.

"The information that they collected these past two days, even beyond tuning up for the race we're going to have here in April, will be a benefit to all the teams," Darby said.

As the series prepares for Sunday's event at Atlanta -- the fourth thus far in 2008 -- Darby says he's pleased with the new car's competitiveness.

"I'm tickled with it right now," he said, citing improved competition at the Auto Club Speedway in California and Las Vegas in succeeding weeks.

"It's fun to watch the cars race, and be as racy as they are this early in the year, especially at tracks that we haven't been to before," Darby added.

60 Years Of NASCAR: Atlanta Motor Speedway

NASCAR's 60th Anniversary celebration continues this weekend, as the three national series heads to one of the most historic tracks in the sport.

Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted its first race in 1960, with Fireball Roberts taking the checkered flag. Since then, Atlanta's Victory Lane has enjoyed a conveyor belt consistency of NASCAR champions. In total, 61 of the 97 Atlanta winners have won NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships.

And for 14 years (from 1987-2000), the series champion was crowned at Atlanta, which was then the final race of the season. One of those finales is considered an epic moment in NASCAR history. The 1992 finale at Atlanta was Jeff Gordon's first NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Richard Petty's last race and featured what was then the closest points finish in history -- Alan Kulwicki edged Bill Elliott by 10 points to win the championship.

2008 Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Class Update

The 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year class reads like a list of who's who of open wheel racing over the past several years. Names like Sam Hornish Jr., Dario Franchitti and Patrick Carpentier.

Dario Franchitti (No. 40 Fastenal Dodge) Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Penske Truck Rentals Dodge) and Regan Smith (No. 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet) are heading to Atlanta looking to improve their points positions because all three are sitting outside the top-35 -- 36th, 38th and 39th respectively.

All three drivers have started the first three events on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, but Hornish Jr. has the highest finish of all three with a 15th at Daytona. Franchitti and Smith both got their best finishes this season at California -- 26th and 31st respectively.

Patrick Carpentier (No. 10 Cintas Dodge) made his first start of the 2008 season last week at Las Vegas, but was caught in an accident on Lap 116 -- he finished 40th.

The NASCAR Season-To-Date Loop Data shows Hornish Jr. with a Driver Rating of (58.6), Smith with a Driver Rating of (37.8) and Franchitti with a Driver Rating of (33.2).

Time Has Come For Teams Flirting With Top-35 Cut-Off; 2008 Points Are Criteria After 5th Race

For the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams residing in the proximity of the 35th position in car owner points, the time has come to get it in gear. Atlanta Motor Speedway is the fourth stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, and the second to last chance for teams in the top 35 of the 2007 car owner points to guarantee themselves a spot on Sunday.

Dave Blaney (No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota) driving for Bill Davis Racing sits on the bubble this week - 35th in the owner point standings with 212 points. Casey Mears (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet) is currently 34th in the points after having a turn around season last year winning his first race at Charlotte and posting five top-five and eight top-10 finishes. But Mears hasn't been able to carry his momentum from last season to this year after being in accidents on two consecutive weekends -- Daytona and California.


The Momentum: Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford) heads to Atlanta with a full head of steam after winning back-to-back weekends this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at California and Las Vegas. Edwards swept both races in Atlanta in 2005, and the March event of 2005 was his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win. For the first time in Edwards' career he leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, his previous best points position was third.

Georgia Natives Coming Home: Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Target Dodge), Bill Elliott (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) and David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford) are all from different parts of Georgia, but all call Atlanta Motor Speedway their home track. Sorenson is from Peach Tree City just 30 miles away from Atlanta. Elliott is from Dawsonville some 58 miles from Atlanta. Ragan is from Unadilla about 120 miles from Atlanta.

Up Next: Food City 500 At Bristol Motor Speedway

The fifth race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule will be Sun., March 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Last year at Bristol's Food City 500, the 'New Car' made its debut. Kyle Busch (No. 18 Snickers Toyota) won the race, beating Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) to the finish line by just .064 seconds.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet) sat on the Coors Light Pole for the Food City 500, his second pole of the year in 2007. Gordon went on to post seven poles in 2007 -- the most of any driver.

The action kicks off on Sunday with driver introductions at 1:30 p.m., and the green flag is scheduled to drop at 2 p.m. for the 2008 running of the Food City 500.

The Race: Kobalt Tools 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, March 9
The Time: 2:00 p.m. (ET)

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

TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio

2007 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
2007 Polesitter: Ryan Newman

Pre-Race Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 3-4:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 6:45 p.m.
Saturday -- Practice, 11-11:45 a.m.; Final Practice, 12:20 -1:20 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Regan Smith , Marvin Panch , Bobby Allison , David Ragan , Reed Sorenson , Dave Blaney , Buddy Baker , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Bill Davis Racing