Hot topic in Hotlanta: speed By Brett Borden HAMPTON, Ga. (March 8, 2000) It's all about speed. Atlanta Motor Speedway is fast. As fast as it gets on a 1.5-mile speedway. The NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division comes through town at...
Hot topic in Hotlanta: speed By Brett Borden
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 8, 2000) It's all about speed. Atlanta Motor Speedway is fast. As fast as it gets on a 1.5-mile speedway.
The NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division comes through town at this time of year for the ninth time for Saturday's $653,634 Aaron's 312. The first race was won by a kid by the name of Jeff Gordon. The most recent was won by Mike Skinner.
"Fast -- that's the one word that I can best use to describe Atlanta Motor Speedway," said Jeff Purvis. "The speed we are carrying into the turns here is unbelievable. I know the speeds are about the same as Daytona and Talladega, but for some reason it feels faster here."
"Atlanta Motor Speedway is the best prescription for a driver's need for speed," said Todd Bodine. "The track is real fast, which is what I like most about racing there. We'll turn laps faster than the laps we run at Daytona and Talladega. Atlanta races are fast and furious and tend to be real exciting events."
It was definitely exciting for last year's winner. Skinner beat out Bud Pole winner Dave Blaney.
"I truly enjoyed the Atlanta Busch race last year," Skinner said. "I've always been fortunate to be in the front pack in Atlanta, whether in a Busch or Winston Cup race. We had a few challenges during last year's race, especially when so many cars decided not to pit (on lap 127) and we had to fight our way back up front. But we were able to get there and stay there for the checkered."
As for Blaney, he was actually declared the winner for a while when officials found an unapproved part on Skinner's car after the race. But following an appeal to the National Stock Car Commission, Skinner's win was reinstated.
"After some time had passed, I know we all felt that the way it all ended up was probably for the best," said Blaney, who was 'the winner' for four days. "I know in all the years I've been racing that was the strangest postrace thing I'd ever been involved with. Even though we'd run well enough to win the race, I didn't feel comfortable at all talking about it early in the following week because we hadn't come across the line first. I think almost any athlete would want to win the right way. And as hard as wins are to come by in any NASCAR division, I still believe we all would have preferred to win the race outright. That feeling stayed with us all season."
Ron Hornaday has won a race at AMS outright - the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series race here last November. He says that experience will help him immensely on Saturday.
"This is one fast race track," said the two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion. "It took me a couple of laps in the ARCA car to really get in the gas, because at most tracks you don't really notice how fast you're going, but here you can't miss it. When you hear a driver say that they held their breath in qualifying, trust me, they did!
"I am really excited about getting back to Atlanta. We had such a good car for the ARCA race and I had a blast. I hope that my Busch car drives just as good. I have had to change my driving style a little to make up for the shorter wheelbase in these cars. They drive a lot different than the trucks. I have had to make little changes in the way I approach each corner."
According to crew chief David Ifft (No. 25 Lance Snacks Chevrolet), there is little margin for error at Atlanta, on the track or in the pits.
"It's a tire race track, but not as bad as tracks like Rockingham and Darlington," Ifft said. "You've got to run hard almost every lap at Atlanta because everyone else is. You've got to have a good working race car. If you're even a tick off, it'll be noticeable."
That's because with the speeds at Atlanta, one tick covers a lot of ground.
Saturday's Aaron's 312 is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET (ESPN and PRN Radio). The event will be preceded by one-lap Bud Pole Qualifying on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. ET to set positions 1-25 and at 10:15 a.m. ET on Friday to fill the 43-car field.
Practice is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to noon ET and 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. ET on Thursday and 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Happy Hour practice is from 12:35 - 1:35 p.m. ET on Friday, right before Bud Pole Qualifying for the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race.