Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports the teams to beat at Atlanta Motor Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 15, 2005) -- Whether it's setups, good karma or hard work, certain NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams excel at certain tracks. This week...
Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports the teams to beat at Atlanta Motor Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 15, 2005) -- Whether it's setups, good karma or hard work, certain NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams excel at certain tracks.
This week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, if the Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing logo adorns one's hauler, one's confidence likely is at full gallop. The 1.5-mile oval 30 minutes south of metropolitan Atlanta hosts Sunday's Golden Corral 500, and aside from being one of the sport's fastest surfaces, it's also a favorite destination for both of those organizations.
Why? The occasional Richard Childress Racing, Roush Racing, Robert Yates Racing or Dale Earnhardt Inc. victory notwithstanding -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) is this week's defending race champion -- Atlanta belongs to HMS and JGR.
The proof is numeric: Fifteen of the last 32 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events have been won by either a Hendrick or Gibbs driver. Hendrick leads with eight wins, amassed by current standouts Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) and former drivers Jerry Nadeau, Ken Schrader and Darrell Waltrip.
The milestones include Waltrip, a three-time series champion, winning the 1989 Motorcraft Quality Parts 500, Hendrick's first Atlanta victory. Gordon leads all Hendrick drivers with four Atlanta wins, and the latest Hendrick driver to win at Atlanta is Johnson, who won last October's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500.
Since 1996, JGR has seven victories, the first, Bobby Labonte's (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) 1996 NAPA 500 win; he's also the latest JGR winner at Atlanta, in the 2003 BASS Pro Shops MBNA 500. Labonte leads all active drivers with six Atlanta wins. His teammate Tony Stewart's (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) lone Atlanta win came in the 2002 MBNA America 500.
"I like the racetrack and I've always been pretty good there," Labonte said. "I don't know if it's a freak situation that I've won six races there and I haven't won six at Martinsville. The cars that we've won with, some were dominant, some were mediocre that we made better and we've run second on the last lap and somebody ran out of gas. We've kind of won at different angles. It's a place that I run well at and I can't explain why."