Atlanta Preview: Hendrick Teams Ready to Contend
- Mar 17, 2006
- Team Hendrick
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 17, 2006) – The roulette wheel stops at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, and if history is any gauge, Hendrick Motorsports might just come up a winner.
In last year’s March event, Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet didn’t win, but the team came about as close as you can in NASCAR, losing to a hard-charging Carl Edwards on the final straightaway.
Brian Vickers carried the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet to a sixth-place finish that weekend, while Kyle Busch’s first NEXTEL Cup race at the circuit’s fastest track resulted in a 12th. Jeff Gordon, a four-time Atlanta winner, was caught up in an accident and finished 39th.
But Gordon, who had difficulty on many 1.5-mile tracks in 2005, rebounded to finish second (again to Edwards) in the fall race.
“We made gains toward the end of last year that have carried over to this year,” Gordon said, assessing the No. 24 team’s progress on intermediate tracks.
And while Gordon is coming off a promising fifth-place finish at Las Vegas, another 1.5-mile track, all eyes will be squarely on Johnson, the early leader in the NEXTEL Cup standings.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said in anticipation of this week’s race. “We’re on a great roll. In general, we’ve had so much success at Atlanta that I’m really not that worried about going to the track. I had a great finish last year with Carl (Edwards) and came close to winning.”
Johnson has been doing more than just coming close this season, winning two of three and finishing second in a third race. Nevertheless, Johnson thinks the best is yet to come for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.
“We’re only three races in,” he says, “[but], I know our cars can be better. They can be faster and they can drive a little better. I’m really excited for the whole year. We’ve got a lot of growth in this race team still ahead of us and, hopefully, we can get everything done when the year is over.”
Busch, who won a Craftsman Truck Series race at Atlanta last fall, makes his second Busch Series start and first at the track since October 2004. Busch, driving the No. 5 Lowe’s Chevrolet, is looking forward to racing on NASCAR’s fastest track.
“It’s a very cool track,” he says. “I usually like tracks that have a lot of grip, and Atlanta definitely doesn’t fit the bill in that respect, but I still like it. It seems like there are an infinite number of lines you can find to run anywhere on the track, and I love that.”