Chase nuggets at Atlanta

Up Next: Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Fast Facts: Top 10 at AMS Matt Kenseth has no wins in 13 AMS starts Kevin Harvick has one win Jimmie Johnson has one victory and five top-fives Denny Hamlin has two-career Cup starts with...

Up Next: Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Fast Facts: Top 10 at AMS

Matt Kenseth has no wins in 13 AMS starts
Kevin Harvick has one win
Jimmie Johnson has one victory and five top-fives
Denny Hamlin has two-career Cup starts with no top-10 results
Jeff Burton has no wins at AMS and 10 top-10 finishes
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has one win in 14 starts
Mark Martin has two victories in 41 starts
Kasey Kahne has one win in five starts
Jeff Gordon is a four time winner at AMS
Kyle Busch has made four career starts but has not garnered a top-10 result

With qualifying washed out, the field will line up as they stand in points.

What they're saying:

1. Matt Kenseth: Leader

Not one of Kenseth's best tracks.

"Atlanta is a great track," Kenseth said. "It's fast and there's plenty of room to pass. The track has a lot of grip and you can run high or low, basically wherever your car is working best at the time. We've had some decent runs there in the past and we've had some bad ones there as well. Earlier this year, we had a pretty good car but got a little too aggressive with the setup and had some tire problems. But, we've learned from that and hopefully this time we'll be able to compete for a top-five finish.

"The championship is still wide open. Yes, we're leading and that's definitely better than the alternative, but we have to start running better or we'll see it slip away. Usually, the mile-and-a-half tracks are good to us, but we've struggled in the last two at Kansas and Lowe's. We'll need to turn that around if we're going to get the job done down the stretch."

2. Kevin Harvick: (-36)

Finally within pouncing distance of the Cup point lead - he's already clinched the 2006 Busch series title.

"Well, I feel really good about where we are, considering the last few weeks that we have had," Harvick commented. "We've had an engine failure at Dover, we had transmission trouble at Charlotte, and I think we wrecked at least once last week. We wrecked at Kansas, we wrecked at Talladega, so we have not had the greatest complete events. We've always seemed to have decent finishes in the end, but it's been a lot of drama in between.

"We feel good about the position that we're in. We ran really well at the first Atlanta race this year and crashed there in the beginning of the race, but the car ran well and we're racing I believe we're racing the car that we tested earlier in the year, so we're excited about going to Atlanta and looking forward to the weekend."

3. Jimmie Johnson (-41)

Coming off a race win at Martinsville last weekend that put him back in the Chase.

"I don't think the win was necessary as far as the spark for the team," Johnson said. "We've had the spark and speed and excitement and desire. The fire's been lit. We've just unfortunately had some bad luck. And now everything has balanced out and we're back in the middle of it (the Chase). So I look at the Chase and think at New Hampshire, we were competitive and in the top five and had bad luck. At Dover it was the same; we had bad luck.

"At Kansas we were leading the most laps but didn't win the race because of that crazy deal at the end. Talladega we should have won. Charlotte, we were competitive and finished where we should have. And then (we won) last weekend (at Martinsville). So I really think we've had a lot of strength in the Chase and we are excited to be back in the middle of it."

4. Denny Hamlin: (-47)

Hamlin doesn't have much track time at Atlanta which might spell trouble for the Raybestos rookie. Running the Busch race at Memphis may further distract him from the task at hand.

"I think we're right back in it," said Hamlin of the Chase after Martinsville. "Now it just makes you kick yourself for all those points you lost on the other races but that's just part of it and everyone is dealing with it. We've got to march on and do the best we can. I feel like right now we're championship material."

5. Jeff Burton: (-48)

Needs to rebound after a broken valve spring at Martinsville last weekend dropped him from first in standings.

"This team is really strong," Burton said. "Stuff happens and everybody in the Chase has had trouble. We certainly didn't want this to happen, didn't need this to happen but at the same time it did happen. We will burrow down tomorrow morning and focus on being better and focus on going to Atlanta to win the race. By no means do I think we're out of this thing.

"I think we have as good a shot as anybody. We run well enough to win a championship; we've just got to put the next four races together."

6. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: (-94)

A late race wreck cost him valuable points but AMS is one of Earnhardt's best tracks; there is no better place for him to turn things around.

"A win at Atlanta would really help the healing process," laughed Earnhardt. "This is a really good track for us. We're always really confident going into Atlanta. We're taking our best car. I've got a great team. We've been running in the top-five consistently the last four or five races, so it's important to keep that going. After a disappointing race like we just had, I can't think of a better track to regain our momentum than Atlanta."

On the championship: "We're not out of it. Actually, we're still very much in it. I think everybody still has a shot at winning the championship. Four races is a lot of racing left. Anything can happen. We can have some really, really good runs. We can win a couple of these races, and I think some of these tracks we will have that opportunity. I'm optimistic. We'll pull our boots up and get after it."

7. Mark Martin: (-96)

Needs a win if he hopes to grab a title before he quits racing full time.

"I'm not stressed out about whether or not we win the championship. I'm focused on getting the job done every week and so is my team. I am really happy and proud to be a part of it."

8. Kasey Kahne: (-99)

Won the race here in the spring.

"I really like the track," Kahne commented. "You can run several lines and be fast. If you have a good car, you can definitely pass people. We had a great car in the spring. We started first and Kenny (Francis, team director) had the car perfect for the finish. The crew has been great all year, but they were awesome that day getting me in and out of the pits."

9. Jeff Gordon: (-141)

Gordon made his first Cup series career start here in 1992.

"When we came here and tested, we knew we needed to try a different route with our intermediate program," said Gordon. "We had been using the same setups as our teammates, but we weren't finding the same success. Steve and the guys came up with some different ideas that we wanted to try. "We tested here during the Chase last year and tried some things that made the car more comfortable for me. They were different than the setups my teammates were using, but they were working for me and my driving style."

10. Kyle Busch: (-171)

Limited experience may not help his position at the bottom of the standings.

On his Chase chances: "Realistically no. But mathematically, yeah we are still in it."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin