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Last Updated Monday, Mar 15, 2010 2:07 am, EDT

Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta

Status: Final Atlanta Motor Speedway

Race Capsule

Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • What:

    Race 4 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, GA

  • When:

    March 7, 2010 1:16 pm EST

  • Laps:

    325

  • Track Length:

    1.54 miles

  • Race Length:

    501.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $4,948,689

Drivers to Watch

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has one win, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 21 starts at Atlanta. The eight top-fives match his personal best at a Cup track. He also has that many at Talladega, Richmond and Martinsville. "We've always run pretty good at Atlanta, so I look forward to going there," said Earnhardt. "It's a fun track, and it's a fast track."
Kyle Busch Busch has one win (March 2008) and two top-five finishes in 11 starts at Atlanta. "We ran well there when we won in 2008, but last year we struggled trying to get our car handling right and never really hit on it," said Busch. "I know Dave (Rogers, his crew chief) has been working hard on our setup so we can be competitive there."
Mark Martin Martin is a two-time Atlanta winner, but both victories are ancient history. He won the November race in 1991 and the November race in 1994. He has 14 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes in an incredible 48 career starts. He was 31st last March and fifth last September -- the latter was his first finish higher than 22nd in his last four starts at AMS. "Atlanta has always been one of my favorite race tracks," Martin said. "The very first time I came here, I just felt good. It has the characteristics of a short track, but on a much larger level. There's an intensity to racing here, and qualifying is wide-open fast. Every time I've been to Atlanta I've had a great race car. Both races last year, we were real, real good. The tire, of course, bit us in the first race, but we had a car capable of winning. I'm sure we'll have a good car again this weekend. The guys on this team have given me great race cars in the first three races this year, and I know I'll have another one this weekend."
Jeff Gordon Gordon will be seeking his sixth straight top-10 finish at Atlanta and his ninth in the last 10 races at the track. The last of his four wins at AMS came in the fall of 2003. "We've had some strong runs there recently, and we want to build on the strong run of last week," said Gordon, who will be racing a new car this weekend.
David Reutimann Reutimann has just one top-10 finish, a fourth last September, in five starts at Atlanta. He finished 32nd at AMS last March. "I like Atlanta Motor Speedway a lot," he said. "It's a cool racetrack. It's pretty abrasive, so it's a little bit rougher on the tires. The cars slide around a lot and it can be pretty fun, especially if we have a pretty good Mitsubishi/Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota. The track is still really, really fast -- it's one of the fastest places we go. We've had some good runs there in the past." Reutimann's first pole came in the Truck Series at Atlanta in the second race of his rookie year.
Carl Edwards Atlanta is one of Edwards' best tracks -- he has three wins, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 11 starts. He swept both races in 2005 and also drove to victory in October 2008. He was third in this race last March and 37th in September. Since finishing seventh in October 2006, Edwards has five top-10 finishes, including three top-fives in his last seven AMS starts. "I can't wait to go to Atlanta Motor Speedway," said Edwards, whose car will have a special paint scheme to commemorate his first Cup victory there. "... The track is great. It's multi-grooved, fast, fun and has a lot of history. The fans there are awesome. The track is similar to Las Vegas, where we made significant improvements but we still need to work on it. This weekend means a lot to me and I can't wait to race there."
Kurt Busch Busch is the defending champion for this weekend's Kobalt Tools 500. "Winning that race signaled to all the other competitors, the media and the fans that our team was for real and the 'blue deuce crew' would be contenders for more race wins and could be a player later on in the points battle," said Busch, who led six times for 234 laps in the dominating victory. "The way our season has gone so far this year, we sure could use another race like that this time around, too."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth is looking for his first Atlanta win but has seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 20 starts there. When he finished 12th in both of last year's races, those were his first finishes outside the top 10 there after a streak of five in a row. "Atlanta is a track where you not only race your competitors, you race the track," Kenseth said. "It's really high-banked and fast. You start off fast and the track gets slick, so you're always looking for a different groove and for more grip. The cars are tougher to drive and they move around a lot more than the old cars used to, so you want to make sure that your car isn't too loose in the turns. When the track gets slick, you've got to have a good-handling car so that you can change your points and get into the corners. I always have a lot of fun racing at Atlanta because it is always a challenge."
Tony Stewart Stewart has two wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 22 starts at Atlanta. In this race last year, Stewart came from two laps down to finish eighth. "At this place (AMS), that is hard to do," said Stewart. "That showed what a strong team and car we had that day. And if we can stay on the lead lap all day (this weekend), I am looking forward to a really good day."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer has yet to finish in the top five at Atlanta, where he has four top-10 finishes in eight starts. One of those top-10s came in this race last March when he was sixth. In fact, all four of his top-10 finishes are sixth place, including three in a row from March 2007 to March 2008. He finished 29th last September. "Atlanta has been a good track for us," he said. "We've run up front, led laps before and had strong showings. But usually something happens at the end. The last time we were there, it was a disaster. Guys with a lot of dirt-track experience run well at Atlanta because that's what you're doing -- you're dirt-tracking at 200 miles per hour at a big race track. You have to get up on the wheel to make things happen but hold onto the car and don't let it get out from underneath you. Most of the time, you're really loose as the back end of the car is trying to come out from underneath you. It happens about every corner on every lap. It doesn't matter what line you're in; you could be on the white line or all the way up at the wall. Either way, you're loose all the way around the track. In order to be good on the long run, you have to be really loose on the start of it."
Jeff Burton Burton has never won at Atlanta, where he has just seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 31 starts. He was 14th last March and 34th in September, and his last top-five there came in the October 2007 race -- and yet he still likes the track. "Atlanta is one of my favorite racetracks," he said. "I really enjoy going there and I'm excited about running there this year. It's one of those places where I think we have a good shot of winning. To me, it's a great challenge. The difference between qualifying and racing there is so big. The track gets so slick during the race and becomes a blast to drive on. You have to get up on the wheel and drive the car. It's so much fun. As a race car driver, that's the kind of racing you hope for. The biggest challenge is the way the speed falls off so much. It's like the track has two personalities. You have to be aggressive and drive hard for qualifying and then, when the race starts, you race it like you used to race Darlington. The place gets really slick and real slimy. It's amazing the amount of grip you don't have there. You have to have a car that makes more grip than your competitors, and making the most out of that is what will put you in the winner's circle. Even the best-handling car there in the last few years has handled awful. So finding a way to do it better than your competition in a low, low grip arena will be the biggest challenge."
Paul Menard Menard has one top-10 finish in seven starts at Atlanta, a seventh in his first Cup start at the track (the spring race of 2006). "I like Atlanta," said Menard. "It's wide and fast and it's a great track to race on, but right now I'd look forward to going just about anywhere."
Jamie McMurray McMurray has four top-10 finishes in 15 starts at Atlanta. "We had a good car last week before the accident, so I feel good about this weekend," said McMurray. "We didn't have any trouble getting into the top 10 after starting 24th (at Vegas). So I think we are going to have a good car for Sunday."
Brian Vickers Vickers will be seeking his third straight top-seven finish and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races at Atlanta. "We are in need of a good run after last week in Vegas," said Vickers. "And I can think of no better track in which to rebound and run up front. Atlanta's been a good track for us."
Joey Logano Logano finished 30th in this race last March and 22nd in September in his only two Cup starts at AMS. "Atlanta was a tough track for me last year, a lot like Texas," Logano said. "I tend to run better on tracks with a lot of grip, and Atlanta doesn't have any. I have gotten much better on them, so I am feeling better about this weekend. The track is so line-sensitive, and I struggled with that. It was frustrating. I'm looking forward to going back now and seeing how much we can improve from last year. Now that Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and I understand each other better, I think it will be much easier to work on the car. Plus, I'm not spending time trying to figure out my way around the tracks anymore. We can unload off the truck and get right to work tuning on the Toyota."
Scott Speed Speed has never finished better than 24th in three Sprint Cup starts at Atlanta. Speed, a former Formula One driver, made his first NASCAR start at AMS in a Camping World Truck race in March 2008. He finished 27th that day but returned in the fall to finish fifth. "Atlanta will always be special because of making my NASCAR debut there," said Speed.
Kevin Harvick Harvick remains the points leader as the series heads to Atlanta, site of his first career victory in 2001 when he replaced the late Dale Earnhardt after he was killed in the last turn of the last lap of that year's Daytona 500. That is Harvick's only win at Atlanta, but he has four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 18 starts there. He was fourth last March and second last September and has three top-10 finishes in his last four AMS starts. "Atlanta, over the last few years, has just been one of those places that seem to fit everything that we do," Harvick said. "We have had chances to win there, whether it's been in a truck, a Nationwide car or our Shell-Pennzoil car -- we have had a chance to win there in anything the last few years. So hopefully nothing has changed. Atlanta has just always been really good to us. We go there expecting to be in contention for the win, and anything short of that will be a disappointment."