- Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 19:53
- Published on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 19:53
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Last Sunday’s running of the KOBALT Tools 500 marked the 100 NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor speedway. Since the track was reconfigured twelve years ago it has evolved into the fastest track on the circuit.
Along with this reputation has grown the reputation of races plagued by tire problems. Drivers routinely describe racing at Atlanta like racing on a sheet of ice. One thing for sure, it makes for some exciting racing.
Here is a look back at some of the most memorable races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
On July 31, 1960 - Fireball Roberts wins the first race at the new speedway. At that time today’s Sprint Cup series was known as the Grand National Series.
Nov. 5, 1978 – Richard Petty thought he had defeated rival Cale Yarborough to win the race, however, a scoring snafu is discovered afterwards and the victory was awarded to Donnie Allison.
Nov. 15, 1992 – Alan Kulwicki may have finished second in the race, but it was good enough for him to overtake Bill Elliott and claim his first and only Cup Championship by a slim 10 point margin. Many long-time fans consider this one of the greatest NASCAR races ever. It also marked the final race for Richard Petty, and the debut of the young man who would change the face of NASCAR: twenty-two year old Jeff Gordon. Kulwicki would have a short time to reign as champion. The popular driver lost his life in an airplane crash enroute to the Bristol race the following spring.
March 12, 2000 – Dale Earnhardt beat Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag by .01 seconds to record his ninth and final victory at Atlanta. Earnhardt’s nine wins remain the most of any driver at the Georgia track.
March 11, 2001 – Kevin Harvick held off Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds to record his first career Cup victory. The victory came on the heels of the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona just a few weeks earlier. Earnhardt’s famed black Chevrolet had been painted white and renumbered 29. Twenty-five year old rookie Kevin Harvick from Bakersfield, California was given the daunting task of driving the car. It was an emotional win, not only for the young rookie, but for car owner Richard Childress, and marked the second straight win for his team at the Atlanta spring race.
Last Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 did not disappoint. Kurt Busch had the dominant car all day but due to the numerous cautions his race came down to a green, white, checkered duel between Busch, Jeff Gordon, and Carl Edwards. In the end,Kurt Busch would not be denied and the 2004 Cup champion logged career-win number 19. It was an all Busch weekend at Atlanta as younger brother Kyle won Saturday's truck race.
It’s getting down to crunch time for the top 35 positioning. For the first five races of the season, the top 35 teams from the final 2008 car owners' points get guaranteed starting positions. After Bristol in two weeks the guaranteed berths are based on the 2009 owners' point standings. With just one race remaining before the top 35 owners points come into play, there are some intriguing stories to keep an eye on.
For example, the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet driven by young rookie Joey Logano is 33rd. The No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet driven by Ryan Newman and owned by Tony Stewart is 32nd. The Pole sitter at Atlanta Mark Martin is No. 5 and Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is 34th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. rebounded at Las Vegas, posting his first top 10 of the season with a tenth place finish in the Shelby 427 and followed that with an eleventh place finish Sunday at Atlanta. The performance moved him up to 24th in the points standings.
Earnhardt has an uphill battle; no driver has come back from that far back after four races to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“We really needed that top 10 finish,” said Earnhardt. “We know that we have to put together six or seven good weeks to give ourselves a shot at getting back into the battle for the Chase. We’ve got some good tracks coming up where we can do just that. We’ve got to keep our heads on straight and be smart.”