Idriver Handicaps:/I Atlanta

Who's HOT at Atlanta
  • Carl Edwards has finished third and first, respectively, in two starts.
  • Jimmie Johnson is the defending race winner. The win came in a streak of four consecutive finishes of fourth or better, which includes his second-place finish in March.
  • Kasey Kahne has three top-five finishes in three starts.
  • With the exception of this year's spring race, Stewart has finished in the top 10 since this event in 2001.
  • Greg Biffle is coming off his best finish and third consecutive top 10.
  • Bobby Labonte leads all active drivers with six victories.
  • Jeff Gordon has four wins and has led 975 laps.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the best average finish (11.6) over the last 10 races.

    Who's NOT
  • Jeff Green and Bobby Hamilton Jr. have never led a lap in a combined 15 starts.
  • Kyle Petty has a 29.4 average finish since 1998.
  • Ken Schrader has the worst finishing average (24.1) among all drivers the have started every race since 1998.
  • Robby Gordon's best finish in nine starts is 16th, which came in this event last year.
  • Sterling Marlin has yet to finish in the top 10 since suffering season-ending injuries in 2002.

    Who Else to Watch
  • Mark Martin is among the top five in about every statistical category, which includes top 10s (19) and laps led (881).
  • Brian Vickers captured his best finish, of sixth, in the spring.
  • Dale Jarrett has a 12.3 finishing average over the last 10 races.
  • Matt Kenseth will be back behind the wheel of the same chassis (RK-39) that turned in strong runs at Chicago and Michigan.
  • Ryan Newman will be shooting for his sixth straight Bud Pole and fourth top-10 finish in seven starts.
  • Kurt Busch, the 2002 event winner, tested this weekend's chassis at AMS and was happy with the results.

    1. Tony Stewart
    Avg. Start: 16.1
    Avg. Finish: 13.8

    With the exception of this year's spring race, Stewart has finished in the top 10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway since this event in 2001. These seven top 10s, which include four top fives and one win, are his only at the 1.54-mile oval. His three prior starts there all ended in DNF's. Stewart followed his win in the spring 2002 race with a pole qualifying run for the fall race, posting his best finish and start at AMS in the same year. This spring he qualified ninth, but finished 17th. He has led 472 laps at the track.

    Quotable: "Mathematically, everybody is still in it. As long as everybody is mathematically in it, I don't know how you can count anybody out of it."

    2. Jimmie Johnson
    Avg. Start: 9.0
    Avg. Finish: 12.0

    Johnson won his first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in this event last season. The win came in a streak of four consecutive finishes of fourth or better, which includes his second-place finish in March. In eight starts at AMS, Johnson has captured five top-five finishes, led 176 laps (156 in the spring) and has completed 2,502 of 2,523 laps. This weekend, the Lowe's team will unload the same car (chassis No. 48329) that won at Lowe's Motor Speedway earlier this month.

    Quotable: "Our test went well for us at Atlanta. We went down for a day and it was a little bit warmer than we would have expected it to be, so I feel since the car drove good in the hot conditions, it will be better in the cooler conditions."

    3. Ryan Newman
    Avg. Start: 1.9
    Avg. Finish: 13.6

    Newman will be shooting for his sixth straight Bud Pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway Friday night. His 1.9 starting average is the best among all active drivers. Last spring Newman posted his best finish (fifth) at AMS in five starts. He has a total of four top-10 finishes and has led in every one of his seven races for a total of 156 laps. Newman will race the same car (PRS-79) that earned a seventh-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway earlier this month. The car will carry the Mobil 1 colors for the last time in 2005.

    Quotable: "A streak of top 10s is going to have to turn into a streak of top fives and a few wins to secure the championship."

    4. Greg Biffle
    Avg. Start: 14.2
    Avg. Finish: 13.6

    In March, Biffle posted his best finish (third) and third consecutive top 10 in his fifth start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He will drive chassis RK-275, which is the same car that won at California and finished third at Lowe's earlier this month. Biffle has one win, four top-five finishes and two poles in five Busch races at AMS.

    Quotable: "I'm just happy to have Martinsville behind us and I'm really looking forward to these next four races."

    5. Carl Edwards
    Avg. Start: 4.0
    Avg. Finish: 2.0

    Edwards captured his first NEXTEL Cup Series win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. The win came in his second start at AMS. In both races he started fourth and led a combined total of 24 laps. In the spring, Edwards also became the first driver to sweep both races in one weekend after winning the Busch race. Edwards will race the same car (chassis RK-320) that raced at Kansas and Lowe's during the "Chase for the Cup."

    Quotable: "I still can't believe I got my first win there earlier this year. I remember coming off turn four just determined to do what I had to do to get by Jimmie (Johnson)."

    6. Rusty Wallace
    Avg. Start: 16.1
    Avg. Finish: 17.0

    Wallace has only posted three top-10 finishes (best fourth, 1998 spring) since Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured to its current 1.54-mile layout. On the old 1.522-mile Atlanta track Wallace captured two wins, with the last coming on Nov. 14, 1993. Atlanta is also the site of his first Cup race and where he clinched the 1989 championship.

    Quotable: "That was a tough blow to take there at Martinsville on Sunday, but there's absolutely nothing we can do about it now. We just have to come into Atlanta looking to bounce back with a super strong run."

    7. Mark Martin
    Avg. Start: 10.6
    Avg. Finish: 16.4

    Martin will make his 40th-career NEXTEL Cup start at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend in the same car (chassis No. RK-315) that he won with at Kansas. In the last two races at AMS Martin has finished second and fourth, respectively. In the spring he led two of his career total 881 laps.

    Quotable: "After the weekend we had at Martinsville, it's going to be nice to get back to Atlanta."

    8. Kurt Busch
    Avg. Start: 18.2
    Avg. Finish: 21.3

    Busch captured his first superspeedway win at Atlanta Motor Speedway back in the 2002 rain-shortened event. Last year in this event Busch tightened the championship together after exiting the race only 51 laps in when the engine in his Sharpie Ford let go. Busch was credited with a 42nd-place finish. The No. 97 Sharpie team will unload the same car (chassis No. 62) that finished second at Lowe's Motor Speedway and was tested at AMS last week. The No. 97 will sport the blue and yellow colors of IRWIN Industrial Tools.

    Quotable: "We tested here last week and were happy with the results, so we're excited about getting out there and having another strong run in the IRWIN Ford. Our primary sponsor Newell-Rubbermaid is also headquartered in Atlanta, so we'd love to have a strong run in their backyard."

    9. Matt Kenseth
    Avg. Start: 25.6
    Avg. Finish: 19.0

    Kenseth has yet to reach Victory Lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but has posted five top-10 finishes in 11 starts. In the spring he finished 32nd after getting caught up in an early wreck. Kenseth will be back behind the wheel of the same chassis (RK-39) that turned in strong runs at Chicago and Michigan.

    Quotable: "I think we'll be competitive this weekend and we'll be looking to regain some points that we've lost over the past couple of weeks."

    10. Jeremy Mayfield
    Avg. Start: 16.6
    Avg. Finish: 21.0

    Mayfield has captured four top fives and five top 10s in 19 starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He will race chassis No. 116, which has competed in four races in 2005 finishing a best 14th in June at Pocono.

    11. Jamie McMurray
    Avg. Start: 19.5
    Avg. Finish: 19.0

    McMurray is currently sitting in the 11th spot in the standings, the same place where he finished the season last year and where he finished the spring race this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He'll make his seventh start at AMS this weekend. His best finish (seventh) came in his first appearance there in this event in 2002. The team is bringing one of McMurray's more popular cars to the track this weekend. The car (chassis No. 403) has been raced in 12 events already this season.

    12. Kevin Harvick
    Avg. Start: 16.9
    Avg. Finish: 23.3

    In his first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2001, Harvick captured an emotional victory in just his fourth career Cup start. He scored his second, and last top five there the same year in the fall. Since then, his best finish has been 19th in the spring event in 2003. This weekend marks his 10th start at AMS and the last race in Harvick's crew chief's two-race suspension. He will once again be paired with the ACDelco Busch Series' crew chief Gil Martin. The team will race chassis No. 134, which was last raced in the All-Star Challenge. Prior to that race, the car saw two top 10s at both Las Vegas and California.

    13. Joe Nemechek
    Avg. Start: 16.2
    Avg. Finish: 20.7

    This weekend marks the two-year anniversary of Nemechek's debut in the MB2 Motorsports U.S. Army ride. Through his whole career at AMS, having raced 23 times there so far, he has posted three top fives, six top 10s and has led five times for 134 laps. He led 57 of those laps en route to his best finish of second there at this event in 2002. Although he qualified seventh this spring, Nemechek ended the race with his fifth Atlanta DNF with a 35th-place finish.

    14. Elliott Sadler
    Avg. Start: 18.5
    Avg. Finish: 22.5

    Sadler is still in search of his first top-five finish at Atlanta. He has two top 10s, most recently in the spring, in 12 starts. Sadler will be back in the annual special Halloween paint scheme this weekend. The No. 38 will sport purple and orange colors with the M&M's characters dressed up in costumes along with the M&M's Minis.

    15. Jeff Gordon
    Avg. Start: 13.8
    Avg. Finish: 14.4

    Gordon has captured four wins in 26 career starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He is second only to Bill Elliott in laps led among active drivers at the track with 975.

    16. Brian Vickers
    Avg. Start: 6.8
    Avg. Finish: 19.3

    Vickers posted his two top 10s at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his last two starts. His sixth-place finish in the spring was his best in four starts.

    17. Dale Jarrett
    Avg. Start: 19.1
    Avg. Finish: 14.2

    Jarrett has one win, 11 top fives and two poles in 35 career races at Atlanta. His lone win came on the old configuration, but since 1998 Jarrett has been fairly consistent, posting a finishing average of 11.3, which is the best among all drivers that have entered the last 15 races. The UPS team will be racing a car (chassis No. 54) that was tested at various locations.

    18. Jeff Burton
    Avg. Start: 28.1
    Avg. Finish: 18.1

    Burton has posted nine top 10s in 21 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Last fall Burton finished sixth in his first Atlanta race with Richard Childress Racing. He has led a total of 100 laps at AMS, with the last time being in 2001.

    19. Kyle Busch
    Avg. Start: 35.0
    Avg. Finish: 27.5

    In March, Busch battled from a 42nd starting position to post his best finish (12th) in his second start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Last fall he started 28th and finished 43rd after mechanical problems on lap 44.

    20. Kasey Kahne
    Avg. Start: 16.3
    Avg. Finish: 4.3

    Kahne has finished fifth or better in his three starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His career-best finish, of third, came in his first start at the track in March 2004. This event last season was the only time Kahne has led a lap at AMS - a total of four. This past spring he scored his best starting position of fifth.

    21. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    Avg. Start: 14.8
    Avg. Finish: 13.3

    Earnhardt Jr. captured a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the spring race last year after a run at the track of five straight top-10 finishes. In those races Junior lead at least one lap in every one of those races. In total at the 1.54-mile track, Earnhardt has led 332 laps, including his first career Cup race lap led in his first start there in 1999. Prior to his first top 10 in this event in 2001, where he started from the pole for the only time at AMS, he failed to finish within the top 10. And since his win, he has also failed to deliver, posting a 33rd-finish (DNF) last fall and a 24th-finish this spring.

    22. Ricky Rudd
    Avg. Start: 19.1
    Avg. Finish: 17.5

    Rudd's best finish in the last eight races came in this event last season when he finished 12th. Rudd, who will tie Bill Elliott among active drivers in starts at AMS with 56, has 22-career top 10s at the 1.54-mile speedway.

    23. Michael Waltrip
    Avg. Start: 22.5
    Avg. Finish: 21.5

    Waltrip scored his first top 10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this past spring (finished seventh) since finishing 10th in 1999.

    24. Bobby Labonte
    Avg. Start: 17.0
    Avg. Finish: 14.0

    Six of Labonte's 21 career wins have come at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His last win came in the 2003 spring race and his last of 13 top 10s came the same year, in this event, when he finished fifth. Labonte will pilot the same car (chassis No. 91) that he raced in three events this year, finishing a best-13th at Chicago. The car will carry sponsor GlaxoSmithKline's Asthma Control Test (ACT).

    25. Casey Mears
    Avg. Start: 17.4
    Avg. Finish: 23.4

    Mears' pink Breast Cancer Research Foundation paint scheme will make its final start at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Mears' sixth start at the track. His best finish of 13th came one year ago and has been his only top-15 finish there. This weekend Mears will race one of his team's favorite and most successful chassis, No. 206. This car took Mears to his sixth-place finish two weeks ago at Charlotte and an eighth-place finish the week before that at Kansas. The Atlanta race will mark its ninth appearance of this season.

    28. Dave Blaney
    Avg. Start: 16.0
    Avg. Finish: 22.7

    Blaney equaled his best finish (eighth) in eleven career races at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. Last year he only entered the spring race at AMS where he finished 11th for Bill Davis Racing. Blaney will return in the same car (chassis No. 156) he drove to a 13th-place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway earlier this month.

    30. Sterling Marlin
    Avg. Start: 21.5
    Avg. Finish: 17.0

    Marlin makes his 42nd start this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. His best finish at the track is second, twice, most recently at this event in 2001. In total he has four top fives, 13 top 10s and has led eight times for 90 laps. He'll return in the same chassis (No. 205) that he rallied to a 16th-place finish at AMS in the spring after starting 39th.

    RacingOne Staff Picks:

    Pete Pistone: Jimmie Johnson
    Rick Benjamin: Ryan Newman
    Ron Lemasters: Tony Stewart
    Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Jeff (Greg Biffle-California, Kevin Harvick-Bristol, Jeff Gordon-Martinsville, Tony Stewart-Daytona, Ryan Newman-New Hampshire)
    Rick (Jeff Gordon-Talladega, Greg Biffle-Michigan, Kurt Busch-Richmond)
    Ron (Tony Stewart-Infineon, Tony Stewart-Indianapolis, Tony Stewart-Watkins Glen)
    Pete (Jimmie Johnson-Lowe's, Jeff Gordon-Martinsville)

    Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500
    Atlanta Motor Speedway

    TV: NBC, 12:00 p.m. (ET).
    Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.
    Race length: 325 Laps, 500 miles.

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