Atlanta Vital for RCR
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 29, 2014 | 12:18 P.M. EST
While Ryan Newman’s fate is not completely secured, he does enjoy at least a somewhat comfortable spot through the standings. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for his two RCR teammates Austin Dillon and Paul Menard who are 40 and 45 points, respectively, behind Greg Biffle, who has the final transfer spot.
With only two races left in the regular season only Ryan Newman is high enough in the point standings to secure a spot in the playoff field. Heading into Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Newman is 14th in the standings and 42 ahead of Kyle Larson, who sits 17th in the rankings and on the outside looking in on the field of 16.
While Newman’s fate is not completely secured, he does enjoy at least a somewhat comfortable spot through the standings. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for his two RCR teammates Austin Dillon and Paul Menard who are 40 and 45 points respectively behind Greg Biffle, who has the final transfer spot.
So for Dillon and Menard a win at either Atlanta or Richmond appears to be their only way to join the championship field.
Dillon’s rookie season has been solid and he does have an Atlanta Sprint Cup Series start under his belt when he came home 19th last season. He’s a fan of the 1.5-mile speedway and is looking forward to the opportunity Sunday night to perhaps find his way to a first career series win.
“I think Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the raciest mile-and-a-half tracks on the circuit for sure,” said Dillon. “I love Homestead-Miami Speedway, too. Both tracks remind me of each other, but Atlanta Motor Speedway is definitely slicker. It's one of those places that can be very frustrating and very fun at the same time.
“I really enjoy it at night, and I'm ready to get there. We saved one of our tests for later in the season and tested at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Our teams did learn a lot during the test, it was definitely helpful."
Menard will make his 13th career Atlanta Sprint Cup start Sunday night and has scored a top-five finish back in 2010. Like Dillon he enjoys Atlanta’s layout and the multiple options it provides to a driver.
"Yeah, if you took a poll of all the drivers, the number one track to race at is going to be Atlanta for everyone's vote,” said Menard. “It's abrasive, it wears out tires and we slide around the track. It's really fast for one lap, then it progressively gets worse from there. All of these factors make it really fun for drivers."
For Newman the Atlanta race may also provide an opportunity to tweak the No. 31 team’s 1.5-mile package for the Chase, which features half of the schedule on similar sized speedways. But even if Newman is able to move on into the field of 16 that will compete for the crown, he’s not viewing Atlanta as anything more than a race he wants to win.
"I don't see it as the final tune-up,” said Newman. “I see it as another opportunity. It is such a different animal of a race track because of the way the tires fall off. You really don't see that as much with the track's coming up, except for a place like Texas.
“I see Atlanta as its own kind of animal because of the tire-track combination. But it is important. It does build confidence, which is probably more important than the actual balance of the car."