Atlanta II: Mark Martin preview

POINTS: Martin is currently 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings. He trails 12th-place Clint Bowyer by 101 points with two races remaining until the field is set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. GOLDEN START: ...

POINTS: Martin is currently 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings. He trails 12th-place Clint Bowyer by 101 points with two races remaining until the field is set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

GOLDEN START: Sunday's race will be Martin's 50th Cup start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Martin has made 50 or more starts at only three other tracks on the Cup circuit: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Michigan International Speedway. He will make his 50th Cup start at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway next week.

POLE SITTER: Martin's next pole will be the 50th of his career and will place him eighth on the all-time pole winner's list. The NASCAR veteran most recently earned the pole position at Atlanta -- his second at the intermediate track -- for the March 2009 event.

CHASSIS CHOICE: Gustafson has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-550 for Sunday night's race at Atlanta. Martin drove this chassis to an 11th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month and to a seventh-place finish at Pocono Raceway the following week.

MARK MARTIN, DRIVER, NO. 5 CARQUEST AUTO PARTS/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON MAKING THE CHASE.): "Anything can happen. Where we are now, it would be a surprise to make up that kind of ground in two races. It would come at Clint's (Bowyer) expense for sure. But, it's important to us to continue to work on trying to get our cars faster and get stronger and better as a team. That's the most important thing on our agenda. If we were able to go out and win Atlanta then we might think going into Richmond that we could get back in the Chase. But realistically it seems like we've got some work to do before we're going to be a contender to win races. Really, that's more important than talking about the Chase. That's the most important thing to our race team right now -- to get back into the form we were in last year. If we don't, then whether or not we were in the Chase wouldn't make a difference. Last year we were a contender. We made the Chase, and we were a contender to win the championship. Right now we need to get in that form. We take that a race at a time. Everyone is working really hard at it. We've seen some progress and some gains, but we're not there yet. It requires all of us to keep our heads down and keep working."

MARTIN (ON ATLANTA HAVING ONE RACE IN 2011.): "A little piece of me hates to see that happen. It's a great place to race. I've been racing in NASCAR on and off since the 1980s, and there were always two races at Atlanta. There's a side of me that hates to give that up like we did Darlington's (S.C.) one race, or as we gave both races up at Wilkesboro (N.C.) and Rockingham (N.C.). I still miss going to both of those racetracks. It's a sign of the times. We haven't had the support at Atlanta that we needed to have, so unfortunately the date goes somewhere else."

MARTIN (ON HIS NO. 5 TEAM.): "I love this team. All of the people on it are definitely a part of my family. Everybody is capable and everybody is probably working harder than they were a year ago. The fact that the results don't show that is not a discouragement to me. We have the team. We have the people. We have the chemistry. If we keep that going, we'll get our performance back where we want it."

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 CARQUEST AUTO PARTS/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON THE TEAM'S CHASE POSSIBILITIES.): "Last week, I thought we were still in close enough proximity that it was under our control -- regardless of what our competition did we could still get in by running good. I don't feel like it's in our control now. We're going to have to get some help from the guys in front of us. One hundred points is enough that even if we won the next two races and they run well, we still won't get in. We need the guys in front of us to give us some help, and that could easily happen. But then we need to be able to capitalize on that. I think the most important thing is figuring out how to do that. We haven't been able to do that for a while. That's my main focus is to figure out how we can run good and we need to get there as soon as possible. If it's in the next couple of weeks great, and if our competition has some issues then we'll be in. If not, then we just focus on aggressively improving this team."

GUSTAFSON (ON THE SPRING ATLANTA RACE.): "We overcame a lot in that race. Our car wasn't very good at the start, and we got it pretty good. We were going to get a good finish, but then got caught in a crash because some people stayed out on tires. Atlanta is one of those tracks that is super tough to get a hold of. Even a good car there doesn't feel good. You have the potential of hurting tires, which is a significant issue. It's the toughest place we race. Even if we had won in the spring, I would still be concerned going back. It's that tough. With the weather conditions, even though it's at night, it's still a treacherous track. Day, night, spring, fall it doesn't matter."

GUSTAFSON (ON ATLANTA HAVING ONE RACE IN 2011.): "Atlanta has such a rich history and tradition. It's a place we all like to race at. I didn't want to see them lose a date. It's a fun track. A tough track. Different than most of the tracks we race on. I would like to race there twice a year, but for whatever reason, they don't fill the stands. It's a good business decision to do what NASCAR did. I don't know why Atlanta struggles because the racing is so good, and you would think in that area there was a high enough amount of race fans to fill the stands. I'm sad to see them lose a date, but I do understand why NASCAR had to do what they did. Getting to some areas of the country that don't have a date and the fans don't have a close track to get to, I think that's a good thing to do. We need to tap into those crowds and generate excitement in those areas."

-source: hendrick motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Clint Bowyer , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports