Georgia¿s own Bill Elliott will close out an impressive month of October by being honored in the NASCAR Victory Lap tribute prior to Sunday¿s Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The program, honoring R. J. Reynolds and past NASCAR Winston Cup champions, will make its sixth stop of the season during pre-race ceremonies, where Elliott will run a few laps in his No. 9 Dodge Dealers/Victory Lap Dodge.
With two recent top-5 finishes, including a second at Kansas Speedway and a fourth at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway, Elliott sits 10th in NASCAR¿s Top 10. Last Sunday¿s ninth-place finish at Martinsville continued his autumn upswing.
The 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup champion, Elliott has 43 career victories. His most recent were back-to-back wins in 2002, which included the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
RICKY RUDD TO MAKE 800TH CAREER START: Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Racing Ford Taurus for the Wood Brothers, is expected to make his 800th career NASCAR Winston Cup start during the Oct. 26 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Rudd¿s first start came at Rockingham in March 1975. Since that time, he has scored 23 wins, including the 1987 spring race at Atlanta, and 191 top-5 finishes.
He joins just three other drivers who have started 800 or more races: Richard Petty-1177; Dave Marcis-882 and Darrell Waltrip-809.
Atlanta will also mark Rudd¿s 713th consecutive start, a NASCAR Winston Cup Series record.
HAVE A COKE AND A THRILL: Twelve NASCAR fans will get the rides of their lives Thursday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Each fan will receive four laps around the 1.5-mile oval with their favorite Coca-Cola-sponsored driver at speeds approaching 160 miles per hour. It¿s all part of the grand prize package for the annual Coca-Cola Racing Family Reunion contest.
Atlanta is home base for the worldwide soft drink giant, which sponsors Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&Ms Ford), Steve Park (No. 30 America Online Chevrolet), Ricky Rudd, Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific Dodge), Jeff Burton, John Andretti (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet), Michael Waltrip, Greg Biffle (No. 16 Grainger Ford) and Kevin Harvick.
DRIVER APPEARANCES: Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Dewalt Tools Ford and his Roush teammate Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Ford, will be signing autographs and visiting with patrons of Wade Ford on Oct. 23.
Kenseth is scheduled to appear from 4 ¿ 6 p.m. and Martin will sign from 6 ¿ 8 p.m. Wade Ford is located at 3860 South Cobb Drive in Smyrna, Ga.
INCHING TOWARD VICTORY: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has scored four straight finishes of seventh or better at Atlanta, more than any other active driver. He finished fifth in this race one year ago and third there in March. His best Atlanta finish, second, came in March 2002. He has led in six of his eight races at Atlanta.
¿ Bobby Labonte has finished first or second in nine of his 21 races at Atlanta. He was the last Bud Pole winner that went on to victory at Atlanta, winning the 1996 NAPA 500 (fall). Labonte also won the 1999 NAPA 500 from 39th, the lowest starting position of a winner at Atlanta.
¿ Ryan Newman leads all drivers with seven superspeedway victories in 2003.
¿ Tony Stewart has scored four straight top-10 finishes at Atlanta.
¿ Jeff Gordon has scored six top-10 finishes in the last seven races at Atlanta.