Houston Talladega preview

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 17, 2001) -- After getting a boost of confidence with his best performance of the season at the recent Winston Cup race in Martinsville, Va., rookie driver Andy Houston is looking for continued improvement at this weekend's...

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 17, 2001) -- After getting a boost of confidence with his best performance of the season at the recent Winston Cup race in Martinsville, Va., rookie driver Andy Houston is looking for continued improvement at this weekend's Talladega 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Houston, driver of the No. 96 McDonald's Ford Taurus, led the Winston Cup rookie contingent with a 17th place finish in the April 8th Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Though the Talladega restrictor plate race will be the first time that Houston will compete on the 2.66-mile oval, the McDonald's driver feels that he won't be at a disadvantage.

"Talladega is a lot like Daytona and we had a strong run there earlier in the year," said Houston. "We also tested in Talladega prior to the season and I felt very comfortable with the race track."

Houston started the Daytona 500 ninth after finishing fourth in the Twin 125 qualifying race. Houston drove a strong race and it appeared he was headed to a high finish in his first Daytona 500. But with 27 laps remaining he was forced to retire from the race after being collected in a 19-car accident. Prior to the accident, Houston ran in the lead draft for the majority of the race, was often in the top 10 and ran as high as third.

"I really feel that Talladega also suits our style of racing," said Houston. "I know there are some concerns of it being a restrictor plate race and the aerodynamic package that we will run there. But everyone is well aware of the concerns and hopefully we'll all drive with that in mind and have a race that we can look back on and say, 'that was a great show.'

"You have to drive both offensively and defensively at Talladega, but mostly offensively," Houston added. "I know that sounds crazy, but there's not a whole lot you can do at times. If the competition stacks up against you, you're going to get shuffled out of the draft and drop way back. Basically you fight all day trying to find the line that moves the fastest and the one that works for you."

Regarding the team's morale after finishing 17th in Martinsville two weeks ago, Houston said, "It did help the team's morale and confidence. We're well aware that was our best finish of the season, but on the other hand, we're not really ecstatic about finishing 17th. There's a difference of being satisfied running 17th and being satisfied with the day. I was satisfied with the day, but not satisfied with a 17th place finish. But it was a step in the right direction. Hopefully we can build on that momentum and start to be competitive week in and week out." <pre> Houston 2001 Stats Point Standing: 42nd Best Finish: 17th -- Martinsville (April 8) Best Start: 9th - Daytona (Feb. 18)

-McD-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Andy Houston