Atlanta Preview Wally Dallenbach

Dallenbach Respects Atlanta Motor Speedway Wally Dallenbach heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday's Cracker Barrel 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race with consistency in his corner and plenty of respect for the high-speed 1.54-mile...

Dallenbach Respects Atlanta Motor Speedway

Wally Dallenbach heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday's Cracker Barrel 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race with consistency in his corner and plenty of respect for the high-speed 1.54-mile quad-oval.

The 35-year-old driver of the No. 25 Budweiser Monte Carlo ranks ninth in the series standings after the first three races with finishes of 12th, 17th and 13th to his credit. Veteran crew chief Tony Furr and Dallenbach established a primary goal of top 15 finishes during the first half of the '99 campaign, and with an average finish of 14th, that goal has been achieved so far.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will provide a formidable challenge for Dallenbach. In 11 career starts at Atlanta, Dallenbach has never finished better than 20th.

"I like Atlanta, but it hasn't been very good to me," Dallenbach said. "Hopefully, we can continue to have good cars and maybe we can change that. I seem to struggle down there with the setups. We've had a lot of mechanical problems, a lot of cut tires, a lot of stupid things happen.

"I usually qualify pretty good, but I can't seem to get a good race setup under me. I like the track. I just haven't been able to hit what I need there.

"We just kind of learned from our mistakes there last time. We'll probably take the same car, but it'll be quite different as far as suspension and stuff like that."

Last November's rain-delayed race at Atlanta took all day and most of the night to complete. Although Dallenbach has competed in his share of endurance races, he didn't enjoy that one.

"It was the longest day in the world," Dallenbach said. "We weren't very good, and it was like we just wanted it to be over and it wouldn't end. Being the last race of the year, everybody wanted to get the heck out of there. It was a long day.

"There's nothing you can do when something like that happens. You just hang around and be ready. There's a lot of standing around anyway, but that day it was just brutal. We got out of there after midnight and probably got home about 3 or 3:30 in the morning."

Atlanta Motor Speedway is the third fastest track on the circuit. It took a lap of 193.461 mph last November to win the Bud Pole Award. The Bud Pole Award for the 1998 Pepsi 400 at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway was 193.611 mph.

Some drivers complain of going too fast at Atlanta. NASCAR's new spoiler and air dam rules may result in a better race this time around at the 1.54-mile layout, but Dallenbach isn't betting on it.

"You get to the point where some of the race tracks like Atlanta where you're running so fast, it's hard to race," Dallenbach said. "Spoilers may help there a little bit, but you don't need to go that fast to put on a good show. What do you do? You don't make the car drive any worse. That's not the answer. I don't know if restrictor plates are the answer. I don't know what the answer is, but we're going pretty fast down there right now. It's been hard to race on in the past. It's another one of those one groove tracks."

Dallenbach and the Budweiser team have found their groove so far in '99. Although they've yet to finish in the top 10, standing ninth in the series points race is pretty impressive.

"We've had three good races, and we just need to keep doing what we're doing and not get too cocky or too relaxed," Dallenbach said. "We just need to keep plugging, and we'll be in a situation where we can win some races this year. We really need to maintain what we're doing. We want to be competitive every week, and that's what this team hasn't been able to do for a long time.

"We've been consistent, and that's a big change from last year. Last year, we had some really good races and in some races we were really bad. We need to be pretty good at every race and then jump at the opportunities when they're there to go for a win.

"Right now, the way things are, we should be top 15 every week. I think we can be top five, but consistently on an average, we need to be top 15 and we'll win a race or two this year. But we need to be top 15 at the places we didn't run good last year. We need to come out every week in the top 15. If we do that, we'll be in the top 10 in the points.

"I'd be happy with a top 15 at Atlanta. I think we can capitalize on a top five or top 10 at Texas and Darlington. If we can get a top 15 at Atlanta, that would be good.

"Drivers have a respect for Atlanta. You've got to feel your way. Guys run the track different. When I qualify, I pretty much run flat or try to get the car to run flat out around the race track. You've got to work yourself up to that, and the car has got to be right for you to do that. You've just got to not force the issue with the race car there, or it'll bite you."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr.