CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Atwood qualified third for the Brickyard 400 last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ran in the top 10 until an accident caused an overheating problem that damaged his...
CASEY ATWOOD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Atwood qualified third for the Brickyard 400 last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ran in the top 10 until an accident caused an overheating problem that damaged his engine. He finished 41st but ran with the leaders in the first quarter of the race. Atwood talks about Indy, his road course test and outlook for Sunday's race at Watkins Glen.
"I've raced two Busch races at Watkins Glen. The first year we had a transmission problem. The second year, we finished 12th. It's fun, but road course racing is something I'm not used to. There's obviously a lot better road course drivers out there than me, but it's fun. If you can get hold of the track and learn it, it really can be fun.
"A lot of people end up going off course, and if you can just stay on all day you'll get a pretty good finish. Track position is everything on a road course, and it's really hard to pass. There will be a lot of different pit calls. People are going to be taking two tires, no tires, it's just all who's up front at the end. Qualifying is going to be really important. If you can get up front there it means a lot because it's so hard to pass. Track position, if you can get up front on a pit stop, that's what usually wins the race.
"I'd say you could do it on three pit stops. There may be more than that depending on the cautions. Watkins Glen and Sears Point are a lot different to me. Sears Point just felt like it didn't have any grip. It's just old I guess. Watkins Glen looks a little newer, the track surface does. It's got a lot more grip on the track. It's basically what you're used to. I've been to Watkins Glen a couple of times, so I guess I'm more used to it. Maybe I'll feel more comfortable at Sears Point next year.
"You can pass at Watkins Glen. If your car is fast, you can always pass. You can out brake 'em getting in the corners or get under them coming out. There's just certain spots on the track known as passing places. There's more places to pass at Watkins Glen than Sears Point. You're always turning at Sears Point. There's no straightaways at all. It's hard to pass there.
"Those tracks are both road courses, but they're not similar. I think the main thing that's going to help me at Watkins Glen is that I've been there a couple of times. I'm pretty familiar with the track. Maybe we learned some stuff on the car that will help us a little bit over there, but the main thing is I've been there a couple of times.
"We tested at a road course in Virginia and it kind of got us back in that road course mode. The crew had been practicing with their backward pit stops and all. We just shook down our car. We drove it around and saw it didn't have any vibrations. We tried three sets of shocks to see which set I like the feel of the most. The track was just way too tight, too small to make any changes to the car. They had a second of it closed for a Super Bike test, so we didn't really have a chance to get up to speed.
"Indy was real disappointing. I thought that maybe that was our best shot at having a chance at winning. We came out of there with a lot of confidence. We didn't get the results we wanted, but the Dodges were up there 1 and 2 for awhile. That was pretty exciting for everybody, and it gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. We know we can take that car and run good anywhere with it. Watkins Glen doesn't have any speed. It's just not an aero track, so you won't see anything there (with extra two inches on front bumper). At Michigan, you definitely will. That's a track where aero plays a big part. That will be our next test for the new aero package."
PRUETT WILL DRIVE FOR GANASSI AT GLEN -- Scott Pruett will drive the No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge Intrepid R/T for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates at Watkins Glen. Team Manager Andy Graves said the car's primary driver, rookie Jason Leffler, will be on hand to watch the action and learn about road course racing.
"We're going to test on Wednesday at the road course in Kershaw, S.C.," Graves said. "Sterling (Marlin) is going to be there, too. We're just going to break in the brake pads and make sure Scott is comfortable in the car.
"We tested at Watkins Glen with Scott and we were pretty happy with the test. He was second fastest. Ron Fellows was there, and Boris Said, Dale Jarrett and John Andretti. We had talked about letting Scott drive a third car like we did at Sears Point, but Chip (Ganassi) decided to let Jason skip this race. Hopefully Scott can help us get the 01 car up in owner points.
"We know Jeff Gordon is going to be tough at Watkins Glen, but there's not many tracks where Jeff Gordon isn't tough these days. They've got their act together. Sterling had a shot of beating him at Indy without those late yellow flags, but we're not worried just about Jeff Gordon. We're racing the 42 other cars out there, not just the 24."
DODGE GARAGE NOTES -- Kyle Petty is the only Dodge driver who has won a race at Watkins Glen. Petty won at Watkins Glen in 1992... Ward Burton's sixth-place finish last Sunday in the Brickyard 400 was his third finish of sixth or better in the last six races. During that stretch, Burton has moved from 23rd to 17th in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings.... Sterling Marlin has had the top finishing Dodge in 11 of 21 races this season. His runner-up finish in the Brickyard 400 was his best ever at Indy and matched the previous best finish for a Dodge this season when John Andretti finished second at Bristol. Marlin's Intrepid has led laps in 15 of 21 races. He's led 39 times for 323 laps... Bill Elliott scored his fourth top 10 finish in the past six races with his eighth-place performance in the Brickyard 400. Elliott has six top 10s in eight starts at Indy. He has five top 10s in 14 starts at Watkins Glen. Elliott is one of three drivers ranked in the top 20 in the series standings with no DNFs this season... Four Dodge drivers -- Marlin, Elliott, Ward Burton, and Andretti have combined for 11 top five finishes this season. Marlin has six of those top fives. Six Dodge drivers have combined for 28 top 10s and Marlin leads the way with 11 of those. He's one of only five drivers with 11 or more top 10s this season... Dodge drivers Marlin, Elliott and Stacy Compton have won poles this season.