ATLANTA (March 8, 2001)-It's been more than 15 years since a Dodge raced at the legendary speedway in Atlanta. Three races into Dodge's return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing, a Dodge leads the points championship and Bill Elliott returns to his ...
ATLANTA (March 8, 2001)-It's been more than 15 years since a Dodge raced at the legendary speedway in Atlanta. Three races into Dodge's return to NASCAR Winston Cup racing, a Dodge leads the points championship and Bill Elliott returns to his hometown track a "different" shade of red.
"I've got mixed emotions about racing Dodge for first time at Atlanta," said Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T. "I don't think about it when I get in a race car. You just try to make it go as fast as it'll go and you're intense about what you're trying to do. Atlanta has been a little bit different. It's been more of a high speed place, a little bit harder to pass here the last few times. We'll see how it goes this year. I'm in a Dodge this year, and we'll see how it reacts to Atlanta and how well we can make it go around the race track."
Dodge dominated the Atlanta Motor Speedway in the 1970s, collecting five wins, eight poles and 33 top 10 finishes during the decade. Richard Petty won three races including the 1974 Dixie 500, the 1975 Atlanta 500, and the 1977 Atlanta 500. Dave Marcis won the 1976 Dixie 500 in a Dodge and Bobby Allison had the first Dodge win at Atlanta in the 1970 Atlanta 500. Pole setters included Richard Petty, Dave Marcis, Buddy Baker, Fred Lorenzen, and Charlie Glotzbach.
With Richard Petty's success at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, it's only fitting that he will bring his three car team to the South in preparation to add another win to the books. Petty fields three drivers including his son, Kyle Petty in the No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T, John Andretti, driver of the No. 45 Cheerios Dodge Intrepid R/T and Buckshot Jones, driver of the No. 44 Georgia-Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T. Currently the drivers are ranked 38th, 34th and 36th respectively. "Everything we've got is brand new," said Kyle Petty, driver of the No. 43 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T. "Every time we go to a new track, we bring new cars. We've got to learn each new car as well as the aero package on the Dodge. We're still trying to figure out the engine combinations on the Dodge."
Atlanta reconfigured their 1.54-mile quad oval track in 1997. Currently the track is designed with 24 degree corners and five degree straightaways. "Atlanta used to be where you ran on the bottom of the track," said Ward Burton, driver of the No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge Intrepid R/T. "Now the groove has moved up pretty close to the wall. The good thing about Atlanta is you have the option of running both. We had a real good setup down there last time. We're hoping we can make a few changes with the Dodge and new tires and have a good setup this coming week" Ward Burton drives for Bill Davis, owner of Bill Davis Racing team, which also includes Dave Blaney, driver of the No. 93 Amoco Dodge Intrepid R/T. Burton currently sits at 24th in the points chase while Blaney is 28th in points.
"We're similar to what Ray Evernham did with Casey Atwood and Bill Elliott," said Bill Davis. "That probably makes a lot of sense. You get that veteran experience there and it gives you stability. At the same time you bring on a rookie or younger driver and build with that program. In our case, it just kind of worked out. We'd watched Dave Blaney. He didn't have a lot of stock car experience, but he was a little more mature and had won championships and had won races. We liked that. Age wise, Dave probably had the maturity and experience but was a rookie in stock cars. We like the way that's worked out."
Dodge is extremely happy with the progress to date. Sterling Marlin, driver of the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T, is currently leading the field in championship points while the rest of the Dodge Intrepid R/Ts continue to advance and improve each week.
"We would not have expected for Dodge to be leading the points going into Atlanta. This is a definite milestone for everyone's hard work," said Lou Patane, Vice President, Motorsports Operations and Mopar Performance Parts. "We've never tested or run in Atlanta, but so far we've proved our package is good. I'm confident that we have a good balance and we'll be competitive this weekend.
"There have been a lot of questions about our engine and its durability," added Patane. "We've clocked thousands of racing miles on it, and by the first three races, we've proved our durability is good and we are competitive right out of the box.
"Winning in Atlanta will depend on whether we have a package that is good and balanced. I think we do. And, our engine definitely has the power. It is up to each individual team and their handle on set up for the changing weather conditions."