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Race Day: AMS Is A Chase To The Chase Place

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 5 2010

The fans turn out for night racing in Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend. (File photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

With just tonight’s Emory Healthcare 500 and next weekend’s race in Richmond remaining in the Chase to the Chase, it looks as thought the fight for the 12th and final playoff berth is a three-driver affair.

Those three are Clint Bowyer, who is currently 12th; Jamie McMurray, who is 100 points back; and Mark Martin, who is 101 back.

Several of their peers were asked this weekend about life on the edge of the Chase. Here is what they said:

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: “I think other drivers try to give them a little more room as well.  No one wants to be the guy that affected the championship or the guy that got into the championship.  You can see them all fighting for every single inch, and rightfully so; every point is going to count when this thing is all said and done.”

Tony Stewart, No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet: “It’s the longest eight days these guys will have in their entire year is these next eight days. It’s not a fun position to be in, for sure.”

Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “If you make the Chase, it’s a good season. If you don’t, that’s really bad.  There’s enough of a point spread (between Bowyer, McMurray and Martin) that I would assume Mark and Jamie are just going to go for it and hope for the best.  But for Clint and those guys, a bad night here would be hugely stressful.  My first year in 2005 I went to Richmond and that was probably the most stressful race I’ve ever had in my life.  I didn’t like that at all, so I’m glad I’m not in that position.  Hopefully, we aren’t in that position after tomorrow night, but the way Jamie and Mark have been running, anything can happen.”

Fast facts

What: Emory Healthcare 500

Where: At Atlanta Motor Speedway

When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.54-mile oval

Banking in corners: 24 degrees

Race distance: 325 laps/500.5 miles

Estimated pit window: 50-55 laps

2009 winner: Kasey Kahne

2009 polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.

Tonight’s polesitter: Denny Hamlin

Trivia time

The pole winner has been the race winner at Atlanta 14 times. Who was the last pole winner to win the race at AMS?

Tears for the track

Some drivers just shrug when asked about race tracks gaining or losing dates. Carl Edwards did not this week when asked his feelings about Atlanta losing one of its two dates.

“I wish we raced Atlanta every other week, maybe three times a month,” he said. “I really, really like this place. To me, it’s sad that we’re not gonna run here twice. This track is really special for a number of reason, but, most importantly, it just puts on great races. Hopefully, this one event can become something that the fans really support. I know it will make an Atlanta win more special for the drivers, but just for the pure fun factor I wish we raced here more.  It’s too bad.”

Track tidbits

Most wins: 9, by Dale Earnhardt

Most poles: 7, by Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman

Most top-fives: 26 by Dale Earnhardt

Most top-10s: 33 by Richard Petty

Most lead changes: 44, in 1982

Most cautions: 14, in 2007

Fewest cautions: 1 (twice, most recently in 1970)

Most caution laps: 99, in 1977

Fewest cars running at finish: 7, in 1986

Fewest cars on lead lap: 1, 11 times (most recently in 1986)

Closest margin of victory: .006 seconds, in 2001

Most wins by a manufacturer: 35 by Chevrolet

Chatting with Mr. H

Team owner Rick Hendrick held a press conference at Atlanta on Saturday. Here are a couple of questions and answers from that.

Question: What are your thoughts about expanding the Chase to 15 cars?

Hendrick: “I have got mixed feelings about expanding it to 15. If you expand it to 15, somebody is going to want to go to 18. Twelve is fine with me. If 15 happens, okay. But that’s not going to make or break any kind of sponsor deal in my opinion.”

Question: Are you planning to keep Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Lance McGrew together for rest of year?

Hendrick: “Actually, I’m pretty happy with the chemistry there now. Maybe some of you guys don’t agree but I’m around them and I’m in the shop during the week and the Tuesday meetings and I talk to Dale and I talk to Lance (McGrew) and I talk to them both after they’ve been testing. And we had some good momentum going and then we kind of fumbled the ball a little bit here right before the Chase.

“If you can’t pinpoint where your problem is, then the whole organization needs to be better. We’re working hard but we’re not as sharp as we want to be with all four cars. But the guys are working hard and working together. If you miss the Chase and you just decide that you’re going to change something to be changing it, I think that’s a mistake. I’ve never tried to do that. I keep my options open, but at the same time if the driver and the crew chief are getting along and they’re working together and they’re trying, that’s all I can ask for.”

Question: There is some thought about allowing increased testing. Are you for it?

Hendrick:  “I think that is good. I think the testing you need. A lot of young guys you have got coming on. Then if you have a new driver coming on or if you are in a slump, you can use a test. I think we should have some tests at the tracks we are at. It is really funny, when I talk to owners, they don’t want any testing. If they have a bad week, they want to test.

“I think we need some tests. I think we need to be able to test a certain number at tracks we are going to race at. I think coming in a day early is good. I would also like to see us put some instrumentation in the cars, everybody here has instrumentation, we used to used to run it in the Trucks up to qualifying years ago, so I think that would help us just to be able to compare. I think that would be good. I’m for some more testing.”

Trivia answer

Kasey Kahne won the pole and the race in 2006.

Up next

The non-Chase portion of the season comes to an end next weekend with the Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Mark Martin won the pole for that race last year and Denny Hamlin won the race.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 5 2010
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