Atlanta Motor Speedway Pit Notes - Friday, October 27 Page 1

ALLMENDINGER TO STUDY ATLANTA BROADCAST: NASCAR newcomer A.J. Allmendinger will pilot the No. 24 Toyota truck in Saturday's EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 and also attempt to qualify for Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500. But before doing so, he'll be spending Friday afternoon studying tapes of the March race in Atlanta.

"I've never driven a single lap here, and I don't know what to expect, so I'll definitely be watching previous race footage before practice," Allmendinger said.

After starting the season in Champ Car, Allmendinger this week signed a multiyear deal with Team Red Bull to drive the No. 84 Camry in the NEXTEL Cup series, teaming with fellow youngster Brian Vickers. In the meantime, he's gaining experience by racing Bill Davis' Craftsman Truck. In two races, he has finished 13th (New Hampshire) and 5th (Talladega).

"Thank God they've given me this opportunity," Allmendinger said. "So far this has been more fun than I thought I was going to have. Just the nuances of driving the truck ... it's fun."

A former Champ Car rookie of the year, Allmendinger was fired early this season by RuSport. He then teamed with Forsythe Championship Racing, earning his first career win that weekend. He went on to win three straight, five overall.

"It's been a crazy year," Allmendinger said. "I never expected to be sitting here in Atlanta talking about this new deal. But I've always wanted to see what it's like to drive these vehicles, and everything that's happened - I wouldn't change it for the world. I've learned so much and grown up so much."

MARK MARTIN OPTIMISTIC IN ATLANTA (PIGS NOT REPORTED TO BE FLYING YET): Despite recently being called a pessimist by friend and competitor Jeff Burton, Mark Martin addressed the media Friday morning full of optimism for this weekend's Bass Pro Shops 500.

"I believe we can win here this weekend," Martin said. "I also feel we need to win here this weekend."

Martin is seventh in the Chase for the Championship, only 96 points back from leader and teammate Matt Kenseth.

"We're still in the Chase; we won't give up no matter what happens between now and the last weekend of Homestead," Martin said. "But certainly we need to win this one.

But I look at the guys in the Chase and think not only would all of them say they have a good chance, but that they need to win it."

Martin has never won a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship but has finished second four times. With retirement on the horizon, this is Martin's final shot at winning the elusive championship. And although he's not going so far as to express optimism at winning the whole deal yet, his excitement at watching this play out is obvious.

"We win this one, the race is on for sure," he said. "I feel like I'm living a dream."

-credit: ams