This Week in Ford Racing October 22, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Atlanta Ford Facts * Ford can clinch its third manufacturer's championship in the last four years and 15th overall by finishing first, second or third among the four makes on ...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 22, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
Atlanta Ford Facts
* Ford can clinch its third manufacturer's championship in the last four years and 15th overall by finishing first, second or third among the four makes on Sunday.
* The only way Ford will not clinch the title is if Chevrolet wins and Ford finishes fourth among manufacturers.
* That being said, Ford's winless streak at Atlanta Motor Speedway stands at 10.
* The last time Ford won at AMS was 1997 when Dale Jarrett won the Primestar 500.
* The Wood Brothers lead all car owners with 12 wins at Atlanta. Their last victory at the speedway came in 1993 when Morgan Shepherd won the Motorcraft 500.
Dale Jarrett's Atlanta win in 1997 made him and father Ned (1964) the only father-son duo to win at that facility.
There are only four races left in the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season and this week's stop is the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kurt Busch, who posted his second series win last week at Martinsville, qualified fourth and finished 11th in the spring event at Atlanta while Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 28 Havoline Taurus, has one career win at the speedway with that coming in 1987. Both spoke about returning to one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.
KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus
WHAT ABOUT ATLANTA? "It's a great race track. It's got that Southeast asphalt where it's a bit more abrasive, but the track is so wide that you can go anywhere. You can develop momentum on the high side, you can keep your speed on the low side with fresh tires. Aero has a lot to do with it and I love that challenge of trying to get that right. And it sometimes lends itself to a fuel mileage race and Roush motors have always been good on fuel mileage, so it's just a track where I enjoy going because you spend a lot of time on the throttle. We're qualifying at night and that should be interesting. That's gonna be great because I like when they throw different twists into it. I like it when they use the lights at race tracks we go to. Las Vegas has lights, but we'll never see those. Atlanta has lights and now we'll get to see them for the first time for qualifying. It'll be a whole different perspective. It won't be the same as going out there during the daytime at 3 o'clock. Now it will be at 7 o'clock and we don't know how bright the lights will be, so all kinds of different elements will come into play. It'll probably produce a little bit quicker speed and, if somebody hits it right, it's gonna be a fast lap. Hopefully, that's gonna be us."
THIS IS ONE OF THE FASTEST TRACKS ON THE CIRCUIT WITHOUT A RESTRICTOR PLATE, RIGHT? "Yeah, it's a great race track. It just challenges you with the aero package, with slipping the tire at high speeds, with getting back onto the throttle and developing passes with the aero. You can follow people in certain spots and get people loose by getting too close to them, so you have to put trust in other guys that they won't do that to you. It has a whole different atmosphere than Charlotte."
WHY DOES THE RACING AT ATLANTA SEEM SO GOOD ALL THE TIME? "I think it's because the groove can get so wide. It's a mile-and-a-half just like Charlotte and Charlotte's groove gets real wide. The grooves are identical speedwise at Atlanta. If you can run the bottom, you're fast. If you can run the top, you're just about as fast. So it just matters where your car wants to fit in at or where the other guys isn't, you can go and make a pass on him. It's not like at Charlotte. If somebody is running the high groove and your car can't work up top, you can't make that pass. Whereas, at Atlanta, if somebody is running a low groove, you can go up high just as easily as you can go low and make the pass. That's what makes it so fun, it's similar to Rockingham."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus
"I think the racing has gotten a little better at Atlanta because you're able to run the top groove, the middle and the bottom, which is something that we weren't able to do when they first re-surfaced the track quite a few years ago."
DOES IT FEEL FAST? "There's no doubt about it. That's one of the tracks that we go to that you run very, very fast for qualfying -- speeds are very, very fast -- but then you get in race trim. When you un-tape the grille and put the race suspension and race setup under it, the speeds are quite a bit slower in race trim and it's a lot more manageable. It's a race track where turns three and four are very, very smooth compared to turns one and two, so it's a really difficult race track to get set up for because of the difference in the two corners. It's not necessarily the angle and the banking, but how rough it is in one and two and how smooth it is in three and four. It really tests the crew chief's knowledge to get set up there."
CAN YOU RACE SIDE BY SIDE WITH SOME DEGREE OF COMFORT? "I think for sure we know that cars run on the top of the race track after the race gets going. Cars can run on the bottom for a certain number of laps. The guy that wins the race is the guy that can put it on the bottom at both ends of the race track and keep it there the whole race."
HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE TWO ENDS? "Turns one and two are very bumpy. With today's setups we run real soft springs and that really presents a problem for that type of a setup because you need a stiff spring to keep the car from bottoming out. So one and two takes a completely different setup than three and four, but you drive off in there and your car tends to bottom out and bounce around quite a bit. You've got to jump right back into the gas pretty soon. You can't wait too long. As a matter of fact, you only lift the gas pedal a little bit and then you drive down the backstretch into three and four. It's a very flat entrance into the corner, very much like Texas or Michigan or Fontana. It's sort of a different feeling in three and four. It's a much easier corner than one and two, but the trick to Atlanta is all about momentum. That's no great secret. You have to keep the corner speed up so you can enter the straightaway at a much faster exit speed off the corner. The guys that do that will be the guys that run out front."