And none of the hole-dwellers wants to head into the off-weekend that follows Atlanta thinking about how far they have to go rather than how far they advanced in Georgia.
Atlanta would seem to be a great place for several of the struggling drivers and teams to start reversing field; it has long been a driver favourite. This week, it was virtually impossible to find one who was not looking forward to racing there on Sunday.
"I like old, slick, wore out racetracks," said Vickers, who is 18th in points. "They're what I grew up racing, and I've always enjoyed those racetracks. I really like Atlanta, and I like running against the wall. Atlanta has all of the above."
Montoya, 26th in points, said, "It's the first track I learned to run on the high line. It's a track that gives you options with multiple grooves, and the high line has worked for me. I can run the #42 Target Chevrolet right up against the fence. It's exciting and pushes us as drivers and cars to the limit. It's a driver's track."
Perhaps most important is the fact several of the drivers desperate for success have histories of success at the 1.5-mile oval, which is still the fastest on the schedule.
Busch (19th) and Kahne (23rd) are two-time winners at Atlanta. Busch won last year's spring race; Kahne won the fall race. Busch thinks recent success can help produce current success.
"Confidence is up and on a high going into a race that you've won," Busch said. "You hope that things come together just as smoothly as they did the year before. A top-ten finish would be great, but we're shooting for a win because we won last year."
And, because he is one of that group that can ill-afford to fall further behind the leaders.
by Jim Pedley / Special to the Sporting News