At Atlanta Motor Speedway, starting up front does not guarantee success come race day. But Greg Biffle, last year's Pep Boys Auto 500 qualifying pole winner, will tell you starting on the pole, ‘doesn't hurt either.'
A testament to the track's raceability, Atlanta Motor Speedway has seen just one top qualifier take the checkered flag since a track redesign in 1997. When Biffle started on the pole a year ago, the accomplished driver led just one lap and struggled to a 22nd-place finish.
"It's important to be in front at Atlanta, but it is probably more important for pit road selection," said Biffle, who currently sits third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, 77-points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. "It's really important there to have a good pit box on pit road, which is important at every track, but more so at Atlanta.
"Track position at Atlanta isn't as important, since the track allows for good racing because you have multiple grooves," Biffle explained. "It's very easy to pass throughout the day, unlike some other tracks, so qualifying strong at Atlanta doesn't mean you'll finish strong. But starting up front doesn't hurt either."
Starting up front might seem like an advantage, but at a wide-open track with three-car wide racing like AMS, qualifying success seems to share no correlation to winning. Including Kasey Kahne's 2006 victory from the pole position, only seven pole winners have finished in the top-five since November of 1997. In fact, more pole winners have finished outside of the top-20 (eight).
With an average starting position of 13th in 10-career AMS races, Biffle has a typical finish of 15th. However, of his six career top-10 finishes in Atlanta, just three have come from top-10 starts. Three of his best showings in Atlanta have come from his average start of 13th: an eighth-place finish in 2004, a fifth-place result in 2006, and a fourth-place showcase in March.
And while Biffle has had success at Atlanta from both good and poor starting positions, the Sprint Cup star is ready to reach Victory Lane in Atlanta.
"I love that place. We've run really well there and it's a fun racetrack to run on, but we haven't won yet," said Biffle. "I'm very eager to get a win at Atlanta - very eager. I would love to have a Sprint Cup win there."
To watch Biffle go for back-to-back qualifying wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the Pep Boys Auto 500 race weekend, fans can purchase tickets to Hot Shot Qualifying Night by calling the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-877-9-AMS-TIX, 770-946-4211 or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.