With the organization closing in on its 200th victory and holding a combined nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles among its active drivers, winning is expected at Hendrick Motorsports. For Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne , the AdvoCare 500 on Labor Day Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway stands of a good chance of playing a pivotal role in whether or not either will qualify for the Chase for the Championship.
It has been a frustrating 2012 so far for both drivers. Gordon is 21st in the points standings after six races with just one top ten finish while Kahne is 31st with his best finish being 14th.
Both drivers have been plagued by bad luck which was prevented strong finishes. Kahne has won a pair of pole positions but has failed to finish two races, one as a result of being involved in an accident and the other being an engine failure.
For Gordon, he has a pair of solid finishes at Las Vegas and Phoenix to show for his efforts and he was leading in the closing laps at Martinsville before a handful of late-race incidents dropped him back to finish 14th .
With so much ground to make up, the AdvoCare 500 on Labor Day Weekend at AMS could be critical to the Chase for the Championship hopes for Gordon and Kahne. That may be welcome news for both drivers. Gordon is the defending race winner and Kahne won in 2009 – the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race at AMS.
They would hardly be the first drivers needing a good showing on Labor Day Weekend to qualify for the Chase. With Atlanta being the next-to-last race prior to the Chase, it is a key jockeying point for drivers seeking to scratch their way into NASCAR’s 10-race playoff format.
While the Chase field is set following the race in Richmond, Atlanta serves as a means to get into the top 12. As a result, drivers outside the Chase window are likely to find it tough to race their way back in at Richmond.
Kahne knows a thing or two about using Atlanta as a springboard. His 2009 victory vaulted him into the Chase. In 2010, Clint Bowyer’s seventh-place finish kept him in the top 12, helping him make the Chase.
Last year, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart ran well enough to solidify Chase positions following the AdvoCare 500 while Bowyer being involved in an accident and David Ragan’s engine failure all but ending their hopes of qualifying for the Chase.
This much is certain – Atlanta Motor Speedway may very well be where Chase hopes are either made or broken.