Eight NASCAR drivers made laps Monday on the high-banked 1.54-mile oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway, preparing for the Oct. 24- 26 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 Weekend.
Part-time Winston Cup racer Bobby Hamilton Jr. knew his No. 35 Winston Cup machine was going to be good when he posted the fastest lap of the day just three laps into the test session. Hamilton, who is also a full-time Busch Series driver, circled the speedway in 29.56 seconds (187.551 mph).
"We were fast out of the box, even in a race setup mostly leftover from Kansas,¿ Hamilton said. ¿It¿s given us a chance to just have a fun, relaxing day and tinker around and just try some things we¿ve been thinking about.¿
Hamilton will be running both the Oct. 25 Aaron¿s 312 Busch race and the Oct. 26 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, a natural since Atlanta is one of his favorite tracks.
¿This is a real race track,¿ Hamilton said. ¿You can race here no matter what your car is doing. You can go high and you can go low. There¿s racing grooves from the inside wall to the catchfence.¿
Kyle Busch, the 18-year-old brother of Winston Cup driver Kurt Busch, has a newfound respect for his brother¿s win at Atlanta Motor Speedway last fall after experiencing the track firsthand on Monday.
¿I came to Atlanta a couple of years ago to watch Kurt race, and this place looks just like Charlotte,¿ Busch said. ¿When I got on the track this morning, I realized it¿s a lot faster than it looks. This place is by far the fastest track I¿ve been to.¿
Kyle turned a fast lap of 29.96 seconds (185.047 mph) Monday ¿ the fastest of the Busch Series teams ¿ thanks to tips from his big brother.
¿I called Kurt last night to get a little insight on the track,¿ Busch said. ¿We have similar driving styles, so we like similar setups. He¿s given me a lot of tips that seem to be working.¿
Busch Series regular David Stremme, a Sterling Marlin cap pulled low on his head, watched from his perch atop a stack of tires as Mike Wallace tested a Busch Series car for Phoenix Racing.
¿I¿m watching, seeing the line they run here and just learning the personality of the track,¿ Stremme said.
Wallace¿s fastest lap of the day, in Stremme¿s No. 1 Yellow Transportation Dodge, was at 180.881 mph (30.65 seconds).
¿This place doesn¿t seem like the fastest track on the circuit unless you get loose or come to a fast stop,¿ Wallace said. ¿But when you do either of those things, you automatically know it¿s the fastest track.¿
Wallace also took a few laps in his Winston Cup machine but set most of his day aside for laps in the Busch series car. The part-time Cup team has scored three top-15s in four races this season.
Wallace will drive the No. 4 Geico Chevrolet in the Oct. 25 Aaron¿s 312 Busch Series race and the No. 09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming Dodge in the Oct. 26 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 Winston Cup race.
Brian Vickers, another driver scheduled to run both the Busch Series and Winston Cup events at Atlanta, topped the practice charts at last year¿s Busch race with a lap of 30.125 seconds (184.033 mph). Monday, he upped last year¿s speed by a tick, turning a lap of 184.064 mph (30.12 seconds).
¿This is definitely one of my best race tracks,¿ Vickers said. ¿I led my first Busch Series laps here and I was fast in practice in my family-owned car last year. It¿s going to be cool to see what I can do with Hendrick equipment this year.
¿It¿s warmer today than it was at the race last year so we¿re losing some time to the heat. We should be able to take what we learn today and really pick up speed when the temperature cools off in a couple of weeks.¿
Other drivers testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway Monday included Ron Hornaday (182.549 mph), Hank Parker Jr. (180.528 mph), Ashton Lewis (180.528) and Billy Bigley (177.285 mph).
Tickets are still available for all three days of racing action during the Oct. 24-26 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 Weekend. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211.