NASCAR’s race for the Chase is winding down, with only two races left until the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth is locked in with a “playoff berth,” while Kyle Busch should secure his spot easily over these next two races. Up this weekend: the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night.
Kenseth, in the No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota Camry this weekend, secured his spot in the Chase on the strength of five victories this season. Kenseth has 14 top 10 finishes in 24 Atlanta starts, including a runner-up finish in the March 2010 race.
Everybody always associates Atlanta with really high speeds and being fast and like, ‘Oh, who can suck it up and get a fast lap qualifying?’ But it’s actually kind of the opposite now,” said Kenseth. “It’s fast, it’s got really long corners, but the track is so wore out that it’s more about tire management, having a car that will run fast on new tires, but be fast on old tires as well. It’s a fun compromise – a fun track to race at.”
Busch, currently fifth in points with three wins on the season, has one win and four top 10 finishes in 15 starts at Atlanta in the Cup Series, as well as impressive numbers in NASCAR’s other two top series: six top 10s and three poles in nine Nationwide Series starts and four wins, eight top 10s and a pole in eight Camping World Truck Series starts. Back in 2008, Busch earned Toyota and Mars Brands their first wins in the Cup Series.
In addition to racing the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota on Sunday, Busch will be in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Saturday in the Nationwide Series.
“I don’t think you’re going to see a race any different than what we’ve seen down in Atlanta the last few years,” said Busch. “The racetrack has aged really nicely, where it’s probably aged too much, but you can’t repave Atlanta – that would just be stupid. It’s a place where you can run the bottom all the way from the white line all the way to the wall and anywhere in-between. You have to have a good car there, but it’s a neat racetrack with the way you can race around and move around and not get too comfortable running one lane. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys have brought good cars to the intermediate tracks this year and I’m hoping they give us another good car and we can go for the win with our M&M’s Camry.”
Denny Hamlin’s Chase hopes ended with a back injury earlier in the season, but the driver of the No. 11 Sports Clips Toyota heads to Atlanta as the race’s defending winner. Hamlin has five top 10 finishes, including that win, and one pole in 13 races at Atlanta.
Joining Busch in the Nationwide Series Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 on Saturday night are Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers. Sadler, in the No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota on Saturday, has four top 10 finishes in seven Nationwide Series starts at Atlanta, while Vickers, in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, has one top 10 finish in five Nationwide Series races. Both drivers also have multiple top 10 finishes at Atlanta in the Cup Series.
Qualifying for the AdvoCare 500 takes place Friday at 6:40 p.m. ET, with the race going green Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Qualifying for the Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 takes place Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET, followed by the race at 7:30 p.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nascar.com and joegibbsracing.com.
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