BUSCH: Atlanta: News of note, schedule

* NASCAR community mourns, unites after Hendrick Motorsports aviation tragedy * TV numbers rise for second week in a row at Memphis * Keller poised to surpass $9 million in career series winnings NASCAR FAMILY SHAKEN BUT STEADFAST- AND ...

* NASCAR community mourns, unites after Hendrick Motorsports aviation tragedy

* TV numbers rise for second week in a row at Memphis

* Keller poised to surpass $9 million in career series winnings


Last Sunday's accident involving a Hendrick Motorsports airplane claimed 10 lives, and affected countless others. NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter offered these thoughts on the tragedy:

"NASCAR is a major nationwide sport involving thousands of people, but whenever something like this happens, we're reminded of just how close-knit we are, despite the growth of the sport," Hunter said.

"The term 'NASCAR Family' is not a mere slogan. In times like this we pull together as any other family would.

"All of us at NASCAR continue to keep those affected by the accident in our prayers. We will continue to offer support and comfort whenever possible. We will carry on and, simply, do the best we can under these incredibly trying circumstances."


Memphis continues strong series broadcast showing ... For the second consecutive week, the NASCAR Busch Series has produced significant broadcast increases in households and viewership. The Sam's Town 'He Dared to Rock' 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park last Saturday, which aired on TNT, showed a 47% average increase in households (1,163,000) over the event last season (793,000), also on TNT. Additionally, viewers of the race (1,552,000) increased 56% over the 2003 event (997,000). The NASCAR Busch Series race at Charlotte Oct. 15 on TNT was the highest, most-viewed NASCAR Busch Series fall event in the history of Lowe's Motor Speedway and posted average increases of 50% and 44% among viewers and households, respectively, from the previous season.

Stremme joins Navy team ... David Stremme, announced last Saturday as the driver for the No. 14 U.S. Navy Dodge Charger for 2005 in conjunction with the Navy's sponsorship renewal and FitzBradshaw Racing's alliance with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, will step up his learning process with his new team right away. Stremme, who has spent the season with Braun Racing, takes over the No. 14 U.S. Navy Chevrolet for the remaining four races beginning at Atlanta. Shane Hmeil is scheduled to drive the No. 32 TRIMSPA X32 Dodge at Atlanta. "We weren't sure if we were going to be able to get Stremme in the car for the remainder of the season, but we're thrilled we can," said FitzBradshaw co-owner Armando Fitz. "We can start working on our '05 program immediately."

Trio of drivers vying for Top 10 ... The race for a spot in the NASCAR Busch Series Top 10 and a place on the championship stage at the Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 10 remains tight. Kenny Wallace (No. 23 Stacker 2 Chevrolet) and Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 46 Lewis Motorsports Chevrolet) remained in ninth and 10th, respectively following Saturday's race at Memphis. Wallace picked up 14 points on Lewis for a bit of breathing room heading into Atlanta. David Stremme not only moved into a new car, but moved into a new spot - 11th place - only 32 points behind Lewis. Stremme, last year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Busch Series, and Lewis, who is in his fourth full year in the series, are seeking their first final top-10 championship rankings.

Bowyer, Menard serving notice ... Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch aren't the only young drivers who have blossomed this year in the NASCAR Busch Series. Others like Clint Bowyer (No. 21 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Chevrolet), 25, and Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet), 24, are rallying during the latter stages of this season and are looking like strong competitors in their own right for the 2005 series title. Bowyer, who will take over the No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet next season, has four top fives and seven top 10s in 14 races this year, the first starts of his NASCAR Busch Series career. He finished fourth last Saturday at Memphis. He also won his first Busch Pole back in April at Talladega. Bowyer has split time with Kevin Harvick in the No 21 entry as well as driving Andy Petree's No. 33 Chevrolet. Menard began the season running for Petree, then moved to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. following the June Dover race. He secured his first Busch Pole at Kansas, and finished a career-best 11th at Memphis. Menard has finishes of 17th or better in his last four races.

Contingency Corner ... Chevrolet reached the 20-win mark in the Bill France Performance Cup standings due to Martin Truex Jr.'s victory at Memphis last week. Chevy increased its point total to 234, Ford is second with eight wins and 186 points while Dodge has two victories this season and totals 137 points. Truex now leads Kyle Busch by one in both the Goody's Extra Strength and Wix Filters Lap Leader Award categories. Truex also has nine MBNA Mid-Race Leader Awards to his credit this season, and has claimed four MBNA Mid-Race Leader race-win bonuses. He is the only driver to have won that award more than once. And, David Stremme is first in the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award standings.


In addition to his three wins at Atlanta (1997, '98, '00), Mark Martin has six top 10s, best among active NASCAR Busch Series drivers. His two Busch Poles are tied for first with Harry Gant, while his three top-five finishes are tied for second with four other drivers. ... Martin is joined by defending race champion Greg Biffle (No. 60 Charter Communications Ford) and Jamie McMurray (No. 66 Duraflame Dodge), who won in 2002, as former winners entered at Atlanta. ... Martin holds the race record at 151.751 mph set during his 1997 win while Biffle set the qualifying mark last year at 192.300 mph. ... Martin has led the most laps at Atlanta (637). ... Jason Keller (No. 22 Miller High Life Ford) is tied with Joe Nemechek for most starts at AMS - 11.


Jason Keller is $7,610 away from the $9 million mark in career winnings, no other driver has reached that total in NASCAR Busch Series history. ... Reed Sorensen (No. 41 Discount Tire Dodge), a native of Peachtree City, Ga., will attempt his third series start at his hometown track. Sorensen finished 10th at Memphis and was a solid 13th in his series debut at IRP. He will also run in the American Speed Association event Friday. ... Mark Martin will run in three events at Atlanta. In addition to the NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, he will make his return to the ASA for the first time since 1996, as well as continuing his bid to win the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship in Sunday's NASCAR premier series event. ... Steve Grissom (No. 24 GIC Mixon Motorsports Chevrolet), the 1993 NASCAR Busch Series champion, will be making his first series start at Atlanta in eight years. In his last appearance in 1996, Grissom started 43rd and finished fourth. ... Tony Stewart will drive the No. 92 McDonald's Chevrolet entry for Kevin Harvick Incorporated at Atlanta. Owned by the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion and his wife, DeLana, KHI is slated to run a full NASCAR Busch Series schedule in 2005 with the combination of drivers Stewart (10 races) and Tony Raines (24 races) in the No. 33 Chevy. ... Gus Wasson (No. 10 VirtualStockCar.com/RaceGirl Chevrolet) made his first series start at Atlanta in 1998. ... Brad Teague (No. 56 Means Racing Ford) looks to make his 200th career start while Stacy Compton (No. 59 Kingsford/Bush's Baked Beans Ford) will attempt his 100th start.


"... [This is] the same car that we finished second with at Michigan and we had a strong run at Dover (eighth) as well, so hopefully we'll be able to get a little better and see if we can't win this thing." - Mark Martin.

"I think baseball and racing have more superstitions than any of the other sports. None of them really make much sense, but everybody tends to fall in line with all of them, too. [But] the 'Curse of the Bambino' is nothing compared to the curse of some crew chiefs after you spilled salt. Heaven forbid you ever spill salt on somebody's transporter." - Travis Geisler (No. 36 DCT Motorsports Chevrolet).


Atlanta Motor Speedway has hosted the NASCAR Busch Series since 1992. The inaugural event saw future superstar Jeff Gordon win the Atlanta 300 from the pole. Gordon drove a Bill Davis-owned Ford Thunderbird to a pole speed of 173.821 mph and led the first 67 laps of the race. The young driver faced some of the top drivers in NASCAR as all-time series winner Mark Martin moved to the front on Lap 68. Harry Gant took the lead on Lap 70, then Dale Earnhardt was in front from Laps 75-79. Rick Mast, Tracy Leslie, Dave Mader and Hut Stricklin also took turns up front.

Gordon regained the lead on Lap 162 and held it for the rest of the race to pick up his first NASCAR Busch Series win. Other stars competing that day were Darrell Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott and Davey Allison.

Team owner Rick Hendrick was so impressed with that Atlanta performance that he later tapped Gordon as a driver for his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series team.

Fast Facts

What: Aaron's 312 (Race No. 31 of 34 in the NASCAR Busch Series).

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga. 2When: 1 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 30.

Track layout: 1.54-mile banked paved oval.
Race length: 312.62 miles/203 laps.

Posted awards: $973,391.

TV: TNT, 1 p.m. ET.
Radio: PRN, XM Satellite.

2003 winner: Greg Biffle.
2003 Polesitter: Greg Biffle.

Top 10 in points: 1. Martin Truex Jr. 4,557. 2. Kyle Busch 4,349. 3. Greg Biffle 4,067. 4. Ron Hornaday Jr. 3,825. 5. David Green 3,739. 6. Jason Keller 3,715. 7. Jason Leffler 3,661. 8. Mike Bliss 3,654. 9. Kenny Wallace 3,351. 10. Ashton Lewis Jr. 3,331.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday - Practice, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.; qualifying, 1:30 p.m.; Final practice 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.


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Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Hut Stricklin , Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Tony Raines , Jamie McMurray , David Green , Rick Mast , Andy Petree , Steve Grissom , Mike Bliss , Martin Truex Jr. , Paul Menard , Brad Teague , David Stremme , Clint Bowyer , Ashton Lewis , Gus Wasson , Travis Geisler , Harry Gant , Felix Sabates , Jim Hunter , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Davey Allison
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Hendrick Motorsports