NASCAR Contenders Find Speed Monday At Atlanta Motor Speedway
Monday, October 18, 2004
Three of NASCAR¿s frontrunners for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch series championships tested Monday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in preparation for the Oct. 29-31 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 weekend.
Leading the way on the unofficial speed chart was NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Championship contender Mark Martin. Martin, who is currently fifth in the NEXTEL Cup standings, piloted his No. 6 Viagra Ford around the 1.54-mile quad-oval in 30.04 seconds (184.554 mph).
With only five races left and 186 points between himself and the championship, Martin knows that in order to win that elusive first title, he will need more than just good finishes on his side.
¿We need to finish in the top five every week to have a chance,¿ Martin said. ¿But last weekend, we outran Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch and still finished behind them. More than anything, we need a little luck.¿
Also testing with Martin were the top two drivers in the NASCAR Busch championship chase. Although Busch currently trails leader Truex Jr. by 144 points, he was a step ahead during Monday¿s test, gunning his No. 5 Lowe¿s Chevrolet around the fastest speedway in NASCAR in 30.23 seconds (183.394 mph). Truex was a tick behind at 30.35 seconds (182.669 mph).
Busch enters the Aaron¿s 312 confident despite last year¿s 43rd-place finish.
¿Atlanta is a big key,¿ Busch said, ¿Our last race here was a disappointment because we wrecked and I didn¿t get a lot of experience, but this year we feel confident that Atlanta will be a good track for us and that it¿s going to be real fun.¿
And although Busch has just a handful of laps at Atlanta, he¿s a seasoned veteran compared to his competition. Truex¿s first laps at Atlanta were Monday morning when the test session began.
¿Even though this is a new race track for us, we¿ll have the same strategy as every weekend,¿ Truex said. ¿We need to run as smart and as hard as we can. And we need to get to the front and get points.¿
But no matter who takes the Busch series championship, both young guns appear to be the future of NASCAR racing. Kyle Busch has already been announced as the full-time driver next season of the No. 5 Kellogg¿s NEXTEL Cup car, and Truex is working toward a full-time NEXTEL Cup ride as well.
¿Everything has happened so fast,¿ Truex said. ¿I¿m really excited right now to run some Cup races and go forward with my career.¿
Testing will continue this week with Martin, Busch, Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Reed Sorenson, Casey Mears, Carl Edwards, John Andretti, J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty, Justin Ashburn, Jeff Green, Hermie Sadler, and Boston Reid all scheduled to test.
All tests sessions are closed to the public, but check back here daily for updates.