The window of opportunity continues to decrease for drivers vying for positions in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with Atlanta Motor Speedway's Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR weekend one race closer.
The Labor Day Weekend event is one of three races left before the field for NASCAR's 10-race championship format is set. Any driver winning their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the season will qualify for the Chase as long as they are ranked in the top 30 of the points standings. Four spots to get into the Chase are up for grabs, meaning that at least one Chase position will go to the highest-ranked driver in the point standings without a race victory.
"The pressure is becoming intense for drivers not yet qualified for the Chase," Atlanta Motor Speedway President & GM Ed Clark said. "Every position gained during the next three races will be highly critical for drivers. The intensity and pressure should be at its highest point of the season, and that is a big win for race fans."
Currently, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle are in position to get into the Chase without a race victory. Those that would miss the Chase if it began this week would include Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Larson, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon.
With little time remaining before the Chase field is set, every position is becoming more important than it has been all season long. That was strongly reflected Sunday at Michigan. Menard briefly challenged for the lead in the closing laps before claiming a hard-fought fourth-place finish. Another driver fighting for every position possible, Ryan Newman, engaged in an aggressive battle with Jimmie Johnson near the finish of the event.
Vickers and Larson, meanwhile, failed to finish Sunday's race. Larson's last-place finish after crashing moved him from being ranked high enough to make the Chase a week ago to being on the outside looking in this week. These two drivers will join a handful of others desperate for a win during the next three events.
All of this builds drama as NASCAR continues to move toward the return of NASCAR night racing to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug. 29-31 Labor Day Weekend with the Oral-B USA 500.
For more information on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Labor Day weekend of night racing, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.