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Just Win Baby, or Maybe We Can Get in on Points
Yes, we know. Everyone is tired of being reminded of how many races are left before the start of the Chase—especially the four drivers who sit inside the field but without a win. There are two.
“Well it’s crunch time. We are in it (the Chase) now but we’re not locked in and that’s the goal,” Clint Bowyer said in a pre-race media release. Bowyer is currently the 15th seed.
He’s not just looking for a win, he’s got one eye on the points too.
“We just have to go out and run our race. Like I’ve said, you can’t have any mistakes. We can’t do that these next two races. A win is what we are looking for but right now every point counts too.”
Tire Management Critical to Success at Atlanta
The single most repeated word in nearly every driver’s pre-race release for Atlanta is “tires.”
Atlanta Motor Speedway’s track surface is brutal on tires and may well be one of the most difficult tracks when it comes to tire management. Speeds drop off dramatically after only a handful of laps.
Matt Kenseth said in a pre-race release:
We only go there once a year and it’s really, really worn out so you don’t get a lot of time to get ready. It’s a lot different than any other track we go to with the pavement and the tire combination and all that. I guess the challenge there is to be decent on new tires and still be decent on old tires and be able to get your car to work in every lane and to be able to be versatile enough to search around and find some grip.
Teams will use the same combination of left- and right-side tires that they ran at this track last season. The left-side tire has been run at Atlanta since 2012. The right-side tire uses Goodyear Racing’s multi-zone tread technology, which debuted at Atlanta last year. It is a tire that features two different tread compounds—one for endurance and heat resistance on the inboard three inches of the tread and one for traction on the outboard nine inches.
Final Tune-up for 1.5-mile Tracks in the Chase
Although Atlanta’s slippery and abrasive surface makes it unique in its own right, it still is a 1.5-mile track. Drivers and, more importantly, the crew chiefs of the teams already in the Chase field welcome the opportunity to fine-tune their setup for the 1.5-mile tracks, which make up half of the 10-race Chase schedule.
"Atlanta is our last shot before the Chase to work on our mile and a half program,” Carl Edwards said in a pre-race release. “It's fun, the track's got character, and it's fast.”
For Edwards, Atlanta is a special place. It is the track where he earned both his first Nationwide and his first Cup win.
Ryan Newman echoes Edwards in a pre-race media release from Richard Childress Racing.
“It’s the final mile-and-a-half before the Chase and all mile-and-a-halves you kind of use as a test,” said Newman, who sits 14th in the Chase. “Every weekend is a test of what you try, what you want to do differently, and see if you can find anything else that works for you.”
Weather a Threat
As often happens during the summer, thunderstorms are a threat to pop up, especially later in the afternoon. Sunday's race is a night race, and forecasts call for a slight chance of thunderstorms when the green flag is scheduled, per Weather.com.
Atlanta obviously has lights and a very late curfew, so if there is a delay, the race could run well into the early hours of Labor Day morning. A delayed start due to rain translates into a changed track surface and lower temperatures. Crew chiefs are prepared for such eventualities but are limited as to what changes they can make to the car on pit road during the race.