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Struggling former Chasers need big day at AMS

Pressure is on 2009 Chase men Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya and co as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gears up for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500.
Spring is just beginning in the Northern Hemisphere, but for many of those people who race in NASCAR, the time of hope is rapidly giving way to the time of get the heck going.

Although it may be only three races into the season, shallow holes can become deep holes much easier than they can become level ground in auto racing.

When the Sprint Cup cars show up at Atlanta Motor Speedway for this weekend's Kobalt Tools 500, some of the most hopeful of the preseason hopefuls know they had better be packing large, functioning shovels.

Drivers like 2009 Chase qualifiers Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers will be almost 200 points behind leader Kevin Harvick when they fire the engines on Sunday. Hip championship pick Denny Hamlin will be more than 200 points back, as will Kasey Kahne, another driver of whom much was expected this year.

A couple of other Chasers from last year, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman, are in danger of falling out of the top 35 in points and being forced to qualify for races on speed beginning two races after Atlanta.

Yep, there is a large crowd of drivers who would love to pile up some points this weekend.

Newman said this week that doing well at Atlanta is not essential when it comes to saving his season. "I think every racetrack or every day is a new opportunity," he said.

And he happily pointed out he and his team placed 22nd at Atlanta last season and headed out through the tunnel 32nd in points-but still made the Chase.

But he also tacitly acknowledged that at some point, digging upward must replace digging downward, saying, "It's up to our team to go out there and make that happen."

Busch said he would like to go out there and make it happen soon because, among other things, he misses his old neighbours.

"It's just a bummer that you won't be parked up front (in the garages) next to the people that we've been running with the last two years," Busch said of being point poor. "It's always good when you're running with the front guys because you get to park next to them and see what's going on and be in the 'in' crowd so to speak."




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No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge - Kurt Busch [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]

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