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Atlanta Motor Speedway Kobalt Tools 500 News and Notes – March 2, 2009

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Roush Fenway Engine Trouble Precedes Atlanta

With three engine failures in the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the five-car team, it begs the question of how the Roush Fenway Racing team will rebound in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 8.

First, points leader Matt Kenseth bowed out of the race on lap seven with engine failure, followed by Unadilla, Ga.-native David Ragan on lap 74 and Carl Edwards on the white flag lap, who quickly fell to 17th.

Earlier in the race after Kenseth and Ragan experienced problems, Edwards, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray were advised to not over rev the engines.

“If we can go back looking at it I’d say I need to have more margin in the engine and it needs to be not that close to its limit,” team owner Jack Roush said in post-race interviews. “But if you go through and win the races we won last year late in the year in the chase and we had the success that we had in Fontana, there’s no reason to be nervous about it. The fact that it crept up a little bit didn’t raise the alarm that it should have. We’ll be wiser going to Atlanta.”

Rick Crawford’s 300th Start

The March 7 American Commercial Lines 200 will mark the 300th-career start for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran Rick Crawford.

Entering the Truck Series in 1997, Crawford has since gone on to finish in the top-15 in points in 10 of his 13 seasons. Twice finishing in the top five in points, Crawford’s best season to date came in 2002 when he posted 12 top-five finishes, the most in a single-season for the Alabama native.

Crawford is the all-time leader for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts with 299.

Pre-Season Chase Predictions Haven’t Held True

For many NASCAR pundits, their pre-season Chase predications have not held true. Many drivers previously penciled into the postseason by many writers – Jimmie Johnson (19th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (29th), Ryan Newman (33rd) and Mark Martin (34th) most notably – have failed to perform up to expectations through three races. Meanwhile, other drivers have quickly and surprisingly impressed in 2009, including David Reutimann (currently 5th; 25th in 2008), Kurt Busch (currently 7th; 19th in 2008) and Michael Waltrip (currently 12th; 30th in 2008).

Double Duty

With the American Commercial Lines 200 slated for Saturday, March 7 and the Kobalt Tools 500 for Sunday, March 8, only a select group of drivers will hold double duty and compete in both events. This list includes Todd Bodine, Sprint Cup star and truck team owner Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, winner of last week’s Shelby 427 Sprint Cup race and defending champion of both the Kobalt Tools 500 and American Commercial Lines 200.

Jamie McMurray, Drifting Champion of NASCAR

If you have any doubt that NASCAR’s drivers are among the most talented on Earth, you obviously didn’t see Jamie McMurray’s drift save in the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bumped in the left rear between turns one and two by Joey Logano on lap 66, McMurray’s rear end slid towards the wall, but McMurray was able to wrestle his car into a full drift – usually reserved for tuner cars in show displays – before recovering after at least 300 yards near sideways.

"I didn't hold it wide open the whole time, but I just modulated the gas pedal and the steering wheel," said McMurray in post-race interviews. "I was really worried because I was a little groggy from having a cold and I didn't feel like I was as alert as what I needed to be and when that was over I thought, 'Pretty alert.'"

Rowdy Busch Going for Atlanta Sweep, Sprint Cup Repeat

“Rowdy” Kyle Busch will be looking for consecutive Sprint Cup wins as he descends on Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 500. In addition, the youthful Sprint Cup star who has been nicknamed after Rowdy Burns from Days of Thunder and has driven a similar paint scheme in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will be defending his titles from the Kobalt Tools 500 and American Commercial Lines 200 Truck Series race.

Critical Event for Those Failing to Perform

Needing to maintain position in the top 35 following the fifth race of the season to ensure a spot in each week’s field, the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be a critical race for many drivers.

Among known names likely concerned about their standing are Georgia-natives David Ragan and Reed Sorenson (24th and 25th respectively), Daytona pole winner Martin Truex Jr, (26th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (29th), phenom Joey Logano (32nd), seven-time Atlanta pole winner Ryan Newman (33rd) and two-time Atlanta Motor Speedway winner Mark Martin (34th).

“Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Returns to His Home Track

After an impressive qualifying effort at Daytona, Bill Elliott will look for another strong start as he returns for the Kobalt Tools 500 on his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Elliott posted the fifth-fastest lap (187.739) in qualifying at Daytona and might be expected by many to run similarly well at his home track. While Wood Brothers Racing has not had much success in recent years, the team does have the most all-time wins in Atlanta with 12 and Elliott will be looking to add number 13 to the team’s storied history.

Running an abbreviated schedule in 2009, Elliott is expected to come to Atlanta with his guns blazing, likely an encouraging thought for many Georgia-born racing fans who are eager to see a hometown hero in Victory Lane again. Elliott’s most recent win came in the 2003 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at North Carolina Speedway driving for Evernham Motorsports.