Six-time Atlanta NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series winner Bobby Labonte in field News & Notes Atlanta master Labonte in the field ... No active driver has more NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway than Bobby Labonte (No. 47 Chevrolet...
Six-time Atlanta NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series winner Bobby Labonte in field
News & Notes
Atlanta master Labonte in the field ... No active driver has more NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway than Bobby Labonte (No. 47 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet), a six-time winner on the 1.54-mile speedway. Labonte's best NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finish is third, at Martinsville Speedway in October 2004. Older brother Terry Labonte won at Richmond in 1995. Two brothers never have won in the series. Todd (No. 66 Fiddle Back Racing Toyota) and Geoffrey Bodine have come closest with a victory and second-place finish, respectively.
Three-time champ Sprague goes for 200 ... Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) is set to make his 200th series start this week. He'll become just the second 200-race starter. Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford) hit 200 Feb. 25 at California Speedway. Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) becomes the 17th driver to appear in 100 races when he starts the World Financial Group 200.
ETC. ... Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE Dodge) goes for the triple this week entering Atlanta's NASCAR Craftsman Truck, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events. ... NASCAR and Atlanta Motor Speedway will host 100 urban youth for the World Financial Group 200 as one component of a community-focused "Welcome to Atlanta NASCAR Weekend" celebration. ... Crawford's truck will carry the logo of the National Kidney Foundation, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first kidney transplant in the United States. The team's "extra man" in Atlanta will be Lonnie Mixon, a Mobile, Ala. donor whose gift extended the life of a chronic kidney disease sufferer in 2004.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Mile-and-a-half tracks key in title race ... This week's event at Atlanta Motor Speedway marks the first of nine events on seven 1.5-mile tracks - more than a third of the 2005 schedule. Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) won last year's championship on the strength of two wins (Atlanta and Kentucky) and five of eight finishes among the top five on 1.5-mile layouts. Next best were Crafton and David Starr (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) with four top fives; they finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in final points standings.
Veterans well-versed in Atlanta competition ... Several series "newcomers" - drivers who didn't compete at Atlanta in 2004 - won't need much in the way of practice laps to acquaint themselves with the track. Todd Bodine, Ricky Craven (No. 99 Super Chips Ford) and Spencer each has a top-five finish in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition at the track. Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Tundra Toyota) won Atlanta's NASCAR Busch Series race in 1995, his championship season.
Open-wheel grads know Atlanta, too ... Raybestos Rookie contender Shige Hattori (No. 9 AISIN/AISIN AW Toyota) finished ninth and eighth in Atlanta Indy Racing League competition in 2000-01. Jimmy Kite (No. 06 MRD Chevrolet), a fellow Indianapolis 500 veteran, was ninth in 1999.
"Mike (Skinner) and I raced each other clean but went all out as hard as we could going for the win. It was a great ending, no matter who won." - Bobby Hamilton, reflecting on last year's Atlanta victory which came with a final-lap pass.
"I am glad NASCAR doesn't mark your finish by where your front tires come across the (finish) line or I would not have finished where I did." - Mike Skinner, whose Toyota took the checkered flag in second place while sliding backwards through the infield grass.
"It's going to be an advantage for everyone. It will give us more downforce. Since you have to go so hard into the corners in Atlanta, the side skirts will make the trucks stick more." - Danny Rollins, 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship crew chief for Hamilton on rule change requiring rocker panel extensions - side skirts - at all series tracks beginning with this week's event.
10 YEARS TOUGH
Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park is prominent in the development of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The .375-mile oval - with its pit road located off the track behind Turn 2 - hosted a trio of points races, three exhibition events during "Winter Heat" in 1994-95 and a September 1994 demonstration race. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) won twice at TRP in 1995 and the final race on March 1, 1997. Skinner was the track's 1996 winner. Hornaday, Sprague (seventh) and Crawford (12th) are the only veterans of Tucson's finale competing this week in Atlanta. Fellow drivers from the 1997 race remain active in other capacities. Rick Carelli is Hornaday's spotter; Kevin Harvick owns the GM Goodwrench team with his wife DeLana; Doug George is the crew chief for Regan Smith's No. 19 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet; Bob Keselowski is crew chief for son Brad Keselowski's No. 29 Pork. The Other White Meat Ford; and Bobby Dotter owns Ken Weaver's No. 08 1-800-4-A-Phone Chevrolet.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Atlanta Motor Speedway is just the fifth track to host more than one series race in a season. The EasyCare Vehicle Service 200 is set for Oct. 29. Phoenix International Raceway staged a pair of races annually from 1995 through 1998. The series visited Bakersfield, Calif.'s Mesa Marin Raceway two times in 1995. Texas Motor Speedway has been a twice-yearly stop since 1999 with Martinsville Speedway doubling up beginning in 2003.