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|Kurt Busch (left) and Jeff Gordon are both in need of a win|
and have won recently at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Getty)
There are only two races left in the Race to the Chase and the door is wide open for several competitors to make it or break it. Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman currently sit precariously in the Chase Wild Card but are ranked 14th and 15th in points. That means that if Brad Keselowski (11th), Kurt Busch (12th) or Jeff Gordon (13th) can win this weekend, the Chase picture could look a lot different come Labor Day.
Curious if that could happen? Put it this way: Busch and Gordon have combined for eight wins in Atlanta, the site of this weekend's race.
All in all, the Sprint Cup Series will be putting the "labor" in Labor Day Weekend, so let's take a look at the driver's that might do just a little bit more labor for the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing teams this week:
Atlanta Motor Speedway only hosts one Cup race a season, so this will be the first time the Gen-6 cars hit the track. Problem? Not necessarily, the 1.5-mile quad-oval lays out like the standard cookie cutter with banking up to 24 degrees. This will be the sixth cookie cutter race of the season (with several more to come), so the teams should have a good idea what to expect on this layout.
The X-Factor will be the different scenarios for making the Chase and how each team will plan differently. The drivers that have clinched can afford to risk a points day to try for a win and three bonus points in the Chase. Some drivers on the bubble (listed above) must win, some drivers on the bubble really just need a good points day. These different sets of goals can lead to a lot of teams trying to do different things out there.
Cut through the clutter and go with what works. The bottom line is that despite what some teams might need to or want to accomplish, everyone's showing up with the intention of running the best race they can in hopes of winning. Don't over think it and take the drivers that are strong on the cookie cutters.
- #5 Kasey Kahne - His 18.6 average finish at Atlanta is no great shakes, but he has two wins and six top-fives in 16 starts, so he's capable of running up front. He's been streaky this season and after a sour second place finish at Bristol, he's dialed in and knows he owes the team a trip to victory lane.
- #24 Jeff Gordon - He needs a win to get into the Chase and has five career victories at AMS. If not now, then when?
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - This is the guy you might over analyze because he's had a few bad runs and, with his Chase spot clinched, seems to be experimenting. Look, he's great on these tracks and leads the field with an 11.1 average finish at Atlanta. Don't over think the No. 48.
- #15 Clint Bowyer - He's nearly taken over the points lead despite not having won a single race this season, but he doesn't have a single top-five at Atlanta in 12 go-arounds. Skip him this week.
- #55 Brian Vickers - If you're taxed on B-list allocations, Vickers is a savoir as he takes over the No. 55 full-time. He has seven top-10s in 15 Atlanta starts, so he looks like a good option.
- #78 Kurt Busch - As mentioned before, he needs a win to get into the Chase. He has three victories at AMS, so now's a good time for a fourth.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's not exactly a top-10 machine with 11 in 25 Atlanta starts but his 12.5 average finish ranks him third in this week's field, so he's not at all a bad option.
- #99 Carl Edwards - Consistent as usual, Edwards has three wins and eight top-fives in 15 AMS races.
- #14 Mark Martin - There's some intrigue to a driver in the No. 14, but Martin has looked on the outs this season with a 20.4 average finish and a 17.2 career average finish at Atlanta doesn't make this look like his week.
- #18 Kyle Busch - Like most tracks, he has a win at AMS. However, he has just four top-10s in 15 races and is better saved for another track.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - He's never raced a Cup car at Atlanta, but with experience on the cookie cutters, this doesn't seem like his biggest challenge of the season. He still has yet to earn a top-10 this year, so that might be a lofty goal, but he's still capable of a good day.
- #47 AJ Allmendinger - The Dinger's 14.4 average finish in seven AMS starts ranks him fifth in the field this week.
- #34 David Ragan - With the C-list always so depleted, a driver like Ragan is going to come under consideration. This isn't the week though, as his career 26.8 average finish at Atlanta is nothing but bad news.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.
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