With only two races remaining before the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is set following Richmond, Atlanta will play a pivotal role in shaping the participants in the Chase.
This year’s wild-card battle has thrilled fans week-after-week and has made for exciting, can’t-miss racing throughout the summer. Here’s a breakdown of those drivers battling for wild-card positioning, and how they shape up this weekend:
Kasey Kahne: Kahne, who currently holds the first wild-card, is a two-time winner at AMS. Kahne is quickly closing in on potentially moving into the top-10 in points. Kahne has two wins in 2012 and is currently 11th in the standings.
“Atlanta is my favorite track on the circuit,” said Kahne. “It’s wide and fast, so we can race a lot of different lines. We have a good history here, and I expect a good weekend with a Hendrick Motorsports car under me.”
Carl Edwards: Edwards has yet to win in 2012 but is a three-time winner at AMS. Edwards desperately needs a win to try to work his way into the wild-card, but likes the schedule for the next couple of weeks. Edwards is 12th in the current points standings.
“I don’t think there could be two better tracks coming up,” said Edwards. “Atlanta, it’s one of my personal favorite tracks to drive on. I don’t think there’s a more fun track on the circuit to race on. (Crew Chief) Chad (Norris) and all the guys, we spoke a lot about our strategy for the race. We feel like we have a car sitting there in the hauler that can go win that race.”
Kyle Busch: With a win earlier this season at Richmond, Busch currently holds the second wild-card spot and is 13th in points. Busch has claimed one win at Atlanta, in March of 2008. This win was his first with new team Joe Gibbs Racing, as well as Toyota’s first in Sprint Cup competition. Busch will run all three races this weekend at AMS as he looks to gain some momentum into the fall.
“(To be successful at Atlanta), it takes a lot of things,” said Busch. “You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of downforce, you have to have tire management, a great engine, and fuel mileage, too. There are a lot of circumstances it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.”
Jeff Gordon: A five-time Atlanta winner, Gordon enters the event as the defending winner of the AdvoCare 500. Gordon trails Busch by 16 points in trying to earn that second wild-card position, but a second 2012 win by No. 24 would immediately move him into that spot. Gordon is currently 14th in the standings.
“I expect the track to be a lot faster at night,” said Gordon. “But I think we will still be able to race high, low and everywhere in between. I think one of the reasons so many drivers and teams love this place is the track has a lot of grip, a lot of banking and it is a very fast race track, especially when looking at the qualifying speeds. It’s very fast during the race but it has a lot of fall off, so tire wear is significant and the balance of the car changes throughout a run.”
Ryan Newman: Newman, who is 15th in points, won earlier this season at Martinsville to make himself wild-card eligible, but a wreck last week at Bristol knocked him from the second wild-card position. Newman has seven poles at AMS, but only a best finish of fifth. A win at Atlanta could put him in a more secure position to gain the second wild-card position.
“Atlanta is fast, especially when the conditions are right,” said Newman. “You have to hit your marks. It’s bumpy enough that those bumps can spit you right out. Getting into turn one and the middle of three and four, you’ve got to catch everything just right. It’s kind of like surfing or wakeboarding, you’ve got to catch the waves right, and obviously put the car in the right spot to do the things with the gas and the steering wheel.”
Marcos Ambrose: Currently 16th in points, Ambrose placed himself in the middle of wild-card competition a few weeks back with his win at Watkins Glen. With a recent string of three consecutive top-five finishes, Ambrose is a threat at Atlanta. He enters the event with one top-10 in six events. Like Newman, Ambrose could desperately use another checkered flag to feel better about his chances of earning the final wild-card spot.
Joey Logano: Logano won his second-career race this summer at Pocono, and enters Atlanta hungry for another win. Logano grew up racing on the AMS quarter-mile in the Legends program, so a win at Atlanta would be a “home track” type of victory. It would also be big for sponsor The Home Depot, which is headquartered in Atlanta. Logano is 18th in points, but a second victory would put the final wild-card squarely in his crosshairs.
Atlanta Motor Speedway PR