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Martin, Benson and Rudd Comment about the New Atlanta Motor Speedway

14 November 1997

HAMPTON, GA - When the Winston Cup Series rolled into Hampton, GA for the 
season finale, drivers and crew members found a much different Atlanta Motor 
Speedway to the one they left back in the spring. 

Immediately following the Primestar 500 on March 9, construction crews went 
to work transforming the 1.522-mile oval into a 1.54-mile quad oval. In 
addition to swapping the front and back stretches, the speedway now sports a 
dogleg on the frontstraight. 

Teams who tested here recorded speeds in excess of 192 mph which began to 
cause concern for some who felt that the 3400-lb stock cars may be traveling 
too fast for the track to handle. 

Mark Martin, who enters the race third in the points standings offered the 
following opinion. "I am concerned about the speeds since we'll be running 
about 190 mph. Any driver not concerned is too young and inexperienced to know 
better. Most drivers in the garage say it is okay the way it is. The track is 
not treacherous. The track will age and the groove will spread out in a few 
years. Even next spring will not be as bad as this race."

The high speeds caused many to speculate that perhaps NASCAR needed to step 
in and either mandate the usage of restrictor plates or institute new spoiler 
angle rules. Martin, however, feels that the key will be to keep a close eye 
on tire wear. 

"There is nothing that can constructively slow these cars down that won't 
have a negative effect," said the driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Ford. "No 
matter what you do, there is still an opportunity to get hurt. The tremendous 
speeds will punish the tires, so that is what we need to watch. 

The 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, Johnny Benson, agrees with 
Martin's assessment regarding tire wear. "Man is this track fast!" Benson 
exclaimed. "We turned laps right at 29 seconds here last month. We also had 
our computer equipment on the Pennzoil Pontiac and it showed we were right at 
200 mph. That's pretty fast on a mile-and-a-half track with 40 other cars 
around you. Tires are going to be critical at this race. They were lasting 
about 30 to 40 laps because of the new surface. As the weekend goes on and 
more rubber gets down on the track, they will probably go longer, but I think 
tires are going to dictate pitstops more than fuel mileage."

Ricky Rudd, who will make his 40th start at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, 
also spent a test session at the newly-configured track shaking down his No. 
10 Tide Ford. "It's very fast and it's a challenge to drive," he said. "The 
track has a very odd transition going into turn one, kind of like Texas, and 
it has a series of bumps that can really upset your car. All the grip has 
caused the speeds to increase a lot. You can almost run wide open all the way 
around, and I'm sure someone will do it in qualifying. I'm afraid to predict 
how fast we will go. In order to run really fast you have to aim the car 
perfectly to miss all the bumps and run the best line through the turn.
If you miss it by a foot it slows your lap time down by 3/10ths.  It's
like threading a needle at 200 mph."

Lori Vizza -- The Auto Channel