Newman Fastest In Monday Test At Atlanta
Monday, October 11, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Ryan Newman was fastest during Monday¿s test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
No surprise there, as Newman has won three straight pole positions at Atlanta. But Newman wants more than just to be fast.
He¿s got a lot on the line when he returns Oct. 29-31 for the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 weekend.
Not only will Newman be trying for four straight poles and in the heat of the battle for the NEXTEL Cup championship, he will also be fighting for the $1 million payoff that goes to this year¿s Crown Royal IROC champion.
¿Atlanta¿s a real big weekend for me,¿ Newman said. ¿I¿ve got a lot on the line.¿
Newman was the only NEXTEL Cup driver who tested Monday at Atlanta. He led the unofficial speed chart by circling the 1.54-mile quad-oval in 29.70 seconds (186.667 mph), leading the brigade of eight Ford Craftsman Truck Series drivers who also tested Monday. Carl Edwards, who is running in both the Craftsman Truck and NEXTEL Cup series, was the fastest Ford Truck on Monday, turning in a lap in 31.05 seconds (178.551 mph).
Newman leads fellow NEXTEL Cup driver Matt Kenseth by just four points in the standings for the Crown Royal IROC series, an invitational auto racing series that matches 12 drivers from different disciplines of auto racing in equally prepared cars. The series consists of four 100-mile races with points awarded for finishing positions. At the end of the Atlanta race, points will be tallied and a champion of champions will be named.
For the first time in history, the Crown Royal IROC champion will pocket a cool million. That¿s a major increase from the 2003 season, when champion Kurt Busch received $250,000, a series record.
¿It¿s $1 million to win and something like $80,000 for second, so we¿re definitely going for broke,¿ Newman said. ¿It¿s cool, the way they¿ve restructured things this year. It definitely catches your attention to be running for a million bucks.¿
By virtue of being the points leader, Newman will have to start in the back of the season finale. His strategy?
¿Get to the front.¿
But that won¿t be as easy as it sounds, since Newman will be running with the best of the best. And with so much money on the line, every one of the IROC drivers will be pushing the limits.
¿It should be a great race for the fans, because there are so many grooves here in Atlanta we can run at,¿ Newman said. ¿It¿s a situation where we can work the race track and move around a little bit. It¿s a great race track.¿
And with all those grooves, Newman said he won¿t be surprised if the race comes down to a finish much like the one they had at Daytona ¿ when five cars crossed the line in a pack.
So how wide would Newman take it to earn that $1 million?
¿As wide as I had to.¿
But with so many other items on his agenda for Atlanta, Newman didn¿t have too much time Monday to dwell on the Crown Royal IROC championship.
Instead, he tested his NEXTEL Cup car, trying to learn as much as he could both for the upcoming Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta and the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway, a sister track of Atlanta.
Newman is consistently one of the fastest cars on track at Atlanta, the fastest track NASCAR races at. But with the NEXTEL Cup title on the line, Newman needs to be more than fast. He needs to be first.
¿We¿ve still got a real good shot, but we¿ll need a heck of a comeback,¿ Newman said. ¿We had a shot at winning and we got greedy and got loose. Now we¿re behind the eight ball, and we have to get back to the top and run well. It¿s something we always try to do, but now we have to.¿
NASCAR testing will continue with the throughout the next two weeks, as drivers prepare for the Oct. 29-31 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. Dawsonville¿s Bill Elliott will be on hand to test Tuesday and Wednesday, while Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, local racer Reed Sorenson and many more are slated to test next week.
All test sessions are closed to public; but check back here daily for more information and testing updates.