With more than 80,000 high-speed miles driven around Atlanta Motor Speedway among them, this year's class of Chase for the NEXTEL Cup chasers is a great blend of youth and experience. From rookie sensation Denny Hamlin, to the crafty veteran Mark Martin, the 2006 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup is comprised of NASCAR's elite drivers, and with the slate being wiped clean for the start of the Chase, it is anyone's Cup to claim.
Below is a look at the contenders for the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and their history at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
1. Matt Kenseth No. 17 DEWalt Ford Fusion
With 13 starts at AMS, Kenseth has recorded six top-10 and three top-five finishes. Finishing 13th in March at AMS, Kenseth is still searching for his first win. Kenseth has been equally successful in both the fall and spring races, with three top-10 finishes in each. (Average finish at AMS: 17th, in 13 starts).
2. Jimmie Johnson No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Coming off of a sixth-place finish in March, Johnson brings six top-10 and five top-five finishes to Atlanta. Johnson also has a win to his credit at AMS, coming in the fall 2004 Bass Pro Shops 500. (Average finish at AMS: 11th, in 10 starts).
3. Kevin Harvick No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
The driver of the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet has two top-five finishes at AMS, one of which was a victory in his first race ever at AMS in the spring of 2001. His most recent trip to AMS brought him a finish of 39th, and apart from a win and a third-place finish in his first two races at AMS, Harvick's best finish is 19th. (Average finish at AMS: 24th, in 11 starts).
4. Kyle Busch No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Busch and fellow Chase contender Denny Hamlin are the only drivers in the Chase to come to AMS without a top-10 finish. With only four starts, Busch has recorded three 12th-place finishes at AMS but has a finish of 43rd in his inaugural start. (Average finish at AMS: 19th, in four starts).
5. Denny Hamlin No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
The lone rookie in this year's Chase, Hamlin brings to AMS finishes of 19th and 31st, the latter of which came in March. The rookie driver for Joe Gibbs Racing has come a long way since he last visited AMS, recording two wins in the 2006 season. (Average finish at AMS: 25th, in two starts).
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
Earnhardt Jr.'s eight top-10 and six top-five finishes at AMS have proved Earnhardt Jr. can be successful and a factor in the Bass Pro Shops 500. In 14 races, Earnhardt Jr. has only three finishes of 20th or worse, with two of those coming in the fall. Earnhardt Jr.'s lone win at AMS came the spring of 2004. Earnhardt calls AMS his favorite track. (Average finish at AMS: 11th, in 14 starts).
7. Mark Martin No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
With more Atlanta starts and lead lap finishes than anyone in the Chase, Martin is the definition of consistency at AMS. Martin has two victories, 21 top-10 and 13 top-five finishes on his AMS résumé. Both of Martin's Atlanta victories have come in the fall race, however, Martin's lone pole position came in the spring race. Martin finished second behind fellow Chaser Kasey Kahne in the March Golden Corral 500. (Average finish at AMS: 15th, with 41 starts).
8. Jeff Burton No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
AMS has not been the kindest track to the South Boston, Va. native, especially in the fall. Burton's best fall race finish of fourth came nearly a decade ago in 1998. With 10 top-10s and five top-five finishes in 24 starts, Burton has experienced some success at NASCAR's fastest track. (Average finish at AMS: 17th, in 24 starts).
9. Jeff Gordon No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
With 18 top-10, 12 top-five finishes and four victories at AMS, Gordon's Atlanta résumé rivals only that of fellow chase contender Mark Martin. Gordon finished second last fall and fourth in his most recent visit to AMS. Gordon made his first NEXTEL Cup Series start at Atlanta in 1992, finishing 31st. (Average finish at AMS: 13th, in 28 starts).
10. Kasey Kahne No. 9 UAW Dodge Dealers Dodge Charger
It has been feast or famine for Atlanta's most recent winner. Boasting a strong spring record, which includes a win, a third and a fifth-place finish, Kahne no doubt has Atlanta dialed in when it comes to March racing at AMS. Unfortunately for Kahne, in two fall starts Kahne has recorded finishes of 32 and 35. Kahne does lead the series with five wins in 2006. (Average finish at AMS: 18th, in five starts).
"The Bass Pro Shops 500 really plays a pivotal role in shaping the closing events of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," said Atlanta Motor Speedway president and general manager Ed Clark. "When the teams leave Atlanta after the Bass Pro Shops 500, some will be longshots and a few remaining teams will be set to make an all out stretch run for the 2006 championship."
For information on these ticket specials and more, fans can contact the AMS ticket office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211 or at an authorized Ticketmaster retail outlet.