Atlanta: Ford Racing preview

NASCAR Winston Cup Series Atlanta (March 6, 2002) - Atlanta Motor Speedway is recognized as one of the fastest non-restrictor plate race tracks on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and qualifying is always one of the more interesting parts to ...

NASCAR Winston Cup Series Atlanta (March 6, 2002) - Atlanta Motor Speedway is recognized as one of the fastest non-restrictor plate race tracks on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series and qualifying is always one of the more interesting parts to the weekend. Ford drivers spoke what it will be like Friday in preparation for Sunday's MBNA America 500.

MARK MARTIN --6-- Viagra Taurus

IS ATLANTA ONE OF THE MORE INTENSE PLACES FOR QUALIFYING? "One of the reasons there's so much tension there is that if the car goes, it could be bad because you're going super-fast. That weighs on you as well. It doesn't taper what you do out there, but there is enormous stress because you don't even have to think about it. You know that at the speed you're going, if the thing steps out, it could be really bad. If it steps out at a place like Las Vegas, you could save it. If it steps out at Atlanta, you could not save it and, if you don't, it could be ugly."

IS THIS THE KIND OF PLACE WHERE THE YOUNG GUYS GO ALL OUT BECAUSE THEY DON'T KNOW ANY BETTER? "There are a lot of different things between 40-plus and 20-plus. There are differences in reflexes and you're not the same at 25 that you are at 45. Sometimes that's good and sometimes that's bad, but you're not the same. There are definitely a lot of them that haven't seen it really bad, so, therefore, that doesn't weigh on them as much as someone who has seen it really bad."

AT SOME PLACES, LIKE BRISTOL, YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR SHAKING. IS IT MORE INTENSE AT ATLANTA? "It's more intense at Atlanta for sure. I was shaking when I got out of the car at Las Vegas, but they're not all that way. That track (Atlanta) lends itself to very high intensity and stress, especially for qualifying."

DAVE BLANEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A QUALIFYING LAP AT ATLANTA? "To me that's the closest thing to sprint car racing that we do in these kind of cars. It loads the car hard and loads the driver hard and you're hanging on. It's more like the sprint car side of things. It's kind of crazy. It's kind of fun in one way, but in another way it's pretty nerve-wracking."

HOW DO YOU APPROACH A LAP AT THAT PLACE? "You do what's reasonable. If the car gives you a lot of confidence, you'll push it and do it. If the car doesn't give you that feel, you just won't. It's common sense. That's a place where the car has to be comfortable and you have to have a lot of confidence in that car to go fast. From qualifying to the race, that's a place where you really have to work on your car."

DO YOU LOOK BACK ON LAST YEAR AND SAY, 'WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN'? "Yeah, we were fast enough to win both of them there last year. I don't know, it probably is my favorite track to run. I just hope we go in there having a chance again because that's all you can ask for is having a chance."

WILL YOU TRY YOUR SETUP FROM LAST YEAR THIS WEEKEND? "I don't think the Dodge-to-Ford thing plays into it a lot. I think switching teams is a way bigger deal than Dodge or Ford because you have new people and new ways of doing things. We've had a basic setup we've run at Atlanta the last couple times and haven't varied from it and it's been fast, so we'll definitely go down there that way and see if the Jasper car likes it."

ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE A QUALIFYING LAP AT ATLANTA? "I think that's one of the more white-knuckle laps we run because the closer you can get to wide-open, the faster you're gonna run at Atlanta. I mean, you can really feel the speed there and the way the car really sucks you down in the corners. That's one of the fun tracks to qualify. It's fun, but it takes all of your concentration and all of your guts. It takes everything you've got. Atlanta, Texas, Michigan, Dover -- places where you can really feel the speed are places I usually get pumped up for, so Atlanta is a pretty cool place to qualify."

DO YOU LITERALLY HOLD YOUR BREATH DURING THAT LAP? "Yeah. I mean, it's like you really don't have time to breathe. You're just so focused and you're running so doggone fast that you don't have time to breathe. Darlington is real bad too. You've got to hit your marks going into turn one and you've got to run in there just as wide-open as you can and your car is gonna move around. You've got to expect that and you've got to know how to catch it and just stay in the gas. You've got to stay in the gas to qualify good at Atlanta. That's one of the scarier places to qualify at, but I think that's what makes it fun. It's all-out and when the lap is over you just take a deep breath and say, 'Whew, thank God it's over with. What we've got is what we've got, but thank God that lap is over with. '"

HOW IS THE GRIP NOW? "It's lost some grip the last couple of years from the first time I went there. The first time they changed the track there was a lot of grip, which makes it that much harder because it's still fast. It's losing grip now, but Atlanta is kind of like Texas where the corners are pretty long and not real tight, so the track is very, very fast. There's a lot of grip built into it the way the track is shaped, so that makes it that much tougher. It'll get tougher to qualify there, I think, every time we go."

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Series NASCAR Cup