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Kasey Kahne on pole at Atlanta

Two drivers seeking to lock-in to the Chase after Atlanta - Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch - round out the last row of the top ten in ninth and tenth, but it was less promising for Tony Stewart (20th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (29th) in their battle to stay in the top ten Cup points positions to make it into the Chase.

Tony Raines, David Stremme, Geoffrey Bodine and TJ Bell failed to make the 43-car starting grid.

Many eyes will be on Brad Keselowski, who qualified a slightly disappointing 14th place after earlier avoiding an engine change penalty when debris damage sustained during practice turned out to be confined to the oil pan area.

If Keselowski can continue his streak of wins and top threes even here on this intermediate 1.54-mile D-shaped oval then no one will be able to deny that he's a top favourite for the Championship. Moreover, even more depends on whether Keselowski can improve his position in the points standings. If he climbs into the top ten and knocks out either Stewart or Earnhardt then he will also free up one of the two wildcard slots, which would transform the Race of the Chase situation.

As a result, the Atlanta night race promises to be an exciting battle: however, the weather is looking increasingly marginal. After drought conditions for almost a month, the region is now looking likely to be hit by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee which is tracking north-east fresh from inundating the upper Gulf Coast with the area around New Orleans. Forecasters predict an escalating risk of heavy showers and storms hitting the region in the early part of the evening when the race is due to begin, which could force a delay until Monday (which is the Labor Day public holiday in the US) when the forecasts are scarcely more promising.

"This weather isn't looking too good," said front row man Bowyer. "Hopefully we can look forward to a good run tomorrow night because I want to run tomorrow night."

Currently, the start of the race is set for 7.30pm on Sunday (12.30am BST). In the UK, the Sprint Cup race is shown live on the Premier Sports TV subscription satellite TV channel.

Full qualifying and practice times available.




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