RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase bubble watch " Chase Fest details A year ago, it was Kasey Kahne . Only two races remained before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was 13th in points. Unfortunately, he was outside the top 16 in the Chase standings. Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , AJ Allmendinger , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola trailed Kahne in points. But they were among those that had wins. They had invitations to the dance. At the time, Kahne had managed only two top-five finishes. His average finishing position was 16.8. He hadn't been to the victory lane since midway through the previous season. So he and his team went out and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway . It earned Kahne one of the final Chase spots and the No. 5 team a second chance. It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Kevin Harvick , as was often the case, was dominant at AMS. Kahne fell a lap down early. The team battled back. He didn't take the lead for the first time until Lap 303 of the scheduled 325-lap race. Suddenly, he seemed to be on his way to the win. Then cautions appeared, forcing two late restarts. Green, white, checkered late. Kahne's lead was lost on pit road. Yet somehow he muscled his way past Matt Kenseth coming to the white flag, holding on for the win and a spot in the Chase. It's a similar position for the 35-year-old this year. Two races remain -- stops at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the field is finalized for this year's 10-race run to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Kahne is once again winless. He is not alone. Teammate Jeff Gordon has finished inside the top five only three times this year. The four-time champion is ahead of Clint Bowyer in the playoff picture, with a wider margin back to folks such as Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle . A year ago Gordon had three wins and a vise-like grip on first place in the points. Bowyer's got a pair of top-fives, but much of the attention around the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing centers on where Bowyer will call home next season. Paul Menard has a razor-thin lead on Gordon in points, but taking nothing for granted. Can anyone? Matt Kenseth 's blown engine at Bristol last week, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver 42nd in the final rundown, didn't go unnoticed. Things not only can happen, they often do. With 10 drivers already secure -- 11 if you go ahead and give Kyle Busch one of the spots although he's close enough to the fault line that a misstep could make things interesting -- and two races remaining, at least three of this year's Chase spots will be filled based on the points standings after Richmond. It could be five, if no new winner emerges in the next two weeks. Few on the fringes, though, have shown signs of contending for wins. Almirola? One top five and only three laps led this season. Biffle? It's shaping up to be the wrong type of career year for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, with just two top-fives and an average finish of 20th. Austin Dillon ? Kyle Larson ? Both have shown potential. Both are winless. Kahne? Well, who knows? The question isn't can it be done. Kahne's already proven that it's possible. The question is who among those can pull it off?
Dillon nabbed second, third-place finishes in adjacent Truck, XFINITY races Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live HAMPTON, Ga. -- Double-duty. From Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to Team Penske 's Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano , plenty of NASCAR's biggest names have routinely raced in multiple national series events for many of the season's weekends for years. Richard Childress Racing XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon has gotten a taste of that each of the first two weeks of the season thus far, running all three races at Daytona -- including his first Daytona 500 start -- followed by the XFINITY / Camping World Truck Series Hisense 250 /Hyundai Construction Parts 200 double-header at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. Dillon wasn't alone in doing so, as he was joined by Erik Jones , Daniel Suarez, John Wes Townley , Ryan Sieg and Morgan Shepherd in the 450-mile, two-race conquest. Where his feats did stand out, however, were at the front of the pack. The 23-year-old finished third in the XFINITY race -- behind race-winning Sprint Cup Series champ Kevin Harvick and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano -- and second in the Truck Series race -- behind two-time defending series champ Matt Crafton . Not too shabby. "When you can come out of a race track like Atlanta , that's so tough to drive, with two top-three finishes in two of the top-three series, it's awesome," Dillon said following the Truck Series race. "I'm very happy with the way the day went. "It was nice running two of everything and making it to the media center twice. I thought I'd sit in Joey (Logano)'s chair this time; he's had some good luck so I'm sitting where he sat during the last (post-race press conference following the XFINITY race) … I've always dreamed of being a driver who runs multiple series in a weekend; hopefully in the Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY and Trucks." Dillon will be competing for the driver's championship in the XFINITY Series, but will have a shot at plenty of trophies and Victory Lane celebrations between his occasional Cup and Truck starts remaining this season. The most valuable thing he'll take away from these additional races, however, is the experience. Saturday's races gave him a front row seat to what that looks like. "Obviously, we were racing against a guy who just won the Daytona 500 and two guys who were just battling for the ( Sprint Cup Series) championship, so they obviously know what they're doing," Dillon said of Logano and Harvick, respectively, who have 80 combined XFINITY and Truck Series victories between them. "You see them in front of you, you get hungry. You want to get up there and battle with those guys, but hopefully down the road when I gain more experience, I'll be able to compete a little bit better in that situation, but I was proud of our run. "All in all, the circumstances, maybe a couple more restarts and we might've been able to race with them a little bit harder, but it is what it is. They're pretty dang good here. I think Harvick's won just about every time he's raced here, so I'm proud of our effort and hopefully next year we come back and we'll be able to race with them." Dillon will get another shot at doubling down this weekend in Sin City, when the RCR driver gets behind the wheel of his No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro in Saturday's Boyd Gaming 300 (4 p.m. ET, FS1) and the No. 33 Chevrolet SS in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . "It's a great feeling to start the season off on back-to-back third place finishes," Dillon said. "It gives us a lot of confidence and I wouldn't be surprised if we go compete for a win next week in Las Vegas." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live 1. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Finding his way to clear air on the race's final restart, Johnson got all the encouragement he needed over the team's in-car radio: "Leg it, baby. Leg it." The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion did, pulling away to his fourth victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the 71st of his career in NASCAR's top series. Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 2. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. The defending Sprint Cup champion had to carve his way from the back of the field after suffering engine failure during Saturday practice, but was perched atop the leaderboard by the 87th lap in the 325-lap distance. Harvick wound up leading a race-high 116 laps in recording his second runner-up finish in two races thus far in 2015. " WATCH: Johnson holds off Harvick for the win 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Junior has opened the season by going 2-for-2 in posting third-place finishes despite sustaining front-end damage Sunday when he ran into a piece of debris in the late going. Though he consistently was near the front of the pack, Earnhardt led just one lap all afternoon. " WATCH: Dale Jr.: Crew chief Ives is 'a pretty good cheerleader' 4. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. The Daytona 500 champ continued his hot streak by winning the Coors Light Pole Award on Friday. Though he lacked the power to mount a challenge over the final green-flag run, Logano will enter next Sunday's Kobalt 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the Sprint Cup points leader. " WATCH: Out Front with Miss Coors Light 5. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. The JGR driver -- who led 10 laps Sunday and lined up second for the final restart -- watched his losing skid stretch to 46 races (dating back to 2013) after a slight fade just before the checkered flag. 6. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing. The modest rejuvenation continues for Truex and the Colorado-based team owned by Barney Visser. The Furniture Row bunch registered just five top-10 finishes in all 36 races last year; two races into 2015, Truex and Co. already have a pair of single-digit results. " MORE: Truex looks to put 2014 woes behind him 7. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. A strong finish on an intermediate track helped lift the spirits of the single-car organization, which qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs for the first time last year. After just two races, Allmendinger is slotted in a tie for eighth in the series standings. " MORE: Chase Grid after two races 8. Brett Moffitt, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. The former NASCAR Next driver needed to receive the free pass two times to do it, but Moffitt closed the deal on the lead lap on a day of firsts for his career-best finish in just his eighth Sprint Cup start. Brian Vickers is scheduled to return to MWR's No. 55 ride next weekend at Las Vegas. 9. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. The 2012 champion had hopes for a top-five finish, but his aspirations were also tempered with temporary resignation over what he thought could have been a subpar 15th-place result. "We were just kind of up and down and floating all day long," Keselowski said after settling for somewhere in the middle of his expectations in ninth place. 10. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Newman appeared sunk after absorbing significant damage in a four-car crash on Lap 257, but hard work from his RCR crew in making repairs buoyed Newman to a surprising top-10. 11. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. After opening up 2014 with patchwork finishes of 39th, 15th, 25th, third and 43rd, Almirola has some consistency to crow about this season. "That's a big head start from last year!" Almirola tweeted after his second straight top-15 finish pushed him into a tie for eighth in Sprint Cup points. " MORE: Follow drivers on Social Drive 12. Carl Edwards, No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards was the beneficiary of the race's next-to-last yellow flag, helping him recover from a seemingly disastrous flat tire in the 274th lap for a lead-lap finish. 13. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. The Wisconsin native couldn't shake the unluckiest of numbers, starting and finishing 13th as the final driver on the lead lap. 14. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The track that produced Kahne's last-ditch clincher into the Chase field last September wasn't so kind this time around. A pit-road penalty for a rolling-tire infraction in the 293rd lap forced the Hendrick Motorsports driver to make a pass-through on pit lane during green-flag conditions. 15. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. Sunday's top-15 finish wasn't quite the windfall the Germain team received from Mears' sixth-place run in the Daytona 500, but the solid day kept its driver in the same position in Sprint Cup points -- sixth. 16. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Atlanta provided the backdrop for Patrick's career-best Sprint Cup finish of sixth place last season. While 16th place marked a slip in performance, the effort -- coupled with 21st place the previous week at Daytona -- launched Patrick into the final spot on the provisional Chase grid. 17. Regan Smith, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Smith's second start as a substitute for suspended Kurt Busch had nearly the same result as the first, just one spot lower than his 16th place in the Daytona 500. The degree of difficulty may have been greater at Atlanta , though, after Smith's No. 41 was crumpled in a multicar fracas 20 laps from the end. " WATCH: Big wreck brings out the red flag 18. David Ragan, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Ragan pushed the No. 18 car up into the top five in the early stages of his first start as a fill-in for injured Kyle Busch, but said he was "a little timid" in making needed adjustments as the 500-miler went on. "I felt like we had a good, solid top-10 car and things just didn't shake out," Ragan said. 19. Trevor Bayne, No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne was at the head of the Roush Fenway class at Atlanta , but frustrated in finishing two laps down. The midpack result left him hoping to see the team's determination rewarded soon. "I see a lot of people trying to work together and that's where it starts," Bayne said. "We obviously haven't seen any results as far as speed is concerned." 20. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Allgaier made the most of his survival instinct after two instances of evasive action in the race's late stages. The second-year driver brushed the wall avoiding the Lap 257 pile-up that snared four cars, then dipped to the apron to dodge the Lap 305 snarl that grabbed seven more competitors. 21. Sam Hornish Jr., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Inopportune timing put Hornish in the path of debris from Austin Dillon's blown tire in the 60th lap. Damage to the front end jolted the grille and left the RPM No. 9 crew fighting an uphill battle for most of the race; his own flat tire and a later brush with the wall only compounded the trouble. 22. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Gilliland pressed on after a bump from behind in the four-car crash on the 257th lap. He also stayed on the track during the race's fourth yellow flag to lead a lap for the first time at Atlanta since March 2010. 23. Alex Bowman, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. After failing to qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500, Bowman opened his season at Atlanta as one of the biggest movers in a race filled with them. The second-year Sprint Cup driver gained 19 spots from his starting position. 24. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer gained track position by staying on the track late in the race, but his day went from sour to downright acidic in a hurry. An engine issue developed with around 35 laps left, just before the race's final crash engulfed him with 20 to go. 25. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. The Biff fought an ill-handling car most of the day, but lost the most ground when he overcooked his entry into Turn 3 on the race's next-to-last restart, igniting the race's biggest crash. 26. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. The site of an eighth-place finish last season held much higher promise for 2014's Sunoco Rookie of the Year, but sustaining plenty of contact in the race's biggest crash near the finish prompted Larson to tweet afterward: "Such a frustrating race. Top 5 car but had no luck." " MORE: Follow drivers on Social Drive 27. Michael McDowell, No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing. The small, family-owned team found some solace in McDowell's best result in five career starts at Atlanta , marking the first time he was running at the finish at the 1.54-mile venue. 28. Brendan Gaughan, No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The Jay Robinson-owned start-up team recovered after failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Brian Scott. It marked the occasion of Gaughan's first Sprint Cup start since August 2013. 29. Michael Annett, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Annett and Co. struck an 11th-hour deal to jump in the Joe Falk-owned ride after his regular HScott Motorsports No. 46 ride missed out on Coors Light Pole Qualifying. The last-minute move kept his goal of a complete Sprint Cup season alive. 30. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart was one of several drivers who started near the back of the pack after issues clearing Friday's pre-qualifying inspection. Smoke grappled with handling woes for much of the race, but matters got worse with involvement in the event's final multicar crash. 31. Mike Bliss, No. 32 Ford, GoFAS Racing. The 49-year-old veteran stayed on the track during a pair of early caution periods to pace two laps, marking his first lap led in the Sprint Cup Series since March 4, 2012 (Phoenix). It also was the first time since August 27, 2005 (Bristol) that Bliss has led multiple laps in a Sprint Cup race. 32. Josh Wise, No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Wise was among the first bitten by the new pit road officiating system, incurring a Lap 28 penalty for crew members coming over the wall too soon. Though seven laps down, Wise managed his best finish in three career starts at Atlanta . 33. Joe Nemechek, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. The man with the Front Row nickname made his first appearance in Front Row Motorsports equipment, but contact from Greg Biffle's spin left his car and hopes dented for his first Sprint Cup event of the year. 34. JJ Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Slight damage from debris early in the race slowed Yeley, who managed to improve upon the 40th-place result from the season-opening Daytona 500. 35. Jeb Burton, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing. As the only rookie in the 43-car field, Burton made his Sprint Cup debut, forging on after a mid-race scrape with the wall. 36. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse played the role of pinball in the race's biggest crash; though several cars were involved, the No. 17 was the only one unable to continue. 37. Cole Whitt, No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. An engine that would've made a 400-mile distance couldn't quite withstand the full 500, first dropping a cylinder before expiring altogether, dumping fluid on the track and causing the race's next-to-last caution period. 38. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin led twice for 14 laps, but found himself sideways in the middle of the track when he lost control on a late-race restart. Three more cars piled in, prompting Hamlin to offer sympathies: "I apologize to all those cars involved, but it's tough." " WATCH: Hamlin spins and collects several drivers 39. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. A pair of rear tire troubles in rapid succession, both of which sprayed debris on the 1.54-mile track, derailed Dillon's day. The second instance, with the car already laboring from earlier damage, sent the RCR No. 3 off into the muddy infield and later behind the wall for extensive repairs. " WATCH: Dillon spins after cutting a tire 40. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. After starting third, Jamie Mac didn't have visions of finishing in the bottom five Sunday at Atlanta . The tangle that also thwarted three others when Denny Hamlin lost control took him by surprise: "I didn't see any of that coming," McMurray said. "That was kind of out of the blue." 41. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The four-time champion drew a Lap 24 tribute from the track with his car number blanketing the main scoring pylon early on, but enduring a crash for the second straight week has his final full Sprint Cup season off to a ragged start. Finishes of 33rd at Daytona and 41st at Atlanta have relegated Gordon to a tie for 35th place in the points standings. " WATCH: Big wreck brings out red flag 42. Ron Hornaday Jr., No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. After failing to qualify for the Daytona 500, the four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion made his first Sprint Cup start since 2003 on Sunday. The Curtis Key-owned start-up team parked just past the halfway point at Atlanta with a rear gearing malfunction. 43. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Starting last, Cassill seemingly had nowhere to go but up at Atlanta . Instead, the 25-year-old driver stayed level as the race's first retiree for the second straight week, posting consecutive 43rd-place finishes after two engine failures to start the season. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Take a virtual lap around Atlanta Motor Speedway with Kurt Busch.
Eldredge's Pre-Race Concert Will Take Place On Sunday, Sept. 20 Joliet, Ill. -- Country music sensation and Illinois Native, Brett Eldredge, as the pre-race concert act for the myAFibRisk.com 400 -- the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday, Sept. 20. Eldredge hails from Paris, Ill., approximately 180 miles south of Chicago, and released his new single, "Lose My Mind," last Tuesday. The CMA New Artist of the Year plans to release his sophomore album later this year. His debut album, Bring You Back, yielded the No. 1 hits "Don’t Ya," "Beat of the Music," and "Mean to Me." The 29-year-old Eldredge was a student at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst before moving to Nashville to chase his dreams. "Over the past several years we've had an opportunity to host some of the premier performers within the country music industry, and we're looking forward to Brett Eldredge continuing that tradition," said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway . "Including an artist of Brett's caliber as part of our weekend festivities is an exciting addition for our track, NASCAR and particularly our fans, and the fact that he's from our own backyard makes it even more special as we kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ." Special packages are available for Eldredge’s biggest fans, including a $99 ticket upgrade which guarantees a place in the front row for Brett's concert and also includes a Fan Zone Pit Pass (grandstand ticket not included). The Fan Zone Pit Pass is required to enter the infield for the concert. For $75, fans can purchase a grandstand ticket and Fan Zone Pit Pass, which puts them in close proximity to the concert and provides access to driver introductions, a red carpet walk and the Infield Fan Zone. All fans with grandstand tickets will have the ability to view the concert from their grandstand seat. Tickets can be purchased online at ChicagolandSpeedway.com , by calling 888-629-RACE, through the Chicagoland Speedway mobile app, or by visiting the Chicagoland Speedway Administrative office Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend at Chicagoland Speedway , Sept. 18-20, will begin with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol e15 225 under the lights on Friday night. On Saturday, Sept. 19, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will hit the track with the Furious 7 300 as the precursor to Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series showdown, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . In addition to the racing action, fans can enjoy live musical entertainment, Champions Park, tailgating and more. Tickets start at just $25 with kids tickets (12 and under) $25 OFF, and parking is always free at Chicagoland Speedway . Buy Chicagoland Tickets
Kevin Harvick dominated early but Jimmie Johnson came on strong at the end to earn the victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway .
Track is the latest to announce safety enhancements Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Atlanta Motor Speedway announced Tuesday morning that it will expand its use of impact-absorbing barriers ahead of this weekend's on-track activity. The move comes three days after Kyle Busch was injured in a NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway , his car slamming into a concrete retaining wall without the benefit of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers. "As promised, we expedited a review of potential safety advancements at each of our racing venues," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. "We're pleased with the additional safety enhancements Atlanta Motor Speedway will be making leading into our events this weekend. As we've stated, NASCAR and its track partners remain steadfastly committed to safety." According to the statement, the Atlanta track -- which has hosted NASCAR's top series since its 1960 opening -- will add 130 linear feet of protective barrier for this weekend, extending coverage of the protective wall at the exit of pit road near Turn 1 and an additional tire barrier along the inside wall of Turn 4. All three NASCAR national series will be racing at the 1.54-mile Georgia track this weekend, culminating with Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), the second race of the year for the Sprint Cup Series. Officials at the speedway said they would conduct a further review of additional SAFER barriers after Sunday's race. Hours after Busch's injury, Daytona track president Joie Chitwood III said the 2.5-mile track would take every measure to ring its facility with the SAFER technology. Atlanta's decision comes one day after similar announcements by officials at 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway to expand their coverage with protective walls. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Track president: 'We've got history and experience doing March races' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live For the first time since 2004, NASCAR teams won't load up and head west for the season's second stop following the Daytona 500. Instead, Week No. 2 will find teams from all three national series -- Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck -- headed to Atlanta Motor Speedway . Coming on the heels of the season’s premier race has its challenges, AMS president Ed Clark told NASCAR.com, and weather is always a concern with an early March date in the area. RELATED: Atlanta plans SAFER barrier additions But, Clark said, "We've got history and experience doing March races. "The thing that's different about this one is that in the past, the Daytona 500 kicked the season off, we came home and had two to three weeks of outstanding interest in the sport. The day after the 500 was always your biggest ticket sales day of the year. "In this case, the Daytona 500 is over Sunday afternoon and we’re into Atlanta's race week right then." AMS hosted a Labor Day weekend race from 2010 through this past season. Up until 2010, it hosted two annual Sprint Cup weekends, the first typically falling in early to mid-March. From '82 through 2004, the second Sprint Cup race of the season was held at either Richmond International Raceway or North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham). California's Auto Club Speedway hosted the second stop from '05 through '10 and Phoenix International Raceway had been the host since '11. "It's a plus and a minus," Clark said of being No. 2 on the schedule. "We all remember the year that Cale (Yarborough) and Bobby and Donnie (Allison) got in a fight (at Daytona in '79). The printing press couldn't have printed enough tickets for the next race. … That's a bonus when it happens. The world is watching what goes on at Daytona, there's a lot of focus on the sport. Everything is new. So it's a plus from that standpoint." Weather issues early in the year aren't uncommon for the Atlanta region, however. And the long-range forecast for this year's race weekend didn't look promising. But it has since changed (and will likely again), going from a chance of snow to a 40 percent chance of rain to a 20 percent chance of rain in the span of a week, according to www.NOAA.gov. Clark is more concerned about those things his group can control instead of those it can't. "I haven't even looked at (the weather forecast) in about a day and a half," he said. "No need to. It changes. "That's the approach we've taken all along. We know how to promote races; we've done it for years. Have your plan; work your plan. When you get to race time, you don't want to look back and say there was something you could have done that you didn't do." Part of that plan included an appearance by reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick on Monday. Prior to Thursday's scheduled test session, Atlanta Motor Speedway Day will be celebrated at the state capitol. Three-time premier series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip is expected to join active native Georgia drivers from all three series for a visit with the governor as well as stops as the Senate and House chambers. "The long and short of it," Clark said, "is we've done things we typically do, no matter when the race is." In addition to normal race-weekend preparations, AMS announced Tuesday upgrades to its current SAFER barrier system will be put in place in time for this weekend's events. Camping World Truck Series teams, which haven't competed at AMS since 2012, will share top billing on Saturday with the XFINITY Series in a double-header race day that features the Hisense 250 XFINITY Series race (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 Truck Series event (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series event is scheduled for Sunday, March 1 with TV coverage on FOX. "We know we'll have a good race; we always have a good race at Atlanta ," Clark said. "If we can get that first one done and all be positive, we have a whole year to work on ('16). I think that's when we will find out what the potential is for the future." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get caught up before Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live What: 56th annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 . Where : Atlanta Motor Speedway , 1.54-mile oval in Hampton, Georgia. When: Sunday, March 1 p.m. ET. TV/Radio: FOX, PRN. Distance: 325 laps; 500.5 miles . Pit road speed: 45 mph . Caution car speed: 55 mph. Fuel window: 50-55 laps. On the front row " Starting lineup 1. Joey Logano, Team Penske No. 22 Ford. 2. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Fastest in practice First practice: Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (192.989 mph). " Full results Final practice: Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (191.054 mph). " Full results To the rear: Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (engine change); Michael Annett, Circle Sport Racing No. 33 Chevrolet (driver change) Driver rating (Best driver rating average at Atlanta based on the past nine years, minimum 5 starts): Jeff Gordon, 106.0 Jimmie Johnson, 104.9 Last year's winner: Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet. Strange things: Between Travis Kvapil's stolen -- and then found -- No. 44 Sprint Cup Series ride, Denny Hamlin's motorcoach backed into by a runaway llama SUV, Rodney Childers' tow vehicle being the victim of a hit-and-run and who knows what else, Atlanta has gotten off to a strange start. Considering this is the race that saw a cat and/or squirrel run in front of Kevin Harvick on the track, there's no telling what could happen in Sunday's event. On a roll to the pole: Joey Logano, your Daytona 500 winner, backed up his first victory in the Great American Race by coming out strong in qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway . The Team Penske driver earned the Coors Light Pole Award for both the Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series races. AMS has given Logano headaches in the past, but it appears he finally has a handle on the 1.54-mile speedway . Qualifying … or not: Plenty of big name drivers will be working their way up through the field after they failed to make it through technical inspection ahead of Coors Light Pole Award qualifying. With Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart -- not to mention Kevin Harvick, who will start from the rear for an engine change -- we'll see some fast, intense racing from the get-go as drivers fight their way through the field. They said it I: "This is a very rare occasion. This is the first one I have ever had. The engine shop does a great job. I am just glad that it happened today. Our Jimmy John's/Budweiser team is doing a great job and the car is handling good. If we were going to have something happen, this is a good place to have it happen because you can pass. … It will just make for a better show." -- Kevin Harvick on his blown engine They said it II: "Hopefully, we'll finish where we start. It's been an amazing few weeks if you think about the Daytona 500 and everything that comes along with that, and then coming down here to Atlanta and starting first is special, especially for me here at this race track. I remember sitting in the corner and watching drivers up here talking about their qualifying run and racing Legends cars out front here for years, so there are a lot of memories here. You guys see the picture over there (in the Media Center) when you walk in with David (Ragan) and Reed (Sorenson) when we were young and racing here. Obviously, anything to be in Victory Lane here; it's a very special place for me. I don't know what's going on lately. Everything is going well and we're just trying to keep the old train rolling here. It's going great and we'll see what happens on Sunday." -- Joey Logano They said it III: "I don't think she is interested in being a celebrity. I think that she enjoyed the moments of celebrity that she has gotten. Who doesn't like some attention? I think that for her it's more of kids telling her at school. Being seven and eight years old that well you are not going to be on TV anymore after this year. I think that sort of took her back. But it's been a good life lesson trying to teach her how to handle those types of situations." -- Jeff Gordon on daughter Ella Sofia, who received a Bandolero car from AMS to share with her brother Leo Former Atlanta winners in the field: Jeff Gordon (5); Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart (3); Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick (1). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Michael Waltrip Racing turns to 22-year-old in relief role CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brett Moffitt , who made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in 2014, will drive the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1 as Brian Vickers recuperates from offseason heart surgery. Owner Michael Waltrip made the announcement Tuesday during his team's stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "He was the driver that everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing wanted to be in that car at Atlanta ," Waltrip said. "They believe in him." Moffitt said he learned of his appointment to the No. 55 Toyota two weeks ago, making it exceedingly difficult to keep his fill-in role a secret. "It was a stressful wait to find out that I was going to be in the car, that's for sure," Moffitt said. "I obviously wanted this opportunity really bad and I'm thankful for it." In seven Sprint Cup starts last season, the best start and finish for the 22-year-old native of Grimes, Iowa and former NASCAR Next driver and K&N Pro Series East race winner came in his debut on June 1 at Dover International Speedway when he began the race in 18th and finished 22nd. Though he said he has been enjoying his time as a developmental driver in the MWR system, Moffitt said he was continuing to explore options -- in any of NASCAR's three national series -- that would allow him to race on a more consistent basis. "I'm very happy with MWR. They're very supportive of me -- have been since 2011," Moffitt said. "They gave me the first opportunity to test a Cup car, they gave me the first opportunity to race one, so they've been huge supporters of my career and I wouldn't be where I am without them, that's for sure. But at the same time, I need to be in a race car more often and they've been willing to work with me on that, and they said hey, if you find an opportunity, we're not going to hold you back from it." Waltrip agreed: "We'll let Brett do anything he wants to do in order to get laps so that he can continue to mature as a race car driver. We believe in Brett, he's our guy, but if we can loan him out and he can race somewhere else that would make me happy." Waltrip will drive the No. 55 Toyota in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) as he attempts to win his third Great American Race. Despite missing the first two races of the season, Vickers received NASCAR's blessing to run for the Sprint Cup Series championship provided he meets all other requirements for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. He will return to his ride at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third race of the year on March 8. Last month, doctors discovered Vickers' body rejected a patch that was placed over a hole in his heart. They alleviated the problem and gave him clearance to race just three months after the corrective heart surgery. "They took my heart out and replaced it with a lion heart," Vickers joked on Tuesday. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule