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Atlanta postponement ramps up pressure on Chase bubble teams

HAMPTON, Ga. -- If you're fighting to keep a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup--or fighting to grab one from someone else--the postponement the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway from Sunday night to Tuesday morning is the last thin...

HAMPTON, Ga. -- If you're fighting to keep a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup--or fighting to grab one from someone else--the postponement the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway from Sunday night to Tuesday morning is the last thing you wanted to see.

Clint Bowyer is a case in point. After squandering an opportunity with a miserable run Aug. 27 at Bristol, Bowyer is 12th in the Cup standings, 22 points behind 10th-place Tony Stewart. He's also winless this season.

Bowyer can make the Chase either by racing his way into the top 10, which would mean 1) jumping over 11th-place Brad Keselowski, whom Bowyer trails by a single point and 2) moving past Stewart or Dale Earnhardt Jr., whom Bowyer trails by 40 points.

Bowyer also could win one of the next two races and get in as a wild card if he 1) stays ahead of 13th-place Denny Hamlin and 2) neither David Ragan, Paul Menard nor Marcos Ambrose wins a second race. If Bowyer should win the next two races, he's a lock.

Even before rain washed out Sunday night's race, Bowyer summed up his prospects much more succinctly.

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"Hail Mary," Bowyer said. "You drop back ... you go for it."

Figuratively speaking, the rain makes completing that desperation pass all the more difficult.

Bowyer has two races left, but, with the Richmond event scheduled for Saturday night, now those two races are compressed into a five-day window.

Instead of approaching the Richmond race with a singleness of purpose, Bowyer's No. 33 team still has to worry about competing in Atlanta while preparing for Richmond.

Shane Wilson, Bowyer's crew chief, says the team will rely heavily on the baseline for Richmond established in the spring race there. Goodyear is supplying the same tire the Cup series ran there April 30, and that helps, too.

"The lucky part for us is that, when you go back with no tire change, it minimizes the prep for the simulation and the tire data and stuff," Wilson told Sporting News on Monday morning. "Being that Richmond will have the same tire we raced there in the spring, with no major rule changes, it'll make it a little bit easier. We have a good place to start."

Of much greater concern to Wilson is the prospect of racing at Atlanta on Wednesday--a distinct possibility given the 70 percent rain forecast, with the remnants of tropical storm Lee still dumping water on northern Georgia.

Bowyer qualified second for the Atlanta race, but his car is set up for night racing.

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"If the deal ends up being Wednesday morning, when we know it's going to be a sunny day, that will take a fair amount of changes versus running Tuesday in the overcast," Wilson said. "Trying to run on a sunny, hot day would be kind of tough."

If Bowyer is to make the Chase, he and his team will simply have to deal with all the complications.

"I think we're just going to have to race hard," Bowyer said. "We're going to have to get things turned around. We're going to have to have another opportunity like we did last week, but this time we're going to have to capitalize on it."

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