The NASCAR Winston Cup tour travels to Atlanta this weekend for what is historically the season-ending race. Although New Hampshire will be the season-ender this season and Homestead-Miami will host the finale in 2002 there will still be plenty to...
The NASCAR Winston Cup tour travels to Atlanta this weekend for what is historically the season-ending race. Although New Hampshire will be the season-ender this season and Homestead-Miami will host the finale in 2002 there will still be plenty to talk about at the 1.5-mile oval.
The hot topic this weekend is sure to be the recent Dodge domination punctuated by Homestead last weekend when it placed 7 of the top 13 finishers. In August, NASCAR allowed Dodge to pull its front valence out two inches giving it greater downforce through the turns and a significant performance advantage. Dodge has won all four of its races since the rule change.
On Tuesday NASCAR ordered the Dodge's pull its front valence in an inch but allowed the Fords to pull its front valence out a half-inch. Pontiac, who has been to victory lane on one high-speed track this season (Bobby Labonte at Pocono in July), remains unchanged. Despite this, #10 Valvoline Pontiac Crew Chief James Ince hopes for a competitive performance for Pontiac this weekend negotiating the high speeds at Atlanta. Dale Jarrett's pole speed of 192.748 mph at Atlanta in the spring was the fastest pole speed of the season - almost 8 mph faster than the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega.
Ince On The Pontiac:
"Pontiacs are good everywhere. I know we have been complaining about the Pontiac, but it's a very, very good race car. Unfortunately, it is a very disadvantaged race car and that's because of the way the rules are. You can't knock the Dodge guys for having good cars because they have worked hard to go and do that. The rules are so beneficial to them. It doesn't matter where we go right now they are going to have an advantage. The good thing about Atlanta is that we have 500 miles and the better race teams are going to go to the top. And, it's my belief right now the people with the better rules situation aren't the better race teams. At the end of the day on Sunday I think the Pontiacs will have a good opportunity."
Ince On Atlanta:
"It's a place that we are looking forward to. Once you have a little success there you start feeling comfortable and you look forward to it. It's a place I struggled with for years. But, in the last two years, Johnny has helped me a whole lot. It's kind of like what I have done with him at Martinsville. Atlanta and Martinsville are places that no longer intimidate us. We tested at Atlanta. The track is slick and has lost a lot of grip. That is a good situation for us on race day because springs and shocks will come into play more than downforce.
"Some have said Atlanta is too fast. I don't think we are going too fast anywhere until the driver cries Uncle. Atlanta is a very fast race track and I think the guys are aware just how fast they are going. I don't think any of us in the garage area have a concept of speed but we do have a concept of racing. If it ever gets to the point where the racing becomes a little bit iffy because of the speed then you might notice it."
Ince On Homestead Replacing Atlanta As Season Ending Race In 2002:
"Our sport is constantly changing. Everybody on our race team lives their personal lives based on the schedule and what track we are going to next. We don't tell time with a calendar saying this is the 15th of Nov. Instead we call it Atlanta weekend. Now that Homestead will be the season-ending race that will take some getting accustomed to in our lives. Atlanta has a lot of history in our sport but by the same token it's going to be nice to do a little something different.
"Atlanta is a tough place to go to if you are points racing if you are saying 'Man this is our last day to advance or hold on to what we got.' For the race teams I think Homestead might be a better situation as a last race on the schedule."
Ince On Differences Between Atlanta In Spring Vs. Fall:
"The only difference is in how heavy a jacket you put on race morning. Atlanta doesn't change a whole lot. The track is getting older and giving up a little bit. You are always going to freeze your hind end off no matter whether it's the Spring or Fall race. In the Spring that is the last race in which you are living on the previous year's points. So you always want to get out of the Atlanta Spring race in good shape. In the Fall race that's where you are going to end up the season and live with that in the off season. Normally, if you have a good run this weekend you will think about it all the way to Daytona and if you have a bad run you will remember it just as long. There isn't any 'we are going to do better next week. But at least we have New Hampshire if this weekend doesn't go the way we want it."