Atlanta Motor Speedway is without doubt, one of my favorite tracks on the Nascar circuit. I was disapointed when Nascar cut one of the races out of the schedule here, but was glad when they moved the season finale from AMS to a warmer city. I attended the season ending race there in 1997 after the track had been re-configured from an oval to the current quad-oval configuration, and nearly froze to death watching Bobby Labonte win the race and Jeff Gordon win the Cup title that year.
Ground was broke on Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1958, but wasn’t finished and opened for racing until July of 1960. For many years, the track was known as one of the fastest non restrictor tracks in Nascar. Not until Texas was build in the mid 1990′s were AMS speeds eclipsed on this size of track. With 24 degree banking, and a 1.54 mile length, it still provides some of the best racing of the season.
From 1965 to 1978 AMS, in it’s old configuration hosted three USAC Championship Car series racing with the likes of Johnny Rutherford, Mario Andretti and Rick Mears. From 1979 to 1983, it hosted CART Champ Car series, and from 1998 to 2001, it held four IRL Indy Car races. Because of the open wheel racing, the track records are all held by open wheel cars. The fast lap of 224.163 record is held by Billy Boat .
The reigning active Nascar winner here is Bobby Labonte. Bobby won six times at Atlanta, and in 1996, stood in Victory Lane with brother Terry as Bobby won the race, and Terry won the Winston Cup title. Jeff Gordon has five victories here, in my estimation, his last real chance at getting that second win of the year, and a shot at a Wild Card berth in this years chase.
The Nascar king of Atlanta is by far Dale Earnhardt Sr. Dale won here 9 times, and had 26 top five finishes. This is without doubt one of Dale’s best tracks. Richard Petty holds the record for most top 10 finishes with 33, and the most starts with 65. King Richards 65th start at Atlanta, was his last start in Nascar in 1992. There are two drivers that hold the record for most poles, Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman with 7 poles each.
I used to play some trivia with the guys at the “Watering Hole” regarding Atlanta Motor Speedway. The final race of 1992 was historical, and I would ask them how many significant Nascar events occured during that race. Let’s see how many you can come up with…
- Richard Petty’s final Nascar start.
- Jeff Gordon’s first Cup Start
- Alan Kulwicki’s Only Championship.
- Closest Winston Cup finish in history(at the time) 10 points.
- First modern Owner/Driver to win a Cup Title.
- First Winston Cup Champion from a Northern State.
- First Cup Champion with a College Degree.
With only three of the twelve Chase positions clinched, the AdvoCare 500 Sunday evening will go a long way in securing most of the remaining spots. Points leader Greg Biffle, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are in while former champion Matt Kenseth has clinched at least a Wild Card entry.
Carl Edwards comes to Atlanta where he has won three times, needing a win, or he will be on the outside looking in. Jeff Gordon also needs a win in order to have a chance. Tony Stewart will need to get a good finish under his belt to keep from falling out of the top ten. Only drivers in the top ten get the three bonus points per win, if he falls into a Wild Card spot, his three wins would not be rewarded in the chase.
With Sunday’s race being held during the Labor Day weekend, we will get to see a rare Sunday Night race. I’m hoping some of the excitement we saw at Bristol Saturday Night will carry over to this race. The track is fast, the track is well banked, and we should get a doozy..!!
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