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Snapshots of the dueling Chasers at Atlanta

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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With only two races remaining before the start of NASCAR's postseason, the Chase for the Sprint Cup, just 84 points separate the bottom six drivers currently in the Chase Zone.
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Adding to the drama, there are eight drivers within 123 points of each other — starting from seventh-place Ryan Newman down to 14th-place Brian Vickers. And with a 161-point swing a possibility tonight at Atlanta Motor Speedway, just about any of the eight could just as easily find themselves inside the top-12 playoff threshold or on the outside looking in following the Pep Boys Auto 500. With the top six drivers pretty much assured of their playoff spots, let's take a closer look at that group of drivers battling for the remaining positions, how they qualified for Sunday's race, their best finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and what their strategy is over the final two races before the Chase:

Ryan Newman

Seventh in the standings, 84 points ahead of 13th Atlanta starting position: 23rd Best Atlanta finish (15 career Cup starts): Fifth Outlook: "I'm confident with our teams and I'm confident with our abilities, but I just don't know racing-wise if something crazy is going to happen in front of us or whatever. I'm fully capable of running out of talent, I've done it before. It's just a matter of — you get these two good races in, two top-10 finishes answers everything and we can't lose there. I'm assuming when you say 'locked in,' you mean making the Chase and not being locked in this weekend because that would be a really tough task. I think that we're fully capable and I think this is a good place for us to show it. I really look forward to Richmond. We were really strong there in the spring. This place here is a really fast race track that usually ends up with 11 to 16 cars on the lead lap so if we're a part of that group then we'll be in good shape."

Greg Biffle

Eighth in the standings, 75 points ahead of 13th Atlanta starting position: 26th Best Atlanta finish (13 career Cup starts): Third Outlook: "I don't think we can play it safe. Our goal here Sunday is to stay on the lead lap and try to get a top-five, top-10 finish. Certainly, we're here to win, but so far it doesn't look like we're gonna be fast enough to win, but our focus is to run good. We're not gonna change our game plan now. We're gonna focus on what we have been for the last 20 weeks. Certainly there's a lot of pressure. We've got to run well here and we didn't run well here in the spring. This is a good race track for us, though, so we know we just have to execute good and get our car right for this race and do the best we can. We know it's not gonna be perfect. We know we've got a little ways to go, our program is off a little bit company wide. But we're gonna fight tooth-and-nail and certainly not give up."

Juan Pablo Montoya

Ninth in the standings, 64 points ahead of 13th Atlanta starting position: 22nd Best Atlanta finish (five career Cup starts): Fifth. Outlook: "Where we are right now is OK. We can't change that we had two flat tires the last two races and it cost us a lot in the race results. It is part of racing. We do everything we can and we still do. Coming here, we think we have a good car. We have to make it to the end and get a good finish and see what happens. It isn't about being conservative, it is about being smart. Everything we have done this year, is making smart choices, when to race, when to get out of the gas, a lot of the give and take and it makes life a lot easier. As a team, everybody on our Target Chevy team just needs to keep doing what we have been doing every week and hopefully it is enough. You can't change things; you can't try to make up in two races what you haven't done in 24. I think we have done a good enough job and we are going to keep doing the same thing. Whether (Atlanta) is good or bad, we are still going to Richmond. What it is, is what it is. Whether it is secure or not secure, we have got to go to Richmond and do the best we can as well. It is not a matter of we have to win here so we know. If all we a 15th place car here, the make the car finish 15th here and see what you have to do in Richmond. We bring home a fifth place, great. If we bring home 30th, it is 30th, you can't change it."

Mark Martin

Tenth in the standings, 60 points ahead of 13th Atlanta starting position: Seventh Best Atlanta finish (47 career Cup starts): Winner (twice) Outlook: "It's going to be fun. Everybody loves racing here at Atlanta. And I just can't wait to get out on the race track and get to work. Seems like a long time since we have been racing and I am looking forward to getting down to business. We have our race to do and we have to handle our business the same no matter what really. What we do, we do our race the same no matter what and the things we can't control we just can't control. We try to do everything we can to control the things we can to get the very best result every race."

Kasey Kahne

Eleventh in the standings, 52 points ahead of 13th Atlanta starting position: Second Best Atlanta finish (11 career Cup starts): Winner Outlook: "The 18 and 83 have been really strong and we had a rough race at Bristol. We got over that and went to a short track this week and did a day of testing. Hopefully, that will help us at Richmond. We've had a great day today. I look at tomorrow night as going for it, running as hard as we can, bringing the car home in one piece and getting all the points we can. Hopefully, it handles and things go well. No mistakes, I think we should have a great shot at making the Chase. To me, that's the goal. That's all we want to do right now, to figure out how to make the Chase. Everybody wants to be in the Chase. Over the last month, it's been a big topic. It's so close from sixth to 13th, even 16th four weeks ago. It's pretty exciting. I'm glad we're a part of it. Hopefully, we can hang on and stay in the top 12."

Matt Kenseth

Line 'em up

You know where the dueling Chasers will be starting, but what about the rest of the field in Sunday's race? Check out the starting lineup for the Pep Boys Auto 500 here.
Twelfth in the standings, 34 points ahead of 13th Atlanta starting position: 15th Best Atlanta finish (19 career Cup starts): Third Outlook: "We've got to beat all the guys we're around to get in. There are about five or six guys that are really close in the points and whoever outperforms the rest of them will make it in, so we've just got to go out and run as hard as we can and hope our results will be good enough. I feel like our stuff has been running better lately, like we've been gaining a little bit of momentum and have been a little more competitive and we've been doing a good job on pit road and all the things we need to do, but you just never know. You've just got to come and race for 500 miles and get the best you can out of it. You want to be 150 points ahead of the bubble is where you really want to be so you could start at Richmond, but that's probably not realistic, so you want to have as many points ahead of 13th as you possibly can."

Kyle Busch

Thirteenth in the standings, 34 points behind 12th Atlanta starting position: Fifth Best Atlanta finish (10 career Cup starts): Winner Outlook: "We either make it or we don't. It's not these two races that are going to set us in the Chase. It's the races that we've had this year that are going to set us out. We haven't been up to where we need to be. We haven't quite had the race cars. I haven't quite been the driver behind the wheel I've needed to be. We've missed a little bit this year. It's not going to be these next two races that we'd fault here that's going to keep us out. You've got to be smart. That's the biggest thing. You can't put yourself in a predicament that gets you wrecked. You can't be racing around guys that don't race very well sometimes and get yourself caught up in something you don't need to be in. Unfortunately, that's what I've done this year. I haven't been very smart this year. It's not these next two weeks that are going to keep us out, it's what we've already done."

Brian Vickers

Fourteenth in the standings, 39 points behind 12th Atlanta starting position: Eighth Best Atlanta finish (12 career Cup starts): Fifth Outlook: "We know we're capable of making the Chase. It doesn't mean we will. The biggest thing is to just not make mistakes and stay out of trouble. Winning this race and winning the next one would be fantastic and probably would get us in the Chase, but you can't have anything worse than probably a top-10. We need to really come out of here with two top-fives or top-10s. A lot of it is going to depend on where the competition finishes. We can win both races and if they finish second, then we're still going to be out and there's nothing we could've done. We just got to do our part and not make mistakes and do the best we can."
Tagged: Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers

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