BUSCH: Atlanta: News of note, schedule

Atlanta marks final race where starting positions set by 2004 owners points Record number of households tune into Las Vegas race NEWS & NOTES Atlanta final race for starting lineup set from 2004 owners points ... Saturday's event at Atlanta ...

Atlanta marks final race where starting positions set by 2004 owners points
Record number of households tune into Las Vegas race


Atlanta final race for starting lineup set from 2004 owners points ... Saturday's event at Atlanta marks the fifth race of the 2005 NASCAR Busch Series season, the final race where the revamped race lineup procedure assures the highest-ranked 30 positions in the 2004 owner championship points a starting position. This season's first five races will have utilized the 2004 owner point standings for those rankings. Beginning with the sixth race next week at Nashville, the current highest-ranked 30 positions in the owners points -- provided their entry has made an attempt to compete in the previous 2005 events up to that point -- will be used to set a majority of the field. And, as has been the case for the first five races, the remaining 12 positions (or more depending on the number who meet the requirements for the highest-ranked 30 slots) will be assigned to drivers with the fastest qualifying speeds. The 43rd position remains reserved for a former series champion. If not used by a former champion this position will be assigned to the next eligible car owner based on qualifying times. String of seconds has Harvick first ... Following last Saturday's race at Las Vegas, Kevin Harvick recorded a second-place finish for the fourth time in as many outings this season. Despite his streak of seconds, Harvick remains the leader in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings for the third consecutive week. "There is no luck in finishing second four times in a row," the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion said. "We have a great race team and great equipment this year. In the off-season, we went through all of our equipment and rebuilt chassis and engines to bring ourselves back to the level we're capable of. That time spent has really paid off, and Richard Childress Racing is back and ready to compete for the championship." Brandon Miller (No. 21 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Chevrolet) is scheduled to make his second career series start for Childress and his first of the season in the No. 21 entry at Atlanta and will try to keep RCR as the current frontrunner in the NASCAR Busch Series owner point standings. Childress won the owner championship in 2003 while Brian Vickers, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, won the driver title, the first time in series history the driver and owner titles were won by different teams.

Hmiel one of two drivers aiming for Atlanta "triple" ... Shane Hmiel (No. 32 Win Fuel Chevrolet) has a busy weekend ahead of him as he is entered in each of NASCAR's three national series events at Atlanta. Hmiel, currently eighth in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, will run for Billy Ballew in Friday's event; he finished 13th in the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings for Ballew before moving to his fulltime ride in the NASCAR Busch Series for Todd Braun this season. Hmiel is also entered for Braun for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race on Sunday, one of seven premier series events the 24-year-old is slated to run this season. Hmiel will be joined in his efforts to run in each event at Atlanta by Jimmy Spencer (No. 98 Bryan Meats Chevrolet), who is currently driving fulltime in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Spencer, who has 12 wins in 210 career NASCAR Busch Series starts, is attempting his first series start since Homestead-Miami last season. Las Vegas broadcast produces record number of households ... The NASCAR Busch Series continues to produce increases in both households and viewers compared to the first four race weekends one year ago. More households tuned into last Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway broadcast on FX than any other NASCAR Busch Series event in the history of the track. The broadcast showed a 37% increase in households (1,912,000) over last year's race (1,400,000), also broadcast on FX. In addition, viewers (2,262,000) increased 24% over last year's Las Vegas event (2,065,000). The race held the No. 1 spot among sports viewership on cable television last weekend, outperforming all men's college basketball tournaments aired on cable networks.


Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Waste Management Ford) is the defending champion of the Aaron's 312. His 28th-place start is the worst among any NASCAR Busch Series winner at the track. ... Three other former race winners are also entered -- Greg Biffle (No. 66 Duraflame Ford -- 2003), Jamie McMurray (No. 64 Top Flite Dodge -- 2002) and Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Cellular One Chevrolet -- 2001). McMurray's win was his first in the NASCAR Busch Series. ... Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) has competed in 12 of the previous 13 races held at Atlanta. ... Michael Waltrip (No. 99 Aaron's Sales & Lease Chevrolet), Biffle and Kenseth are tied for most top-five finishes with four each. ... Biffle has finished in the top five in each of his four appearances at Atlanta; he has a 3.2 average finish, best among drivers with at least four starts.


Evernham Motorsports announced that Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne will take over driving duties of the No. 6 Hungry Drivers Dodge effective immediately. Paul Wolfe was entered in the first four races in the No. 6 Charger, but failed to qualify at Mexico City and Las Vegas. Mayfield will drive at Atlanta while Kahne is slated for Nashville. "We felt it was necessary at this time to make some changes to ensure we are competitive," team owner Ray Evernham said. ... Reed Sorenson has finished on the lead lap in his last six races, best among NASCAR Busch Series drivers. ... Carl Edwards (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford) and Mark Martin have each led 131 laps this season; Martin's laps have led to two victories in each of the races he has entered in 2004. This is the 10th season in which Martin, the all-time leader in NASCAR Busch Series wins (47), has won at least two races. ... The NASCAR Busch Series event makes its spring return to Atlanta after being held in October for the last three seasons. This will be the ninth spring appearance for the series in 14 series races at Atlanta. ... Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) is making his first appearance in the NASCAR Busch Series top 10 this week. ... Brent Sherman (No. 58 Serta/Hickory Farms Dodge) will have a new sponsor, Consort, for six races this season beginning at Texas. ... The Atlanta event is the fourth consecutive NASCAR Busch Series race with a purse valued at over $1 million. ... Chevrolet, with two wins thus far in 2005, leads the Bill France Performance Cup standings with 30 points. Ford, also with two wins, is a close second with 28 points. Dodge has 18 points and seeks its first victory of the season.


"The teams that can turn something good out of the not-so-good-days win championships." -- Clint Bowyer

"I really enjoy racing at Atlanta. It's the kind of racetrack that separates the men from the boys. It's hold-your-breath-fast every lap." -- Greg Biffle


The 1994 NASCAR Busch Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was notable as a fairly new career was hitting a high point and a legendary one was drawing to a close.

Shawna Robinson drove her Polaroid-sponsored Chevrolet to the pole with a speed of 174.330 mph, making her the first -- and so far the only -- female to win a pole in any of NASCAR's three national touring series. Robinson was forced to drop out of the race after 63 laps due to her Chevrolet's engine overheating.

Meanwhile, Harry Gant, driving Ed Whitaker's Chevrolet, started deep in the field in 23rd. Moving his way through the field, Gant took lead for the first time on Lap 70. He held it to Lap 84 when Joe Bessey took over the front spot. Gant led again from Lap 91 to 119 when a strong-running Mark Martin grabbed the lead. Martin's engine expired on Lap 155, giving the top position back to Gant, who cruised to the win. It was the 21st and final NASCAR Busch Series victory for Gant, who was known as NASCAR's "Mr. Nice Guy." He retired as a driver after that season.


What: Aaron's 312 (Race No. 5 of 35 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
When: 3:05 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 19.

Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval.
Race Length: 321.62 miles/203 laps.

Posted Awards: $1,030,068.

TV: FX, 2:30 p.m., ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.

2004 Winner: Matt Kenseth.
2004 Polesitter: Mike Bliss.

NASCAR Busch Series Top 10: 1. Kevin Harvick 690. 2. Carl Edwards 610. 3. Clint Bowyer 571. 4. Reed Sorenson 564. 5. Martin Truex Jr. 538. 6. Ashton Lewis Jr. 494. 7. David Stremme 452. 8. Shane Hmiel 431. 9. Justin Labonte 427. 10. Denny Hamlin 418.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday: Practice, 2:25 -- 3:35 p.m.; Final practice, 4 -- 5:00 p.m. Saturday: Qualifying, 12:05 p.m.; cars impounded following qualifying.


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Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jeremy Mayfield , Michael Waltrip , Jason Keller , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Shawna Robinson , Greg Biffle , Jamie McMurray , Justin Labonte , Shane Hmiel , Kasey Kahne , Brent Sherman , Mike Bliss , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Ray Evernham , Paul Wolfe , Carl Edwards , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Reed Sorenson , Harry Gant , Mark Martin