OCTOBER 16, 2001
ATLANTA POLE WINNERS A DIFFERENT BREED OF DRIVER
HAMPTON, GA - Looking for a lock to win the pole during this year's Georgia-Pacific Qualifying Day? Put
your money on the young drivers, because they have a history of shocking the field in Atlanta.
The combination of Atlanta's raw speed and high banks, along with a touch of their own fearlessness, gives
young drivers the edge at this fast track.
"It's a track that takes a kind of blind faith," Burton said. "You have to just sail it in the corner and hope it
sticks. If it doesn't, it'll be a real ugly lap. If it does, it'll be a really nice lap. But it's all about blind faith.
You just have to close your eyes and hope it works." And for many young drivers, that strategy has paid off. Gordon, Kenny Irwin, Kevin Lepage, Loy Allen Jr., Johnny Benson, Rick Mast and Terry Labonte all won their
first career pole positions in Atlanta.
But not all young drivers excel on this 1.54-mile quad-oval. Just as many have seen the high banks and high speeds and backed off. "Atlanta is such a fast race track that it's kind of an intimidating race track, and some
of the younger drivers have a problem with it," Todd Bodine said. "But then on the other hand, some of them
don't have a problem with it because they don't know any better. They don't know how bad a hit hurts when
you get into the wall. But I think it's a very forgiving race track overall, and that generally helps the younger drivers." In the spring Busch race, rookie Ryan Newman shocked the field by destroying the Busch Series track record
with lap of 191.661 mph in just his first race in the series.
"I guess it was a pretty amazing lap, but it really didn't seem as good as it could have been," Newman said.
"This place is fast, the fastest place we qualify at. Is it too fast? I don't know, I guess I'm too rookie to say."
Geoffrey Bodine is no rookie, but he will be the first to say that Atlanta isn't too fast. In fact, for him, it wasn't
quite fast enough. Bodine set the track record in 1997 by recording a lap at 197.478 mph - but what he wanted
was a 198 mph lap.
"I was a little disappointed; we had a chance at being really fast, but we just couldn't put it together," Bodine
said. "I love the speed, and that's a fast track."
As long as there are young drivers in line to qualify, there will be a chance that one of them will push the envelope far enough to break Bodine's record. Don't miss this fall's session, Georgia-Pacific Qualifying Day, on Friday, Nov. 16. Great seats are still available for the entire weekend of NASCAR Winston Cup and ARCA racing. For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, or call Ticketmaster.