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The field for the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup is nearly set.
On a green-white-checkered finish, it was Denny Hamlin who pulled out a victory with the help of late caution and a big move on pit road to top Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex, Jr. at the Atlanta Motor Speedway to claim victory at the AdvoCare 500.
Hamlin began the day in eighth place in the Sprint Cup standings and his performance on Sunday night will surely give him a more secure spot in the chase moving forward. Gordon, who was looking to make a move into the top 12 on the night, just missed out on catching Hamlin in the race's final lap.
Carl Edwards, who was looking for a boost of his own in the chase standings, blew his engine with less than 100 laps to go and finished well off the leaders in 36th place.
The unofficial finishing order is as follows:
|4||Martin Truex Jr.|
|7||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|11||Sam Hornish Jr.|
For more NASCAR coverage, head over to SBNation's dedicated hub.
Through 200 laps of a 325 lap race on Sunday night at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick has remained a steady force on the track as playoff positioning and Chase points are battled for under the lights in Atlanta.
Harvick is trailed by Denny Hamlin, who is less than a second off of the pace. Other drivers are further behind the two leaders on the night, as Martin Truex, Jr., who is racing in the third spot, is more than 12 seconds off of the pace through 200 laps.
Carl Edwards, who is looking for a boost in the Chase standings because of a lack of victories on the season, is running sixth.
Here is the full running order through 200 of 325 laps:
|3||Martin Truex Jr.|
|7||Sam Hornish Jr.|
For more NASCAR coverage, head over to SBNation's dedicated hub.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway and the AdvoCare 500 is the center of the NASCAR world Sunday night, as the NASCAR schedule enters its final stretch and drivers battle for the final spots in the Chase.
Through 83 laps of a 325-lap race, Kevin Harvick, currently ninth in the Chase standings, is leading in Atlanta, just ahead of Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.
Carl Edwards, who is 12th in the Chase, but could be passed by those behind him because of his lack of race victories, is running 12th on the night so far.
The full running order through 83 laps at the AdvoCare 500:
|7||Sam Hornish Jr.|
|9||Martin Truex Jr.|
For more NASCAR coverage, head over to SBNation's dedicated hub.
Ty Dillon scooted past Kyle Busch with six laps remaining and pulled away to win the Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It is the first-career Camping World Truck Series win for the grandson of legendary car owner Richard Childress and younger brother of 2011 series champ Austin Dillon. The defending champ of the ARCA Menards Racing Series started from the pole in scoring the fourth win for a Childress-affiliated team at AMS and seventh win in 13 races for Chevrolet.
Busch held on to finish second, followed by James Buescher, Parker Kligerman, and Aric Almirola. Finishing sixth in his second series start was sprint car hotshoe Kyle Larson, widely considered the next superstar in stock car racing. Joey Coulter finished seventh, with Nelson Piquet Jr., Matt Crafton, and Kurt Busch.
Point leader Timothy Peters came home 13th after struggling most of the night. Defending race champ Ron Hornaday Jr. crashed early with outside polesitter Tim George Jr. and Jason White and was out of the race well before its midpoint.
Three-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart now has a pole position to go with his three Atlanta Motor Speedway wins.
Stewart turned a lap of 29.79 seconds (186.121 MPH) to claim the pole for Sunday's Advocare 500. It is his first pole of the 2012 season and the 14th of his career, matching the number of his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
Sprint Cup point leader Greg Biffle was second-fastest in his No. 16 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford. Kyle Busch was third in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 Toyota, with Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Roush entry and Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy completing the top-five.
Mark Martin was sixth in the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, followed by Gibbs' Denny Hamlin in the No. 20 Toyota. Hendrick's Jimmie Johnson was eighth in his No. 48 Chevy, followed by Joey Logano in the third Gibbs Camry and Marcos Ambrose in Richard Petty's No. 9 Ford.
Danica Patrick, in her first qualifying effort at AMS, was 23rd in her No. 10 Chevy for Stewart-Haas. Martin Truex Jr., who led the practice earlier today, was only 28th-fastest in the No. 56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip, while NASCAR's most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was an abysmal 35th in his No. 88 Hendrick Chevy.
To see where your favorite driver is starting in Sunday's 500-miler, head over to NASCAR.com.
This evening, the Camping World Truck Series makes its 13th stop at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 130-lap Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200. The track has been scene to some of the series' best duels and wildest finishes. Six of the 12 previous events have been won by Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Newman, while the other six have been split up among former or eventual champions of the NCWTS.
Eight years ago this past March, the circuit headed to Atlanta for its inaugural event at the track. In a wild finish that further solidified Atlanta's place as one of NASCAR's premier action tracks, the leaders bumped as they raced off the last turn. Mike Skinner, the first champion in the series history, went for a wild slide through the front-stretch grass that left him a disappointing second.
Winning the EasyCare 200, meanwhile, was a tough customer from Nashville who, it seemed, fought his whole life right up to the end.
Bobby Hamilton epitomized the era of short track aces that, unfortunately, had mostly gone by the time he made it to NASCAR. He was a track champion at the historic Fairgrounds Speedway in his hometown, a track where such legends as Darrell Waltrip cut their teeth. In 1988, Hamilton beat Waltrip, along with fellow Nashville graduate Sterling Marlin and eventual Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott in a four-car "Superstar Showdown" at the track.
The next year, Hamilton got his big break when Waltrip recommended him to his owner, Rick Hendrick. Hendrick was serving as an adviser and providing cars for the production of the stock car racing blockbuster "Days of Thunder," and Hamilton joined another of Hendrick's drivers, Greg Sacks, and Busch Grand National (now Nationwide) legend Tommy Ellis to drive the cars in the movie. Hamilton's ride was the No. 51 Exxon Chevrolet driven by the film's early antagonist, Rowdy Burns (portrayed by actor Michael Rooker).
In 1991, Hamilton began a 12-year career in NASCAR's top division that saw him largely overachieve in equipment that just couldn't match the powerhouses of the sport. In 1996, drove Richard Petty's No. 43 to victory lane at Phoenix for his first triumph and the first win for the Petty team since 1983 (The King's final two wins in 1984 were scored for Mike Curb).
Hamilton won once more for Petty at Rockingham the following year before departing for Morgan-McClure Motorsports. He claimed on win in the once-magnificent Kodak Chevrolet, at Martinsville in April 1998. In 2001, he scored perhaps the biggest win of his career when he drove Andy Petree's Chevrolet to victory in a caution-free 500-mile thriller at Talladega.
Two years later, Hamilton moved to the Truck Series and became a force almost instantly, winning his second start as a full-time driver. In 2004, a four-win campaign highlighted by his duel with Skinner at Atlanta netted his first championship in a major series.
Hamilton won once more in 2005, including the season-opening race at Daytona, but fell to sixth in points. His 2006 campaign opened with two less than stellar finishes, 21st at Daytona, 23rd at Fontana.
On March 18, 2006, two years and four days removed from his thrilling victory, Hamilton announced to the reporters gathered in the Atlanta Media Center that he was battling head and neck cancer, which had been diagnosed in the offseason. As he spoke, the racer implored the media to never refer to him as a "cancer victim." That evening, he strapped into a racing vehicle for the last time and recorded a 14th-place finish.
On Sunday, January 7, 2007, Charles Robert Hamilton died at the age of 49, leaving a grieving family and a legion of heartbroken race fans who the tenacious bulldog attitude he acquired growing up on the tough streets of Nashville and carried with him to the pinnacle of motorsports.
It is fitting that during this weekend's activities at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Atlanta Head and Neck Cancer coalition will be giving free cancer screenings in the track's Fan Zone. Visit their facebook page for more information.
Bobby Hamilton didn't want to be known as a victim of the disease he fought to the end. Rather, he wanted to be remembered as a survivor, a winner. With that in mind, in closing, here is a video of the final lap of the 2004 EasyCare 200, one of his finest moments at the wheel of a race car.
Friday is the first busy day at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in its big Labor Day Weekend. NASCAR's three national divisions will get their qualifying started for the AdvcoCare 500, which was won by Jeff Gordon a year ago for his 85th Sprint Cup win. Aside from that, there's the Grit Chips 200 (or to use its full, proper name, the Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200). That's the Camping World Truck Series, where Ron Hornaday Jr. will look to continue his dominance.
The Nationwide Series gets underway as well, but on Saturday, with the NRA American Warrior 300, with the winner likely taking the green flag a little under 24 hours later in the Advocare 500. Kyle Busch, an Atlanta racer and someone who has dominated the NNS in the past, will be taking part and is seeking his first ever Atlanta win in it.
It all gets started with a practice at 10:00 a.m. for a practice in the Grit Chips 200, with a televised practice on the Speed network at 1:00 p.m. ET. The first qualifying of the day will be for the Grit Chips 200 at 4:30 p.m., with qualifying for the Advocare 500 coming at 6:00 p.m. ET. The day's Speed coverage will wrap up following the full Grip Chips 200, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
For more NASCAR coverage, head over to SBNation's dedicated hub.
In modern Sprint Cup racing, it is rare for a major team's race car to look the same three weeks in a row. The price of sponsorship in NASCAR's top division has skyrocketed to the point that rather than having one sponsor covering nearly the entire schedule - as was the norm as recently as 2007 - nearly all teams use patchwork sponsorships.
Different sponsorships mean different paint schemes from week to week, and it can be hard for even diehard fans to keep track of what car their favorite driver will be running in an upcoming race. With that in mind, as well as to showcase the beautiful vehicles that will be racing under the lights Sunday, here is a numerically-indexed list - with links to photos included - of most of the cars scheduled to compete in the Advocare 500. Descriptions of each scheme are in parenthesis so you know exactly which car you're looking for when you visit Jayski's paint scheme page for that particular team.
Jamie McMurray - No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet (the hunter vest orange and black Chevy with the distinctive Bass Pro logo on the hood)
Brad Keselowski - No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge (Blue with gold border around the bottom with the design of a bottle pouring beer from the fender into a glass on the door)
Kasey Kahne - No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet (Black, red, and white scheme with HendrickCars.com logo clearly visible on hood and fenders. You can't miss it.)
Marcos Ambrose - No. 9 DeWalt Power Tools Ford (Black and golden yellow with Dewalt on the hood. Not to be confused with the similar Stanley car which uses a lighter yellow coloring and - obviously - says Stanley on the hood)
Danica Patrick - No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet (Insanely bright neon-green with orange numerals. Again, you can't miss it)
Denny Hamlin is scheduled to drive the SportClips paint scheme in Sunday's race, but his only previous run with the car was a special Cale Yarborough tribute at Darlington. Therefore, we won't know what his car looks like until it hits the track Friday for opening practice.
Casey Mears - No. 13 Geico Ford (White, blue, and green with a big Gecko on the hood. Unmistakable.)
Tony Stewart - No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet (Red up front, black in the back. In my completely biased opinion, the car headed to victory lane Sunday night)
Clint Bowyer - No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota (Black with red and yellow)
No pictures are yet available of Greg Biffle's No. 16 3M/Manheim Auctions Ford Fusion.
Matt Kenseth - No. 17 Ford Eco-Boost Ford (Black with blue and white racing stripes and "Ford Eco-Boost" running vertically down the hood)
Kyle Busch - No. 18 Doublemint Toyota (Silver with neon-green flames. A win Sunday would be "Double the fun" for Busch, as he has one prior Cup win at AMS in 2008)
Joey Logano - No. 20 Home Depot Toyota (You should be slapped upside the head if you can't spot this car)
Trevor Bayne - No. 21 Camping World/Good Sam Ford (Blue and red with yellow trim. Note the retro-styled No. 21, which hearkens back to the early days of the Wood Brothers)
Sam Hornish Jr. - No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge (Yellow with red)
Scott Riggs - No. 23 North Texas Pipe Chevrolet (Hint, it's about the only car on the page)
Jeff Gordon - No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet (Gordon celebrates the 20th-anniversary of his first Sprint Cup start with the bold black and bright red DuPont scheme seen in a handful of races thus far in 2012. One car I can't wait to see in person)
Josh Wise - No. 26 MDS Transport Ford (With the exception of Indy, the car has carried the same white, dark blue, and orange scheme for all of 2012)
Paul Menard - No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet (One of the more interesting paint schemes, features a mix of metallic green and fluorescent yellow)
Kevin Harvick - No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet (Headquartered in Atlanta, Rheem's easily-identified logo is showcased on a black and red Chevy)
David Stremme - No. 30 Inception Motorsports Toyota (Almost certainly a start-and-park entry, this red and black car has one of the more interesting of the unsponsored paint schemes)
Jeff Burton - No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet (The distinctive yellow and black paint scheme is impossible to miss with the giant "CAT" logo on the hood.)
T.J. Bell - No. 32 Green Smoke Ford (Black with different shades of green creating flames on the sides)
Stephen Leicht - No. 33 Special Ops OPSEC Education Fund Chevrolet (black and blank pretty much every race since Richard Childress turned the team over to Joe Falk, the car has rare hood and fender decoration this week)
David Ragan - No. 34 Glory Foods Ford (This conglomeration of orange, yellow, and purple simultaneously looks nice and like a means of torture. You won't be able to miss this car in a million years. No sir)
David Gilliland - No. 38 House-Autry Ford (Orange nose, blue sides and rear, seperated by a yellow stripe)
Ryan Newman - No. 39 US Army Chevrolet (As the Army sponsorship nears its conclusion, its flat-black and yellow paint scheme remains one of the most distinctive in motorsports)
Juan Pablo Montoya - No. 42 Target Chevrolet (Hide your jet dryers! If you miss this bright red Chevy with the famous bulls-eye logo on the hood, the chorus of boos raining down should help you find it)
Aric Almirola's No. 43 Ford will share sponsorship with Sunday's race, but the Advocare paint scheme has yet to be revealed.
Bobby Labonte - No. 47 Kingsford Toyota (The car has largely used the same scheme - blue nose and hood, white body seperated by a red streak - all year. This weekend the red oval Kingsford logo will be on the hood)
Jimmie Johnson - No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet (Black with white racing stripes. Simple, yet sexy)
Kurt Busch - No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet (James Finch's team has run two schemes during the year, generally with little rhyme or reason as to which car you'll see. It'll either be the solid red car, or the red and white machine)
Mark Martin - No. 55 Aaron's Toyota (As with all of Martin's races, the Aaron's-sponsored car has a white roof and hood with blue sides)
Martin Truex Jr's No. 56 NAPA Shocks and Struts Toyota is not yet pictured. Truex and team owner Michael Waltrip are to announce a contract extension Friday at Atlanta with a paint scheme unveiling to be included. Whether that is this car or Truex's 2013 ride remains to be seen.
Regan Smith - No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet (Solid, often flat black, with day-glo red numerals and white writing on the hood and fenders)
Landon Cassill - No. 83 Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota (BK Racing recently swapped Cassill's scheme to the solid red machine in recognition of its co-sponsorship from Dr. Pepper)
Joe Nemechek - No. 87 AM/FM Energy Toyota (one of NASCAR's best-known start-and-parkers, "Front Row Joe's" self-owned Camry nearly always carries a metallic blue scheme)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet (blue up top, white along the sides. NASCAR's most popular driver's ride is simple but easy to pick out)
Reed Sorenson - No. 91 Plinker Tactical Toyota (though the car pictured is an unsponsored Ford, the Peachtree City native's Camry will likely sport this basic paint scheme)
Travis Kvapil - No. 93 Burger King Toyota (BK's distinct logo makes this otherwise dull gunmetal grey Camry easy to spot)
Scott Speed - No. 95 Jordan's Truck Sales Ford (The Leavine Family Racing car has had the same scheme pretty much since its inception.)
Michael McDowell - No. 98 Ford (Whether unsponsored like this weekend or with minimal sponsorship, the car almost always has the same black-with-red-numerals paint scheme)
Carl Edwards - No. 99 Subway Ford (Bright yellow with some sort of green design running along the nose and sides. Easily one of the ugliest cars entered for Atlanta, but likely to be fast)
Though the Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 grabs all the headlines entering this weekend's action at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the other two parts of that tripleheader will generate plenty of excitement on their own.
Friday's Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200 (like I said before, is that a Georgia race name or what?) for the Camping World Truck Series marks that divison's 13th trip to Atlanta. Headlining the entry list is two-time and defending AMS winner Ron Hornaday Jr., the circuit's all-time leader in both wins (51) and championships (four). The only other past Atlanta winner in the race is Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, piloting his own No. 18 Dollar General-sponsored Toyota Tundra in his first truck race of 2012. Busch hasn't raced in the series since last November at Texas when he infamously wrecked Hornaday and was parked by NASCAR for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races that weekend.
The CWTS highlights NASCAR's young, up-and-coming stars, and there will be no shortage of them on display come Friday. Series leader Timothy Peters, driving for Georgian Tom DeLoach, is the most-recent series winner after leading every single lap at Bristol last Wednesday. He holds a 17-point edge on Texan James Buescher, with Ty Dillon - the grandson of Richard Childress and driver of the same No. 3 truck his older brother Austin claimed last year's title in - 25 points off the top spot.
Other young contenders include Justin Lofton, Miguel Paludo, Parker Kligerman, Cale Gale, and Joey Coulter. They go up against veterans like Todd Bodine, Matt Crafton, and Johnny Sauter. Getting into the mix along with his brother will be Kurt Busch, racing for Atlantan Billy Ballew in a joint venture with Busch's Sprint Cup owner James Finch in a No. 51 Silverado sponsored by Bill Holt Chevrolet. Aric Almirola, another Sprint Cupper, will drive Richie Wauter's No. 5 Ford.
Among the local stars to watch for is Griffin's Max Gresham, who's family owns the famous Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson. He'll be piloting the No. 8 Made in USA Brand Chevy Silverado. Other Georgians looking to race Saturday include Tucker's Ryan Seig in the No. 39 Silverado and Watkinsville's John Wes Townley in the No. 09 Zaxby's Toyota (note: we here in Georgia don't claim the latter driver).
With the exception of Kyle Busch, a four-time winner at AMS in the CWTS (and a 30-time winner overall in the division), fans can look ahead to the 130-lapper and just about expect to see a series regular snare the checkered flag.
It is a different story in the Nationwide Series, where the winner of Saturday's NRA American 300 will probably be taking the green flag a little under 24 hours later in the Advocare 500. Sprint Cup invaders have been a part of the Nationwide Series since its inception, and six such drivers will be racing the 195-lap event.
Kyle Busch will be piloting his self-owned No. 54 Monster Energy Drink Toyota Camry as he seeks his first-career NNS win at Atlanta, as well as his first win of the 2012 season in a series he had dominated in previous years. Joining him in the Toyota stable will be his Sprint Cup teammate for Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin will be wheeling the No. 18 SportsClips Toyota for Gibbs. Absent from this weekend's race is six-time 2012 winner Joey Logano, who's No. 20 Toyota is not entered in this weekend's event.
Kevin Harvick, who won the 2009 NNS race at Atlanta in dominant fashion, will be behind the wheel of Richard Childress Racing's No. 33 Chevy. That car is carrying sponsorship from Augusta-based Bad Boy Buggies. Also in an Impala for the Nationwide race is Kasey Kahne, who is driving the No. 38 Great Clips car - one of three entries for Turner Motorsports.
Brad Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide champ, will be in Roger Penske's No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge, while teammate Sam Hornish Jr. - who is competing full-time in NNS competition and is right in the thick of the title battle - will be in his No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Challenger.
While the winner will more than likely be one of those six drivers, don't count out the series regulars just yet. Leading the way into Atlanta is Elliott Sadler, driver of Childress' No. 2 One Main Financial Chevy. He currently holds a 19-point edge on defending champ Ricky Stenhouse in Jack Roush's No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang. Also in the hunt is Sadler's teammate Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Advocare Chevy. Expect solid runs from Justin Allgaier in the No. 31 Brandt Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports, Brian Scott in Gibbs' No. 11 Dollar General Camry, Cole Whitt in the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned Spinmaster NASCAR Bashers Chevy, and Michael Annett in Richard Petty's No. 43 Pilot Travel Centers Ford, as well.
While they aren't considered pre-race favorites to contend for the win or a top-five finish, Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana have certainly been well-promoted as the weekend approaches. Patrick, competing in both the Nationwide race in her No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Earnhardt Jr. and the Sprint Cup event for Tony Stewart, is making her first appearance at AMS. She is currently ranked 10th in points in her first full season as a stock car driver. Extreme sports icon-turned-stock car racer Pastrana, meanwhile, is making his final of eight scheduled starts in the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota.
Georgian racers competing in their figurative backyard this Saturday are Smyrna's Kyle Fowler in the No. 08 Ford owned by Randy Hill, Chase Miller of Canton in the No. 46 Key Motorsports Chevrolet (a start-and-park ride, unfortunately), and veteran Reed Sorenson from Peachtree City in Fred Biagi's No. 98 Carroll Shelby Motors Ford.
By March 2005, Carl Edwards was already well on his way to being a NASCAR star.
He had already driven Jack Roush's No. 99 Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Craftsman (now Camping World) Truck Series to six victories the prior two seasons, including a thrilling spin-and-win at Daytona in February 2004. When longtime Roush driver Jeff Burton announced he was leaving the NEXTEL (now Sprint) Cup team following the Watkins Glen race in August of 2004, it came as little surprise that the affable Missourian would be replacing him in the No. 99 Taurus.
In his debut at Michigan, Edwards placed a solid 10th. He would add four more top-10s over the final 12 races of the season, including a third at Atlanta for his first-ever top-five finish.
For the 2005 campaign, Edwards was tabbed to race both the No. 99 Cup car and the No. 60 Ford in what was then the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series full-time, with 71 total races on his plate. Through the opening weeks of the season, he'd enjoyed a solid run in the Cup car, with a fifth at Fontana headlining a 12th at Daytona and 14th in Las Vegas. On the Busch side, his results had been much better: through the first four races, his worst finish was 10th, with three finishes of seventh or better including a third in Mexico City. He should have won at Las Vegas a week before Atlanta, leading 125 laps from the pole, but a late spin derailed those hopes.
Edwards claimed a second-straight Busch pole at Atlanta, with a pole speed of just over 191 MPH putting him atop the grid for the Aaron's 312. He led the opening 29 laps before giving way to Shane Hmiel, then led six more laps near the mid-point of the race. As the event neared it's conclusion, however, it seemed the dominant Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson (90 laps led) would be the car heading to victory lane.
A hard crash by David Green - triggered when he was bumped into a spin by Matt Kenseth - set up a restart with 15 laps to go. With 12 circuits remaining, Edwards made a four-wide pass exiting the second corner to snare the lead. From there, he held off Tony Stewart to pick up the first win of his Busch Series career. Fans who hadn't had the opportunity to see Edwards' Craftsman Truck Series triumphs - all events in that series were carried by Speed, which was not yet widely available - were thrilled by his celebratory backflip off the door of his blue and yellow Taurus.
The next day, Edwards started from the fourth position in the Golden Corral 500, tying his best qualifying effort which he'd set at AMS the previous October. As with the Saturday race, Johnson again had a dominant horse, leading 156 laps. Edwards'teammate Greg Biffle, meanwhile, led 151. With six laps to go, it looked to be Johnson's race to lose as he stretched the gap over the Roush Fords. Edwards, meanwhile, appeared to have used up his Goodyear tires trying to run down the No. 48 Chevy, and Biffle - having faded to third after dominating most of the race up to that point - actually challenged him for second briefly.
Gradually, Edwards began search around the track, looking for whatever lane his green and black Ford would be fastest in. Finding the high line to his liking, he began to ease away from Biffle, but more importantly, he began to snip away at Johnson's lead. He closed to within just a handful of car lengths as they flashed under the white flag to begin the final lap, then pulled right to Johnson's bumper as they raced off turn two onto the backstretch.
In turns three and four, with the crowd going nuts, Edwards pulled alongside Johnson, who tried to break his young adversary's momentum by running him as high on the track as possible. Not to be cowed, Edwards kept his foot in the gas, banging off Johnson's door as the two streaked to the line. By .028 seconds - about the length of the nose of a NASCAR stock car - it was Edwards, the youngster in just his 17th-career race, outdueling a 14-time race winner who'd won at Atlanta the previous October en route to his second-straight runner-up finish in the championship.
With the historic weekend that launched him into superstardom, Edwards became the first - and to date, only - driver to ever record his first Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series wins on the same weekend. He also became the first driver to sweep a weekend at Atlanta, a feat that has yet to be duplicated in the six years since.
This Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Rick Hendrick's quartet of drivers will all be looking for a victory to help their position to race for the Sprint Cup championship over the final ten weeks. Jeff Gordon needs a win to even get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, most likely, but the defending Advocare 500 champ could certainly pull that off.
Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are locked into the Chase and seeking to pad their bonus points entering the 10-race playoff. Should Johnson win Sunday or next Saturday in Richmond, he would be the No. 1 Chase seed so long as Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, or Tony Stewart don't win one of these last two races. Kasey Kahne's two wins make him all but a lock for a wild card, but a victory could help him jump into the top-10, which would allow him to use the bonus points earned for his triumphs.
A win Sunday by any member of the Hendrick stable will allow the legendary team owner to tie the iconic Wood Brothers for the most victories at AMS. The HMS team currently has 11 triumphs at Atlanta, the first coming in March 1989 with Darrell Waltrip and his No. 17 Tide-sponsored Chevy.
In addition to Waltrip, Gordon (a five-time Atlanta winner), and Johnson (a three-time victor), Ken Schrader (March 1991) and Jerry Nadeau (November 2000, his only career win) have also driven Hendrick Chevies to victory lane.
In addition to the 11 victories, Hendrick Motorsports either clinched or celebrated his organization's first five titles in the Cup Series (Gordon's four crowns in 1995, '97, '98, and 2001 and Terry Labonte's 1996 championship) at Atlanta, making it a venue with a lot of special memories for the juggernaut.
The biggest victory for Hendrick at Atlanta, of course, was Johnson's first win at the track in October 2004. One week prior, a plane crashed en route to Martinsville, killing nine members of the Hendrick organization including Rick Hendrick's son Ricky, brother John, and longtime engine builder Randy Dorton. Johnson used fresh tires to pass a dominant Mark Martin late in the race, then held off Martin's own charge on new rubber to score one of the most emotional wins in Sprint Cup history.
List of Hendrick Motorsports victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
Date/Event/Winning Driver and Car
1. March 19, 1989 - Motorcraft Quality Parts 500 - Darrell Waltrip, No. 17 Tide Chevrolet
2. March 18, 1991 - Motorcraft Quality Parts 500 - Ken Schrader, No. 25 Kodiak Chevrolet
3. March 12,, 1995 - Purolator 500 - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
4. November 8, 1998 - NAPA 500 - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
5. March 14, 1999 - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
6. November 20, 2000 - NAPA 500 - Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 Michael Holigan Homes Chevrolet
7. October 28, 2003 - Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
8. October 31, 2004 - Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet
9. March 18, 2007 - Kobalt Tools 500 - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
10. October 28, 2007 - Pep Boys Auto 500 - Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet
11. September 6, 2011 - Advocare 500 - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet
One of the most exciting things about race week in your area is the availability of driver appearances all over the place. The Atlanta Motor Speedway has released a list of currently-scheduled appearances, but as with anything that has been "scheduled," it is of course subject to change.
Highlights include a number of Sunday appearances at the track's Coca-Cola Fan Display by superstars past and present. The newest inductees of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame will kick things off at noon. Jeff Burton and his car owner, Richard Childress, will appear at 2:45. AMS president Ed Clark will appear at 3 p.m, followed by Unadilla's David Ragan 15 minutes later. Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart will be in the house at 3:45, no doubt entertaining all in attendance whether they love or loathe him. Denny Hamlin will cap things off with an appearance at 4:30.
Also at 4:30, fans can see beloved veteran Mark Martin at the Aaron's display, while Augusta-based Bad Boy Buggies will have Kevin Harvick.
The Sunday appearances are from the only chances to see your racing heroes this weekend. Things kick off Thursday with Camping World Truck Series rising star Tim George Jr. at the Applebee's on Glynn Street in Fayetville at noon, followed by Sprint Cup superstar Brad Keselowski and Nationwide Series competitor Eric McLure at the Lovejoy Walmart at 2. From there, fans can see a number of star drivers from all three of NASCAR's premier divisions in the area, many of them right there at the track.
Visit the AMS website for the full schedule, and if you haven't yet purchased your tickets for at least one of the three great nights of racing that compose the Biggest Labor Day Party in the USA, take care of that while you're there.
When the Sprint Cup Series takes to the track Friday evening for Advocare 500 qualifying, there will be 47 drivers looking for one of the 43 spots on the starting grid.
Of course, 35 of those drivers already know they will be competing in Sunday's 500-miler, via their top-35 spot in car owner points. The other 12 drivers will be seeking the final eight open spots in the field, with four making the trek home two days early.
Those who must make the race via their qualifying speed are, in order of car number: Mike Bliss (No. 19 Ford), Trevor Bayne (No. 21 Ford), Scott Riggs (No. 23 Chevrolet), Josh Wise (No. 26 Ford), David Stremme (No. 30 Toyota), Stephen Leicht (No. 33 Chevrolet), J.J. Yeley (No. 37 Chevrolet), Jason Leffler (No. 49 Toyota), Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Toyota), Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson (No. 91 Toyota), Scott Speed (No. 95 Ford), and Michael McDowell (No. 98 Ford).
Three races are scheduled for this weekend's NASCAR festivities at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The action begins on Friday at 10 a.m. ET when the Camping World Truck Series has practice. Sprint Cup drivers have practice starting at 2:30 p.m.
After qualifying by the Truck Series drivers, Sprint Cup drivers have qualifying for the AdvoCare 500 starting at 6 p.m. ET, and televised on Speed Network. The Truck Series races in the E-Z Go 200 that night, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, also broadcast on Speed. Weather for that day predicts cloudy skies with a 20 percent chance of rain.
Saturday's forecast predicts only partly cloudy skies and a 20 percent chance of rain. The Nationwide Series qualifies at 3:30 p.m. ET, another Speed broadcast. The Nationwide race, the Great Clips 300, is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Sunday, the day of the Sprint Cup Series' AdvoCare 500, has a better chance for rain at 30 percent with isolated thunderstorms possible. The race is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN.
For the complete weekend forecast at Atlanta Motor Speedway, check out Weather.com.
This weekend, as the Atlanta Motor Speedway helps to shape the playoff picture for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, it also celebrates the signature event in the track's 52-year history and one of the all-time greatest races in all of motorsports. It saw a legendary title battle, the final ride for stock car racing's King, and the first race for NASCAR's next iconic champion.
As November 15, 1992 approached on the calendar, the season-ending Hooters 500 was already being touted as one of the greatest races in NASCAR history.
Six drivers, three of them within 40 points of one another at the top, were in position to battle for the Winston Cup crown. To compete for 28 races in the pre-Chase era of NASCAR's premier division and to have as many drivers gunning for the title at the final event was unheard of.
Davey Allison, having won that 28th race at Phoenix two weeks prior, held a 30-point edge on Alan Kulwicki. Dawsonville's Bill Elliott sat third, ten markers further back. Harry Gant, the 52-year-old ageless wonder, was 97 points behind Allison, with Kyle Petty a single point behind Gant in fifth. At 113 points out of first, Mark Martin maintained a mathematical shot at jumping from sixth to first and claiming his first Winston Cup title.
Though Allison had never won at Atlanta and had ridden as extreme a professional and personal roller coaster during that '92 campaign as any driver in recent memory, he still remained the favorite for the championship. Hoisting the Cup at the end of the race would have meant overcoming no fewer than four awful accidents during the season. More importantly, it would have come at the conclusion of a year that had seen Allison lose his beloved grandfather in April and his younger brother Clifford in a practice crash for a Busch Series race at Michigan in August.
Elliott, a favorite son of Georgia, certainly had home-track advantage as he headed to AMS. Not only was he a four-time victor at the Speedway, but he had also claimed the Motorcraft 500 in March. That win was more through pure racing luck than a dominant race car, however, as Elliott languished just inside the top-10 for much of the day. He had not yet made his last pit stop when Mike Wallace wrecked Dick Moroso's Oldsmobile with 44 laps remaining, drawing a caution flag that trapped the contending drivers - including Allison, who had pitted from the lead - a lap down. Those drivers made up their lap when Elliott pitted under the caution, but they were helplessly trapped at the tail end of the lead lap - that is, they restarted ahead of Elliott, effectively 1.522 miles behind the race leader. The caution flag that would have brought them to his bumper never came, and Elliott claimed his third of four consecutive checkered flags he took in the season's opening month. He hadn't won a single race since, however.
Standing between the duo was Kulwicki, a headstrong independent who lived and raced by the "my way or the highway" creed that simultaneously frustrated peers and even his own crew members while endearing him to race fans as "the little racer who could." Going up against Allison, who drove for engine-building wizard Robert Yates, and Elliott - who piloted the legendary Junior Johnson's No. 11 machine - made the Wisconsinite the clear underdog in the title fight. Or, rather, the Underbird, as his team had rebranded the No. 7 T-Bird with Ford's approval. Replacing the "TH" on the car's nameplate was a sticker of Mighty Mouse, one of Kulwicki's nicknames.
Along with the title fight, the other major story entering the Hooters 500 was the retirement of NASCAR's undisputed King, Richard Petty. Though his 200 wins and seven championships - both records - were well in his rear view mirror, Petty remained an icon of the sport and as beloved as he had ever been. His final season - dubbed the "Fan Appreciation Tour" rather than a farewell (as The King put it, he wasn't really going anywhere, he was just no longer going to be the driver) - had allowed him to thank the fans across the country who had supported his 35-year career. As the Tour reached its final destination at AMS, everyone hoped Petty had one last moment in the sun remaining.
Though few paid little mind to such a milestone in '92, with the title fight and The King's final start snaring the headlines, the Hooters 500 also marked the first start for Rick Hendrick's new No. 24 DuPont-sponsored team and young sprint car standout-turned-stock car hotshot Jeff Gordon.
In qualifying, popular Rick Mast won his first-ever pole in Winston Cup competition, turning a lap of 180.183 MPH. That was significant, as it marked the first 180+ MPH average speed on an intermediate track in the sport's history. Unfortunately, Mast's day would last all of one lap, as he and outside polesitter Brett Bodine tangled in turn one while dueling for the lead, wiping out Hut Stricklin in the process.
Petty, meanwhile, made it only 94 circuits before his race - and his career - appeared to have come to a premature end. A major crash broke out on the frontstretch, involving Ken Schrader, Darrell Waltrip, Dick Trickle, Wally Dallenbach, and Rich Bickle. Petty hit the back of Bickle's car, puncturing the oil cooler and setting the iconic No. 43 ablaze. Petty scrambled from the car, unhurt, but the car had suffered extensive damage.
As the race played out, Elliott and Kulwicki ran near the front while Allison held steady near sixth, where he needed to finish to clinch the title. Unfortunately, with just 75 laps remaining in the 'season, Ernie Irvan suffered a flat tire exiting the fourth turn. As he fought to control his car, he spun up the track and collected Allison, sending both skidding into the wall. Allison waved to the crowd as he climbed from the car, then graciously accepted his defeat in an interview following the race while declaring that perhaps 1993 would be his year.
With Allison out of the picture, the race turned into a battle of strategy as the final pit stop of the day approached. Kulwicki's crew chief Paul Andrews calculated the exact lap that the No. 7 team could clinch the five extra bonus points for leading the most laps, even if Elliott led the remainder of the race. After 101 consecutive laps out front - and 103 total - Kulwicki pitted, handing the lead over to Elliott, who led 17 of the remaining 18 laps and pulled away to win the race. Kulwicki held on to finish second, but his total laps led added up to one more than those led by Elliott.
Because Kulwicki, rather than Elliott, led the most laps, the pair tied with 180 points apiece. Had Elliott led the most, he would have wound up with 185 points to Kulwicki's 175, a ten-point swing that would have left the pair tied. Elliott's five wins on the season would have given him the championship in the tiebreaker, with Kulwicki having only won twice during the year. Instead, they scored the same number of points, the ten-point margin between them held, and Kulwicki was the 1992 Winston Cup champion.
It was after the race, however, with Kulwicki and Elliott celebrating their respective triumphs, that the defining moment of the day occurred. Petty, having pulled his wrecked car back onto the track with two laps remaining in order to finish his last race, circled the track slowly, waving at the fans as they saluted The King one last time.
In the two decades since that incredible race, the legend of the Hooters 500 has grown through both triumph and tragedy. Kulwicki perished in a plane crash on April 1, 1993, while Allison died on July 13 of injuries sustained in a helicopter crash the day before. Meanwhile, Gordon - after finishing 31st following an accident in his debut - has gone on to win 86 races and four championships, cementing himself as one of NASCAR racing's iconic competitors.
This weekend, Atlanta is celebrating the great race by having The King's car - in the same condition as it was when he made his final laps in competition - on display throughout the weekend. Fans can see the battered Pontiac in the Fan Zone at the display of Goody's, one of Petty's longtime sponsors and one he endorses to this day.
Fast cars, rock and roll, and pretty girls. Few things define NASCAR racing quite as well.
Atlanta Motor Speedway has long had the fast cars part covered, and last season they added the rock and roll with a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that, despite the rain that ultimately postponed the Advocare 500 to Tuesday, had fans rocking.
Now - even though pretty gals always make the trek to AMS and any other stock car racing venue for that matter - the track has officially completed the trifecta with their "Rev-It-Up Crew" dance team.
The girls will be performing around the Speedway throughout the race weekend, along with signing autographs and taking pictures with race fans. The lovely sextet should be plenty easy to spot with their white and blue outfits trimmed in red.
To check out the Rev-It-Up Crew's schedule for this weekend and to see a photo of the gals posing with the weekend's pace car, visit the Atlanta Motor Speedway website.
The minute Tony Stewart hurled his helmet at the front of Matt Kenseth's Ford Saturday evening at Bristol, everyone knew the upcoming race tracks - particularly those that, like Bristol, are owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc. - would utilize the incident to promote their race in some way.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, sight of this weekend's Advocare 500 and one of the SMI circuits, has jumped on board with a special ticket deal geared towards fans of the two drivers.
The premise is simple: buy three lower Champions Grandstand tickets - right down at the start-finish line - and then decide who's side you're on, Stewart or Kenseth. If you back Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champ, your fourth ticket would cost $17, matching his car number. If you're on the side of three-time champ Stewart, the price of your fourth ticket carries the same No. 14 as his Chevy Impala stocker.
This is a great and creative ticket package that is sure to get people talking and keep the fire stoked between the two drivers' fanbases. Everyone knows which side I'm on, how about you?
This weekend, big-time stock car racing makes its 2012 appearance in the Peach State as all three of NASCAR's national divisions take to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for three nights of racing.
The Camping World Truck Series kicks things off Friday with their 130-lap GRIT Chips 200. It is the 13th race for the series in Atlanta. Ron Hornaday Jr. won last year's event, leading the final 17 laps for his 49th of a series-record 51 victories. The native of Palmdale, CA, also won at AMS in 2005, outdueling six-time Sprint Cup winner Bobby Labonte in a thrilling finish.
Saturday evening will see the Nationwide Series do battle for 195 laps in the NRA American Warrior 300, the 21st-annual event for NASCAR's second-tier division at Atlanta. Carl Edwards, a three-time Cup winner at AMS, won last year's race for his second Nationwide triumph. The affable Missourian also picked up his first-career win in the series in March of 2005, then made history by recording his first Sprint Cup win the very next day in a door-banging duel with Jimmie Johnson that made him an instant superstar.
Of course, the main event is Sunday night's Advocare 500. The 325-lapper marks the 105th Sprint Cup classic at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon outdueled teammate and one-time pupil Jimmie Johnson to win last year's rain-delayed event. The Tuesday afternoon triumph marked the 85th-career win - five of those coming at AMS - of Gordon's illustrious career and moved him into sole possession of third-place on the all-time win list. A repeat performance could be the springboard for Gordon to make the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup and make a run at his fifth-career title.
Over the next seven days, SB Nation Atlanta will be taking an in-depth look at all the storylines surrounding the three events. We'll also be keeping fans informed as to where they can see their favorite racing heroes making appearances throughout the area, as well as activities and entertainment taking place at the track over the course of this most exciting of weekends.
Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all have clinched spots in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup.
The title of this stream update comes directly from a press release sent to me from Kaleb Frady of the Atlanta Motor Speedway. You know me, I don't need any reason to go to a race other than it is a race, but we want to make sure there is a butt in all 125,000 seats at the facility come Labor Day Weekend.
Without further adieu, here's the list of reasons you'll want to be in Henry County from August 31-September 2 for the Biggest Labor Day Party in the USA.
The Wild Card Battle: Atlanta sports fans are all to familiar with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat when it comes to wild card spots. The Atlanta Braves have subjected us to both these last two years. Well, the Advocare 500 will go a long way toward determining who'll claim the Sprint Cup Series' two wild cards. After Atlanta, only one race - the Chase cutoff at Richmond International Raceway - will remain. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, and defending Atlanta champ Jeff Gordon are past AMS winners seeking to make the 10-race playoff. A repeat performance will be a big boost to their hopes.
Affordable Entertainment For the Whole Family: What's the greatest word in the world? "Free." What's the second greatest? "Affordable." And the Labor Day Weekend at AMS is very affordable. In fact, for kids 12 and under, Friday's Camping World Truck Series Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200 (is that a Georgia race name or what?) and Saturday's Nationwide Series NRA American Warrior 300 are free. Best of all, there's no limit to how many young'ns you can bring along. The Advocare 500 is not free, but tickets in the Elliott Grandstand are just $39. Students can lop twenty bucks off that and enjoy the third turn of NASCAR's most exciting venue - in my humble opinion - for just $19. One of the best deals, also in the Elliott Grandstand, is the FANtastic 4 Pack, which features four Cokes, four hot dogs, and of course four tickets for $159.
More than just racing at AMS: In addition to all the tremendous racing fans will get to see on the track over the three day, there will be plenty of other entertainment to take in at Atlanta. Of course the highlight for country music fans is the pre-race Fast Cars and Guitars Concert featuring superstar duo Montgomery Gentry. The Coca-Cola Fan Stage outside the race track will have plenty of fun to take in, not to mention appearances by such superstar drivers as Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin. Fans can also enjoy Souvenir Row - the village of merchandise trailers around the track, several sponsor displays, and more. Oh, and when the checkered flag flies, whether your favorite driver or the guy you love to hate is headed to victory lane, keep your fanny right where it's parked because AMS is going to have a fireworks show to remember once the race is over.
The New Taste of Coca-Cola Concession Stand: Section 123 below the Earnhardt Grandstand will be the place to be Labor Day Weekend. That is where the all-new Taste of Coca-Cola concession stand will be located. Listen to this menu of items that will be available: Coke Zero-braised beef tacos, Coca-Cola chili dogs, fries with Coca-Cola dipping sauce, Georgia Peaches with Sprite elephant ear, and a Cherry Coke BBQ pork sandwich with Vidalia onion rings. Mouth watering yet? Go ahead, wipe yourself off, I'll wait.
Breakfast on Bruton: Fans with a ticket from the Advocare 500 will be treated to a free Monday morning breakfast in the same garage the Nationwide Series teams will be using as they prepare for the NRA American Warrior 300. "Breakfast on Bruton," as it's known, will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. In addition to the free eats, fans will get to talk with AMS track president (and recently-crowned Thursday Night Thunder Legends Master class champion) Ed Clark.
Five-hundred miles of thrilling stock car racing should be enough to draw anyone to the Atlanta Moor Speedway, but if you weren't ready to go before, hopefully now you're as geared up to get to the race track as I am.
NASCAR's three national divisions head to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day Weekend. Jeff Gordon claimed his 85th Sprint Cup win in the 2011 Advocare 500, while Carl Edwards and Ron Hornaday Jr. won the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events.
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