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TAKE THAT, CAPTAIN

Ryan Newman has four races left as a driver for Penske Racing.

He sent team boss Roger Penske — known as the “Captain” — a message on Saturday.

Newman raced a NASCAR Craftsman Truck — in a Chevrolet and not a Penske Dodge — for the first time and won Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The message for Penske: Newman still can win races if provided with a vehicle that also can win races.

Newman, who will drive a Chevy next year for Stewart-Haas Racing, has only one top-five finish in Sprint Cup since winning the season opener at Daytona. Penske teammate Kurt Busch, who helped push Newman to that win, has four top fives and one win this season.

Granted, Dodges like the ones Penske supplies his drivers have not been a threat in Cup this year, but the Captain needs to begin major changes at his NASCAR shop.

Newman and Busch still can drive. But they need something to drive.

Busch told me a couple weeks ago that he plans to be with Penske for a long time, but he should rethink that loyalty unless Penske and/or Dodge begin giving him a horse he can ride to victories.

THE KYLE SAGA

Kyle Busch left Atlanta Motor Speedway in March with his first Cup win for Joe Gibbs Racing that gave Toyota its first Cup victory.

He added seven more before the Chase began and had built a big lead in points.

Then the wheels began to fall off — almost literally. Parts failure or pit crew problems thwarted his runs in the first three Chase races, after which he declared he was out of title contention.

When Sunday’s Cup race begins at Atlanta, Busch will start 12th in points, 445 behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

His team has fallen as fast as the economy.

“We suck right now. We got work to do," he told a media gathering Saturday at Atlanta. "We’re falling behind. The 48 (Jimmie Johnson) is whipping our ass.”

He said it has become hard for him to go to work.        

"It’s frustrating to have to come to the racetrack every week and not have a shot for a championship," he said. "It is what it is, and we’ll have to go back at it next year."

He was asked if he was mentally prepared to race.

"Probably not," he said. "But I’ve still got a job to do, and I’m here to do it."

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