Sitting on the outside looking in, the Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will likely be a must-win event for those drivers still fighting to qualify for NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship.
A small gang of NASCAR namesakes – Jamie McMurray (13th place, -100), Mark Martin (14th, -101), Ryan Newman (15th, -118) and Kasey Kahne (16th, -136) – are still trying to battle their way into NASCAR's 10-race postseason dash. With just two races remaining to move into the top-12 in the standings, Atlanta will likely prove critical to determining these drivers Championship hopes.
The odds are staked against this group of drivers, making the need to drive all out for a win even more critical. While 13th-place McMurray sits just 100-points back of Clint Bowyer's 2920 points, Bowyer merely needs to finish seventh or better in each of the next two races to secure his Chase berth, even if McMurray wins consecutive races.
However, a push into the postseason is not unthinkable for McMurray, who surged to pick up five positions in points over the last five races. In that period, McMurray has outscored Bowyer by 81 points and the Missouri native has two wins in 2010 to buoy his confidence.
Of other hopefuls, Kahne won last year's NASCAR Labor Day weekend Sprint Cup Series night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway to secure his position in the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Meanwhile, Newman's history in Atlanta includes seven pole wins, tying the "Rocket Man" for the track record with his mentor, Buddy Baker.
McMurray has never qualified for the Chase, while Martin (four times), Newman (three) and Kahne (two) have each previously made the field and each most-recently qualifying in 2009. Kane also previously made up the largest Chase-points deficit in history to qualify in 2006 when he made up 90 points in the final two races.
Among those currently closest to falling out of the Chase, Greg Biffle (11th, 3055 total points) has the best-career record at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Biffle has an average finish of 15th in Atlanta, seventh-best among active Cup drivers, and nine top-10 finishes in 15 starts. However, both 10th-place Kurt Busch and 12th-place Bowyer has also been strong in Atlanta, with Busch winning the past two Spring races at the track and boasting an average finish of 17.7 (15th best among Cup drivers) and Bowyer having an average finish of 16.4 (12th best among Cup drivers).
Points leader Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon have already secured their position in the Chase and the next nine drivers are eligible to clinch their position at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.
Coming Off Montreal Win, Zaxby's Car to Feature Ga.-Native Townley
Coming off this weekend's win in Montreal by road course ringer Boris Said, the No. 09 Zaxby's Nationwide Series ride will enter the Great Clips 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Georgia-native John Wes Townley at the wheel.
The win in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by Said marked the first-career win for team owner Robby Benton of RAB Racing in three years of competition in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Townley, who competed as a youth in Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder, will make his first-career NASCAR start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Townley recorded one win and 13 top-10 finishes in five years racing INEX-sanctioned events at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Townley has competed on a part-time basis for RAB Racing since the 2008 season and Richard Childress Racing since 2010, appearing in 37 events. Townley's best finish came earlier this year in the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he placed 15th.
Busch Artwork to be Added to Club One Wall of Champions
A photoillustration of race winner Kurt Busch from the 2010 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be added to the Club One "Wall of Champions" during the 2010 Emory Healthcare 500 race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sept. 3-6.
Atlanta-based photoillustrative artist Ardy Arani has created a unique image of each Atlanta race winner since the opening of Club One in October of 2006 and the eight-foot-long photo of Busch will be added to the "Wall of Champions" during this weekend's events.
"Racing is bold, colorful and full of energy, and that is what I try to incorporate into these images," said Arani about the latest edition to the Club's collection.
"When you stand there and look at an image this size, it is in your face and demands your attention, just like a NASCAR Sprint Cup car on the banks of Atlanta Motor Speedway," added Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark. "When Ardy and I began planning the art for Club One, we knew it would have to be something dramatic, and his large format images really make an impact."
Busch, a three-time winner in Atlanta, will be on hand to sign the art and will participate in a private question-and-answer session in Club One prior to the running of the Emory Healthcare 500 on Sunday, Sept. 5. Busch will answer questions from fans as a select bonus only for Club One ticket holders.
Fans can secure Club One tickets for the Emory Healthcare 500 race weekend by calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX, or visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Perfect for entertaining a small group or business guests, Club One tickets start at just $395 and include private parking, pit road access and superb food and beverage.