Atlanta: Johnny Benson preview

Benson: Qualifying at Atlanta most intense. Johnny Benson on Atlanta: Johnny Benson says one of the most intense moments of the Nascar season comes this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But it isn't during Sunday's race. Instead the moment...

Benson: Qualifying at Atlanta most intense.

Johnny Benson on Atlanta:
Johnny Benson says one of the most intense moments of the Nascar season comes this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But it isn't during Sunday's race. Instead the moment comes Friday during the two-lap qualifying session when the Winston Cup cars will post some of the fastest speeds of the season.

Atlanta Motor Speedway underwent a dramatic change in 1997 that included the renovation and moving of the start finish line from the south side of the track to the north side and changing the configuration of the Hampton, Ga., facility from a 1.522- mile oval to a 1.54-mile quad-oval similar to tracks in Charlotte and Texas. Geoffrey Bodine set a qualifying track record of 197.478 mph at Atlanta in November of 1997. The time remains the fastest qualifying lap on a non-restrictor-plate track in the history of NASCAR.

Benson says the speeds on Friday won't surpass Bodine's but he believes a good qualifying run Friday is mandatory for a good result Sunday when he plans to improve on his ninth-place position in the season standings. Benson has finishes of 19th at Daytona, 13th at Rockingham and 12th at Las Vegas. No driver has top-ten finishes in all three races. <pre> Here is a ranking of the most current qualifying speeds from Winston Cup tracks.

Track MPH Texas 194.224 Atlanta 191.542 Michigan 189.668 Fontana 187.432 Daytona 186.606 Talladega 186.532 Charlotte 186.464 Chicagoland 183.051 Indy 182.960 Kansas 177.924 Las Vegas 173.016 Pocono 170.568 Darlington 170.089 Dover 156.822 Rockingham 154.683 Homestead 154.365 Phoenix 132.655 NHIS 132.241 Richmond 126.145 Bristol 124.034 Watkins Glen 122.696 Sears Point 93.476 Martinsville 92.837 </pre>

Johnny Benson On Atlanta Qualifying:

"Those two qualifying laps at Atlanta are the most intense a driver is going to be during the year. It's a wild ride. But it only last for a short time. I'd say it would be about a 9 on the 10 scale. When you race there assuming your car is handling well it is about a 6 on that scale.

"Like I said I think Atlanta is about as on the edge as you can get when it comes to qualifying. It is so fast. Momentum is such a huge factor. You can get a lot of momentum through one and two but carrying that speed down into turn three is pretty hard. Sometimes you will see drivers out of breath when they get out of the car from just one or two qualifying laps. That's because it is so intense if you get right down to it. You put everything out there. In qualifying you have no time to relax."

Benson On Old Atlanta Configuration Vs. New Atlanta Configuration:

"A lot of the drivers really liked the old track. We have raced on the new track a couple of years now and I think the racing is getting better and better because the track is starting to widen out. We are getting three grooves in turns three and four and almost three grooves in turns one and two. It's just a little narrower getting into those turns. Hopefully it will put on a great show for the fans. I think the older the track gets teh the slipperier and slipperier it's getting. And let me tell you Atlanta is an awfully fast place to be slippery."

Benson On Season So Far:

"I guess you could look at that and say we have been consistent. But so far we haven't run the way we want to run or think we can run. We want to run a little better than this, obviously, and we've just got to keep digging and move forward. We aren't thinking about points. I learned the year I won the Busch Championship that if you do as good as you can every weekend the points will be there in the end. We have about 30 races left so worrying about points is a long way off. We finished 7th in Atlanta in 2001 so I think we have the potential to run well this weekend. Nobody has finished in the top ten this year in all three races. That kind of tells you how tough this sport is getting."

-mbvm-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Geoffrey Bodine , Johnny Benson