Drivers converge on AMS for NASCAR testing

By Anthony Rhoads

It's no secret Ryan Newman can drive fast and Tuesday at Atlanta Speedway, he clocked in thefastest times of drivers who were out at the track testing for the upcoming race weekend.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers Carl Edwards, Jeff Green, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth (testing a Busch car), Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Jason Leffler, Jeremy Mayfield, Ryan Newman, Scott Riggs and Scott Wimmer; Busch drivers Brandon Miller and Denny Hamlin; and Craftsman Truck driver Jack Sprague all tested Tuesday at NASCAR's fastest track. As expected, four-time Atlanta pole winner Ryan Newman was fastest again on Tuesday, topping the unofficial speed chart with a lap of 29.57 seconds (187.487 mph).

"The car feels good, the same as yesterday," Newman said. "Atlanta is a good track to test many different things, so we're working on car balance, the new tires, and the aero package."

Labonte likes AMS: No other active driver has been as successful at Atlanta Motor Speedway as Bobby Labonte. Labonte has won six races at AMS but that still doesn't mean he is resting on his laurels. Labonte was among several drivers testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway Tuesday to get ready for the Golden Corral 500 coming up March 20.

Labonte first visited victory lane at AMS in the fall 1996 race. He went on to win the fall races in 1997, 1999 and 2001 and the spring races in 1998 and 2003.

"All of them," Labonte answered when asked which was his favorite victory at Atlanta. "All of them were pretty good."

Upcoming tests: Testing will continue for the remainder of the week as teams prepare for the upcoming March 18-20 Golden Corral 500 weekend. Drivers expected for Wednesday's test are NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver Mike Wallace; Busch driver Shane Hmiel; and Craftsman Truck drivers Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine, Chad Chaffin, Shige Hattori, Robert Huffman, Bill Lester, Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague, Brandon Whitt.

Kenseth looking for good run at Atlanta: Things haven't gone quite the way Kenseth has wanted in 2005. He finished 42nd at Dayonta after engine problems and placed 26th at California.

"We were running good at Daytona and running good at California but some circumstances took us out of the race," he said. " We've got some things to improve on."

We've had bad circumstances, bad luck."

Comparing the short tracks to Atlanta: Truck Series driver Chad Chaffin cut his racing teeth on the short tracks and still loves getting out on the smaller tracks like Bristol which is quite different than racing at bigger tracks like Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"It's kind of strange," he said. "When you look at the scale speed, Bristol is faster in Atlanta; it's like being in a blender. At Atlanta, you have the pure speed; it's totally different. To get the same sensation at Atlanta that you do in Bristol, you'd have to go 300 mph."

Chaffin finished ninth at the Truck race last spring at Atlanta.

"It is a unique track," he said. "It's one of the fastest tracks and it has multiple grooves."

Spencer doing triple duty at AMS: Jimmy Spencer will triple his chances of heading to Victory Lane during next weekend's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, since he will be competing in all three of the NASCAR series races.

Spencer will begin his weekend on Friday, March 18, with the World Financial Group 200.

On Saturday, March 19, Spencer will take over Michael Waltrip's No. 98 Busch Series car to compete in the Aaron's 312. On Sunday, he'll race in the Golden Corral 500 NEXTEL Cup race, he'll have every bump in the fast track memorized.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity to compete in all three races at Atlanta next weekend," Spencer said.