[NASCAR] Speed Addicts

Speed Addicts

Original Teaser: It’s Arnold! Score!
Off Week Teaser: Nachos Bell Grande, Smokey!
Saturday Teaser: Viva Las Vegas, Knuckleheads!
Sunday’s Teaser: The Prodigal Son returns… sort of.

“What’s up, my pretties. Before everyone pulls a Tombstone on me and goes for the jugular, allow me to explain my absence over the past two/three weeks; it was a three part problem, actually. First, and most importantly, a virus wiped out just about everything on the PC a week and a half ago, erasing everything I had saved up to post the next day. If that wasn’t bad enough, an alleged friend of the Addict decided on taking my internet modem (I have a 2Wire portal separate from my computer) and trying to hook it up on his computer, only to “accidentally” break it on the way up his staircase. Compounding this problem is the fact that the Abbey is on Spring Break, which means that every internet café/hot spot/computer lab is closed down for the week, which means I was up the creek as far posting anything goes. Of course, my irritation was not limited to computer woes, as Missus Speed Addict tore her ACL in a rather weird accident on Wednesday, topping off one crazy week. Not to mention Jamaica and his midnight cravings for cigarettes and sessions of Resident Evil 4. Such is life, no?”

Luckily, my computer woes happened at a good spot; we caught the off week between California and Las Vegas, so we’re good as far as Nextel Cup Races. The bad news is that the RaceDay Pulse recap for California was lost when the computer crashed, and I couldn’t be bothered with trying to keep notes for the Mexico City race (which we’ll get to in a moment). So on Tuesday evening, I’ll be doing a 3-in-1 MEGA POST in the RaceDay Pulse. Included, obviously, is the forthcoming race from Las Vegas, the Auto Club 500 from California two weeks ago, and the long overdue 1st Gatorade Duel from Daytona. Until then, let’s shake our groove thing and get jiggy wit it.”

AND THEN…

“That was the opener for the return column I planned on SATURDAY. And you people wonder why I’m going nowhere in life fast. Computer Crisis 2005 is still going strong, but with midterms over and done with, I can at least find some time here and there on campus to post something, ANYTHING. At least we’ve passed the February/March transition doldrums, and can get right back into the thick of the most exciting stretch of NASCAR action there is.”

ANOTHER WEEK LATER …

It’s almost been a month since your last trip to Speed Addict’s Crib, so the vacation is over for you hombres. I’d like to thank everyone that sent emails wondering about my well-being over the past three weeks or so, especially those quality home mortgage loan advertisements. As is, we’ve got a boatload of creamy, wholesome NASCAR goodness to hit today, including rundowns of four, count ’em, FOUR races, including the historic Mexico City race and the past two Nextel Cup outings.

Telcel Motorola 200 at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Let’s start off with the only race I’ve actually watched, flag to flag in the past three weeks now. The Busch Series got a chance to shine two weeks ago in Mexico City of all places for a fairly historic event. It was the first time that a major American sport had a competitive match/game/race outside of the United States that actually counted towards something, although the NFL will be following suit with a Cardinals/49ers game next season.

The track itself is quite unlike any other on the Nextel Cup/ Busch Series schedule. It’s numerous chutes and chicanes make it an adventure to navigate, especially down the front stretch where 43 cars squeeze through a small strip of road that was built for a mini-coupe. Maybe I’m jaded in the sense that I’m an aficionado for road course racing, but I thought the race was, for the most part, fairly entertaining. Granted, the event not being a Nextel Cup race hurt the popularity/star power, but the crowd was very enthused throughout, even though most of the local entries into the race fell far behind early on. A couple of things that stood out, aside from the odd track design itself, was the performance turned in by Martin Truex Jr. He managed to survive a few early scares from veteran Ron Fellows (who went all “Days of Thunder” on him here) to dominate the race straight through to the checkered flag. Martin, in my eyes, could be a very successful competitor on the Nextel Cup level. He has the natural instincts that you’d want from a driver, and his masterful performance on such a difficult and dangerous track, with no prior experience there, is nothing short of incredible.

Another interesting point that came out of Mexico City is the outcry from some who claim that NASCAR should be worried about expanding northward instead of southward. They claim that Helton and Co. need to worry about expanding farther in the United States than they do into Mexico. Yeah. Anyways, this does bring up a two-sided argument. On the one hand, is it right to start giving races to Mexico (and Canada as was rumored several years ago) when there are plenty of locations in the United States that don’t have a strong racing background? Then again, would it not be a positive move for an American sport to finally start competing outside the United States, so as to avoid some of the scrutiny that gets heaped on us for having the selfishness to call our sporting championships representative of the world? An interesting question, one that we will get into down the line.

Finishing Order
01. #8 Martin Truex Jr. (Chevrolet – Bass Pro Shops)
02. #21 Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet – Pelon Pelon Rico)
03. #60 Carl Edwards (Ford – Charter Communications)
04. #32 Shane Hmiel (Chevrolet – Win Fuel)
05. #01 Boris Said (Dodge – Yellow Transportation)
06. #64 Rusty Wallace (Dodge – Bell Helicopter)
07. #02 Clint Bowyer (Chevrolet – ACDelco)
08. #22 Kenny Wallace (Ford – Stacker 2)
09. #25 Ashton Lewis (Ford – U.S. Marines)
10. #5 Adrian Fernandez (Chevrolet – Lowe’s/Hitachi Power Tools)

11. #28 Johnny Sauter (Dodge -Yellow Transportation)
12. #33 Ron Hornaday (Chevrolet – Yard-Man)
13. #35 Jason Keller (Ford – McDonald’s)
14. #41 Reed Sorenson (Dodge – Discount Tire)
15. #20 Denny Hamlin (Chevrolet – Rockwell Automation)
16. #47 Jon Wood (Ford – Clorox/Wisk/Costco)
17. #4 Ryan Hemphill (Dodge – GEICO/Pet Brands)
18. #90 Elliott Sadler (Ford- CITI Financial)
19. #36 Stanton Barrett (Chevrolet – TUCSON)
20. #52 Jimmy Morales (Ford – Telmex/AMD/Sun Microsystems)

21. #12 Tim Fedewa (Dodge – Goulds Pumps)
22. #14 David Stremme (Dodge – Navy “Accelerate Your Life”)
23. #58 Brent Sherman (Dodge – Hickory Farms/Serta)
24. #38 Tyler Walker (Dodge – Great Clips)
25. #44 Justin Labonte (Chevrolet – U.S. Coast Guard)
26. #7 Chris Cook (Chevrolet – l’Alsace A Paris)
27. #72 Ruben Garcia Novoa (Chevrolet – Roshfrans Oil)
28. #59 Stacy Compton (Ford – Kingsford/Bush’s/Costco)
29. #173 Eric Jones (Chevrolet – Red Cactus Salsa)
30. #23 Shawna Robinson (Chevrolet – Vassarette)

31. #143 Jose Luis Ramirez (Ford – Rayere/King Taco)
32. #34 Randy LaJoie (Chevrolet – Dollar General)
33. #42 Jamie McMurray (Dodge – Texaco Havoline)
34. #11 Paul Menard (Chevrolet – Menards/Turtle Wax)
35. #49 Mara Reyes (Ford – Advil/Telmex/Sun Microsystems/AMD)
36. #40 Carlos Contreras (Dodge – Roshfrans Oil)
37. #10 Michel Jourdain Jr. (Ford – Telcel)
38. #66 Jorge Goeters (Ford – Scotiabank Inverlat/Canel’s)
39. #27 David Green (Ford – Kleenex/Scott Products)
40. #283 Robby Gordon (Chevrolet – Red Bull)
41. #87 Ron Fellows (Chevrolet- Cellular One/AER)
42. #18 J.J. Yeley (Chevrolet – Vigoro/The Home Depot)
43. #0 Rafael Martinez (Chevrolet – Aon/Zurich)

[CREDIT: NASCAR.com]

Auto Club 500 at California Speedway
Backtracking a bit now, the NASCAR Nextel Cup boys went all Oscar on us three weeks ago and tackled the beast known as… California! Okay, so the race stunk up the joint, but who can fault the effort, right? The race will be notable down the line as being Greg Biffle’s called shot; he predicted his assumption of the lead by Lap 5, and also his winning the entire race. Not bad, not too bad at all. California will also be one of the notable black eyes on the Corporate fact sheet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the coming months. First, Junior shreds up the right front of his car not once, but twice and goes several laps down at a track he’s never done well at. But, as if by some sort of miracle, Michael Waltrip conveniently loses his engine (for the second week in a row), finishing behind Junior when he clearly had the best car. Conspiracy, no?

Another shocking twist was the near-fatal engine problem to Jeff Gordon late in the race. With the kind of RPMs they were turning, I can see why so many engines started to go, but Hendrick has owned California in the past. It was a little odd to see him lose a cylinder there, just as it was odd to see Jimmie Johnson sacrifice third place to pit with twenty laps to go, when Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch were far too strong to pass to begin with. There always seems to be some sort of miscalculation at California and Michigan that costs one man the race and literally saves another. Greg Biffle definitely falls into (gets saved in a big way) here, because Johnson would have blown past him like Kirstie Alley running to a stash of free Twinkies. Of course, Johnson doesn’t bother to win the race as I had called, so fooey on him.

All in all, the race was pretty boring, even by Kansas/Chicagoland standards. For whatever reason, tracks like Michigan and California are either exciting, nail-biting affairs, or they make filling out Tax forms look fun by comparison. This is another one of those two-sided coin issues. On the one hand, California is nowhere near as exciting a race to watch as Rockingham is. Then again, weather in Rockingham is terrible this time of year. But, so is California’s. Those who live by the sword shall die by it.

Finishing Order
01. #16 Greg Biffle
02. #48 Jimmie Johnson
03. #97 Kurt Busch
04. #42 Jamie McMurray
05. #99 Carl Edwards
06. #29 Kevin Harvick
07. #06 Mark Martin
08. #38 Elliott Sadler
09. #12 Ryan Newman
10. #02 Rusty Wallace

11. #88 Dale Jarrett
12. #00 Mike Bliss
13. #18 Bobby Labonte
14. #49 Ken Schrader
15. #40 Sterling Marlin
16. #22 Scott Wimmer
17. #20 Tony Stewart
18. #45 Kyle Petty
19. #31 Jeff Burton
20. #32 Bobby Hamilton Jr.

21. #25 Brian Vickers
22. #41 Casey Mears
23. #05 Kyle Busch
24. #77 Travis Kvapil
25. #04 Mike Wallace
26. #17 Matt Kenseth
27. #43 Jeff Green
28. #19 Jeremy Mayfield
29. #14 John Andretti
30. #24 Jeff Gordon

31. #37 Kevin Lepage
32. #08 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
33. #10 Scott Riggs
34. #07 Dave Blaney
35. #07 Robby Gordon
36. #44 Terry Labonte
37. #11 Jason Leffler
38. #15 Michael Waltrip
39. #01 Joe Nemechek
40. #09 Kasey Kahne
41. #21 Ricky Rudd
42. #34 Randy LaJoie
43. #91 Bill Elliott

[CREDIT: NASCAR.com]

UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas
Suck it in, because we’ve got two more races left to go. The NASCAR boys hit up Las Vegas last Sunday, and while most of the controversial stuff will be covered in the news section, the main news bit out of Vegas is the rash of cheating going on, Jimmie Johnson being the most notable victim of the crackdown since, well, you, he won the race and all. I can’t say too much about it, since I was decidedly out of commission for this one (ie drunk), but from what I hear, Jimmie Johnson led for the final 35-50 laps of the event, which leads me to the conclusion that there was little doubt as to the outcome of the event when the leaders entered the final turns.

That isn’t to say that Las Vegas didn’t give us quite a show following its conclusion. Three crew chiefs were suspended and fined due to rule book infractions, their drivers docked valuable Nextel Cup points (see Earnhardt, Dale Jr. for further proof), and car owner Richard Childress loses 25 points in the Car Owner Championship race. The race itself had quite an eventful start to boot; as noted earlier, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is having a terrible start to his bid for the 2005 Nextel Cup Championship, and Las Vegas turned out to be no different for him. After only twelve laps, Junior messed up, causing a jumble of cars to crash in Turn 1, among then Brian Vickers and the equally unsuccessful duo of Ricky Rudd and Bobby Labonte. While Junior has never been noted for his success at the cookie cutters, his rather abysmal start to the Nextel Cup season has dropped him literally off the radar as far as points go. While he isn’t necessarily in any type of danger of missing the Chase, one should bare in mind that the top of the leader board right now is filled with extremely successful drivers that are not only good, but also consistent. Junior can afford another race or two like this one, but that’s all. As far as Bobby Labonte goes… if he can’t get it turned around in Atlanta, then the #18 Interstate Batteries crew may be in serious jeopardy come November.

Finishing Order
01. #48 Jimmie Johnson
02. #05 Kyle Busch
03. #97 Kurt Busch
04. #24 Jeff Gordon
05. #29 Kevin Harvick
06. #16 Greg Biffle
07. #41 Casey Mears
08. #17 Matt Kenseth
09. #12 Ryan Newman
10. #20 Tony Stewart

11. #32 Bobby Hamilton Jr.
12. #02 Rusty Wallace
13. #07 Dave Blaney
14. #99 Carl Edwards
15. #42 Jamie McMurray
16. #00 Mike Bliss
17. #31 Jeff Burton
18. #88 Dale Jarrett
19. #01 Joe Nemechek
20. #19 Jeremy Mayfield

21. #15 Michael Waltrip
22. #11 Jason Leffler
23. #43 Jeff Green
24. #04 Mike Wallace
25. #45 Kyle Petty
26. #77 Travis Kvapil
27. #22 Scott Wimmer
28. #14 John Andretti
29. #38 Elliott Sadler
30. #06 Mark Martin

31. #10 Scott Riggs
32. #173 Eric McClure
33. #66 Hermie Sadler
34. #49 Ken Schrader
35. #40 Sterling Marlin
36. #34 Randy LaJoie
37. #21 Ricky Rudd
38. #09 Kasey Kahne
39. #07 Robby Gordon
40. #89 Morgan Shepherd
41. #18 Bobby Labonte
42. #08 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
43. #25 Brian Vickers

[CREDIT: NASCAR.com]

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series – World Financial Group 200
Whew, thank God. One last race to cover, as per my mission statement way back when at Daytona (there’s that word again). The Craftsman Truck Series visited Atlanta on Friday, and once again provided a classic finish for the masses. Ron Hornaday Jr., the Richard Petty of Truck Racing it seems, found himself with the lead and only a handful of laps left when pole sitter Rick Crawford brought out an untimely caution flag.

Bobby Labonte got a good jump on the restart, getting past Bobby Hamilton for second place while closing in on Hornaday. Hugging the outside wall on the final lap, Labonte briefly went to the lead on the backstretch. Hornaday charged back to the front coming through turn three, sparks flying off his truck as he touched the apron of the track. Labonte made another run coming through the tri-oval, and the cars made slight contact as they approached the checkered flag. Hornaday’s car began to slide sideways, but he somehow regained control and edged Labonte by eight-thousandths of a second. Bobby Hamilton finished third.

Yes, Virginia, eight-thousandths of a second. For whatever reason, the Truck Series seems to pull crazy finish after crazy finish right out the wazoo, because this is the third nail-biter in as many races for them. Within ten years, not only would I not be shocked that the Craftsman Truck Series has replaced the Busch Series in importance to the casual NASCAR viewer, but I would welcome the move. Be sure to check out the Speed Channel to find out when the Craftsman Truck Series is playing on a television near you!

[CREDIT: NASCAR.com]

NASCAR Nextel Cup Points Standings – Top 10
01. Kurt Busch (510 Points – Nextel Cup Points Leader)
02. Jimmie Johnson (500 Points / -10)
03. Greg Biffle (428 Points / -82)
04. Jeff Gordon (418 Points / -92)
05. Carl Edwards (408 Points / -102)
06. Tony Stewart (402 Points / -108)
07. Rusty Wallace (395 Points / -115)
08. Ryan Newman (389 Points / -121)
09. Mark Martin (374 Points / -136)
10. Kevin Harvick (369 Points / -141)

Official Inside Pulse NASCAR Power Rankings: 2/27/05 – 3/19/05
If you recall in the last edition of Speed Addicts, we had gone through the Power Rankings following the Daytona 500. Well, we like to keep things interesting for you here at the Pulse, so we’ll be keeping you up to date with the top ten drivers during a given week from here on in. This week includes the results from California and Las Vegas, and qualifying results from Atlanta.

1. Kurt Busch
This is getting to be annoying, but let me give credit where credit is due to Mr. Busch for proving that he isn’t some sort of fluke. Sure, we’ve only been through three races, but his consistency dating back to Richmond of last year has to be acknowledged at some point in time. I’ll drink a warm Miller Lite for you, Kurt Busch. Then I’ll chunk that garbage, because Miller Lite is for weaklings!

2. Greg Biffle
On the other hand, a refreshing Coca-Cola bath and a foot long Chicken Bacon Ranch sub from Subway (with Southwest Sauce and Cheese) sounds like a potential destination for our “St. Patrick’s Day” Weekend Bash. Sorry folks; love him or hate him, Biffle calling California is pretty damn impressive.

3. Jeff Gordon
There was a brief bump in the road at California, but otherwise, Jeff Gordon is proving that he can hang with the young guns. Granted, Jeffykins isn’t an old, washed up fart like Morgan Shepherd or Geoff Bodine are, but he isn’t a rookie, either. For all the turnover that NASCAR undergoes every ten or so years, there are always a few drivers that manage to remain successful despite the influx of youthful talent. Mark Martin made that transition, as did Dale Jarrett. Jeff Gordon puts them all to shame.

4. Mark Martin
Nothing does your heart good like watching Mark Martin rip the young guns a new one on the Busch series week in and week out. He isn’t running half bad, and will more than likely cash in a nice victory pay day before he hangs them up. Good job, Mr. Viagra!

5. Jimmie Johnson
Winning at Vegas and capturing the points lead? Good! Getting busted for cheating, losing your crew chief for awhile along with your points lead? Not so good!

6. Rusty Wallace
Mama always said, if you don’t have anything nice to say…

7. Tony Stewart
Tony, my boy, consistency is for guys like Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch. Where’s the mean streak at? Expect Tony the Tiger to do well at Atlanta this week.

8. Ryan Newman
If Nextel Cup Qualifying constituted the main portion of a NASCAR season, then Ryan Newman would be the greatest driver in the history of mankind. This guy, when he learns how to stay consistent in the actual, you know, races, will be one of the greats. Take that one to the bank!

9. Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Hijo tiene realmente un bueno año corrido, ganando la carrera histórica en la Ciudad de México hace dos semanas. Si él se ausenta de la caída del hoyo ese Valle Earnhardt Hijo ha aceptado las pasadas dos semanas, él será multará apenas en la Copa de Nextel. ¡Y este mensaje entero es acreditado a los instrumentos de la traducción de Freetranslation.com! (Translation: Truex is Good).

10. Kevin Harvick
Anyone else view Jimmie Johnson’s little scandal in Vegas as karma for his remarks to Harvick in Daytona? Just a thought…

NASCAR News and Headlines
There’s a few headlines to hit up, but the main one revolves around the big crackdown that NASCAR performed this past week. In case you missed it on ESPN, NASCAR.com, or above in this very column, several teams got busted for cheating (unintentionally so or otherwise) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Those penalized are as follows:

1. Chad Knaus, Crew Chief of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has been suspended for two races and fined $35,000 due to an illegal specification dealing with the height of the roof on the car, an infraction in NASCAR’s eyes. Likewise, driver Jimmie Johnson was docked 25 points for the infraction, and Car Owner Jeff Gordon (yes, THAT Jeff Gordon) was docked 25 points ala Richard Childress.

2. Todd Berrier, Crew Chief for the #29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet has been suspended for four races and fined $25,000 for installing an unapproved fuel filler and fuel cell vent in his car. Likewise, driver Kevin Harvick and car owner Childress lose 25 points in their respective standings.

3. Alan Gustafson, Crew Chief for Kyle Busch’s #05 Chevrolet, has been suspended for two races and fined #25,000 due to the height of his car’s quarter-panels during post race inspection. As with the other two victims of the crackdown, driver Kyle Busch and car owner Rick Hendrick lose 25 points in their races.

4. Harold Holly (Crew Chief for Bobby Hamilton), John Latchford (Crew Chief for Morgan Shepherd), and Larry Carter (Crew Chief for Rusty Wallace) were all fined for various rule infractions found during pre and post-race inspections. None will be forced to serve suspensions, and no Nextel Cup points will be docked from these drivers or their car owners.

Wow, that’s a fairly impressive list of penalties that were dealt out. I must applaud NASCAR for taking a stand here, even if these infractions seem rather trivial. If there’s one thing that you should know, it’s that these rule infractions are in place for a reason. Even an inch difference in the allowed height of your spoiler or quarter-panel can give you an unfair edge during the race. Even though these fines were a bit tough, and I never condone docking points, I do think NASCAR did the right thing here by nipping these guys in the butt. It’s the only way to cure cheating, you know, making sure you punish those that break the rules.

Roush Rules, DEI Drools
This one is pretty interesting for someone who loves Mark Martin and doesn’t ride the Dale Jr. love train. The Roush boys are running rampant over Atlanta, while Junior and Waltrip are 43rd and 41st fasted in test runs so far this week at Atlanta. With Busch leading the points race right now, Martin and upstart surprise Carl Edwards running so well early on, it should come as no surprise that many are starting to question Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s decision to switch crew chiefs. Since the swap, the team has only had one top five finish. Junior has failed to finish above 35th in the last two weeks, and Michael has had trouble keeping his engine together lately. We’ll keep you up to date with the latest happenings from DEI Camp and Roush as the weekend goes along.

Bobby Hamilton Jr. – Front Row Man
PPI Racing has given Bobby Hamilton Jr. four new cars for four races this season, and this particular Chevrolet appears to be the best one yet. Hamilton qualified a surprising second for Sunday’s Golden Corral 500, turning a lap of 193.785 mph. He was one of only three cars to even exceed 193 mph on Atlanta’s 1.54-mile oval. It is Hamilton Jr.’s first career top 10 start, and PPI’s first since Loudon last summer. Hamilton finished a dismal 35th at Daytona, continuing a disappointing run for PPI, which hasn’t had a top-10 finish since the fall event at Talladega in 2003.

[CREDIT: NASCAR.com… duh]

Well, that was refreshing, no? Let’s hit Atlanta for some coverage leading up to tomorrow’s race, how bout?

Track Profile: Atlanta
Date Opened: 1960
Location: Hampton, Georgia (20 Miles South of Atlanta)
Inaugural Nextel Cup Race: July 31st, 1960 (Dixie 200 – Won by Fireball Roberts)
Inaugural Nextel Cup Pole: 133.870 MPH (Four Lap AVG. – Fireball Roberts)
Nextel Cup Race Record: 163.633 MPH – Dale Earnhardt (3 Hours, 3 Minutes, 3 Seconds – November 12th, 1995)
Fastest Qualifying Time: 197.478 MPH – Geoffrey Bodine (11/15/97)

Track Configuration
Track Length: 1.54 Miles
Track Shape: Quad-Oval
Front Stretch: 2,332 Ft. (5 Degree Banking)
Back Straightaway: 1,800 Ft. (5 Degree Banking)
Banking/Turns: 24 Degree Banking through Four Turns (One-Quarter Mile Total Length)
Pit Road: 1,320 Feet
Closely Resembles: Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway

Track History
Few who saw Atlanta Motor Speedway in its infancy would recognize the track today. A majestic structure situated on 870 acres in Hampton, Ga., just 25 miles south of Atlanta, today’s Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the country’s top sports, corporate, family and entertainment facilities.

But it’s a far cry from the structure planned in 1958 by Walker Jackson, Lloyd Smith, Garland Bagley, Ralph Sceiano and Ike Supporter. Before construction of the proposed superspeedway had been completed, insufficient funds forced four of the founders to abandon ship. Dr. Warren Gremmel, Bill Boyd, Jack Black and Art Lester joined Bagley in the venture and spent $1.8 million to get the facility ready.
Ready, in this case, was a relative term.

“The track wasn’t ready to be used,” recalled Furman Bisher, then sports editor of The Atlanta Journal and now The Atlanta Constitution’s senior sports columnist. “Some of the lower seats were so low fans couldn’t see over the retaining wall. The only bathroom facility in the infield was a three-hole outhouse. There was mud all over. You talk about Mudville. Casey would have been right at home.”

When the 1.5-mile track, then called Atlanta International Raceway, finally made its debut on July 31, 1960, it became the seventh superspeedway—a paved facility of one mile or more—to play host to a Winston Cup race. Only three of the original seven – Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway and Lowe’s (then Charlotte) Motor Speedway – are still in operation.

But the Atlanta track’s future was hazy in the 1960s and ’70s, when it suffered several financial setbacks. The track was recognized under Chapter Ten bankruptcy proceedings in the 1970s and went through several general managers before settling down with Walt Nix, who served as general manager for much of the next two decades except for a brief period when NASCAR president Mike Helton was in charge. Even through the financial difficulties, Atlanta had attracted the attention of key local figures and celebrities. While running for governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter – an avid race fan and former ticket vendor at the track in the 60s – promised a barbecue dinner at the governor’s mansion if he won. He kept that promise, then improved on it by inviting the racing community to another cookout in 1978 – this time at the White House.

Despite the great racing and national attention, Atlanta International Raceway was still a meager facility struggling to get by. “It was just the Weaver Grandstand and wooden bleachers on the backstretch,” Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket manager Frances Goss recalled. “Fans would bring blankets and sit on the dirt bank.” Bruton Smith changed all that when he purchased Atlanta International Raceway on October 23, 1990, and renamed the facility Atlanta Motor Speedway. A year later, the addition of the East Turn Grandstand expanded the seating capacity by 25,000, and the 30 suites that rimmed the top gave new meaning to the word “luxurious.” Under Smith’s stewardship, Atlanta Motor Speedway not only has undergone massive expansion, but it has dramatically increased its menu, hosting everything from Busch Series, ARCA and Indy car racing to dog shows, concerts and business conventions.

In 1994, Tara Place, the nine-story building that houses 46 luxury condominiums, Tara Ballroom, the speedway office complex and more luxury suites opened, as did the adjacent Tara Clubhouse and its accompanying swimming pool and tennis courts. A year later, the North Turn Grandstand opened, and in 1997, the great transformation was completed. The Champions Grandstand was added, and the total of luxury suites was increased to 137. When the Champions Grandstand was built, the start/finish line was moved from the west to the east side of the track, and two doglegs were added to the frontstretch to form a 1.54-mile quad-oval, which replaced the original oval. New media facilities, garages and countless fan support buildings were added to what has become a modern motorsports palace. The only reminders of the track that used to be are the suite tower and the Weaver Grandstand, which are now situated on the backstretch.
“Bruton told me before he ever bought the track, ‘I’d like to see what could be done with this place,'” Goss recalled. “He’s made it. I never would have believed Atlanta Motor Speedway would look like it does today.” [Credit All: Atlanta Motor Speedway Homepage]

Race #4 of 36: Atlanta
Date: Sunday, March 20th, 2005 from Hampton, Georgia
Time: 12:30 PM on FOX
Pole Sitter: Ryan Newman (194.690 MPH)
Distance: 500 Miles (325 Laps – 1.54 Mile Track)
2004 Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Race Ran 03/14/04)
Busch Race Winner: Carl Edwards

We’ve already covered this a zillion times here, but the main three news stories heading into Atlanta can generally be tracked to one of three sources: the rule violators from Vegas, the dominating Roush drivers, and the continued troubles for Waltrip and Junior. So, let’s focus on something else, eh? Atlanta is the first real test for these guys on a really fast, really difficult racing circuit, and it’s a test that Bobby Labonte and teammate Tony Stewart are masters of. If there will be a Joe Gibbs Racing resurgence in 2005, Atlanta is the starting place. Furthermore, Matt Kenseth has turned the corner as of late, and will be looking to log a good finish here after a couple of disappointing engine failures. If the gun is pointed at your temple, go with Tony Stewart. Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Mark Martin are always good alternatives. And yes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the defending champion of this race, so he gets some love, too.

Predicted Finish:
1. Tony Stewart
2. Kasey Kahne
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Mark Martin
5. Jeff Gordon

Nextel Cup Qualifying Results from Atlanta
1 12 Ryan Newman (ALLTEL Dodge – 194.690 MPH)
2 32 Bobby Hamilton Jr. (Tide Chevrolet – 193.785 MPH)
3 48 Jimmie Johnson (Lowe’s Chevrolet – 193.184 MPH)
4 99 Carl Edwards (Scotts Ford – 192.976 MPH)
5 9 Kasey Kahne (Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge – 191.894 MPH)
6 16 Greg Biffle (Post-it/National Guard Ford – 191.252 MPH)
7 01 Joe Nemechek (CENTRIX Financial Chevrolet – 191.192 MPH)
8 25 Brian Vickers (GMAC/ditech.com Chevrolet – 191.126 MPH)
9 20 Tony Stewart (The Home Depot Chevrolet – 191.067 MPH)
10 11 Jason Leffler (FedEx Express Chevrolet – 190.935 MPH)

11. #38 Elliott Sadler
12. #6 Mark Martin
13. #42 Jamie McMurray
14. #19 Jeremy Mayfield
15. #41 Casey Mears
16. #0 Mike Bliss
17. #10 Scott Riggs
18. #91 Bill Elliott
19. #18 Bobby Labonte
20. #77 Travis Kvapil

21. #108 Shane Hmiel
22. #50 Jimmy Spencer
23. #17 Matt Kenseth
24. #97 Kurt Busch
25. #24 Jeff Gordon
26. #7 Robby Gordon
27. #07 Dave Blaney
28. #49 Ken Schrader
29. #37 Kevin Lepage
30. # 4 Mike Wallace

31. #21 Ricky Rudd
32. #2 Rusty Wallace
33. #22 Scott Wimmer
34. #88 Dale Jarrett
35. #8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
36. #29 Kevin Harvick
37. #15 Michael Waltrip
38. #31 Jeff Burton
39. #40 Sterling Marlin
40. #43 Jeff Green
41. #45 Kyle Petty
42. #5 Kyle Busch
43. #175 Mike Garvey [Credit: NASCAR.com]

NASCAR Q & A
This is an experimental feature that I’ve been working on for awhile now. I was planning on adding this in with Know Your NASCAR, but the questions that I was coming up with really deserved their own little section. From now on, readers are welcomed to (and encouraged to) send your questions in, and I’ll answer any and all of them that I get, so long as I don’t run out of questions to answer. This week, we take a look at a couple more interesting FYI facts that you may find interesting.

Q: Why does the Speed Addict hate Kurt Busch?
A: That’s a good question. I’ll leave it to the readers to figure that one out.

Q: Was George W. Bush the first president to attend a NASCAR Nextel Cup event?
A: Not hardly. If memory serves, unless President Jimmy Carter attended a race in Atlanta in the 1970s, the first President to my knowledge to attend a NASCAR event was President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. Reagan made several appearances at Daytona throughout his two terms, actually. One thing is for sure: Reagan was the first American President to give the command to start the engines.

Q: How many laps have to be run before a race is considered a full race?
A: Though it varies depending on the track, the standard rule throughout NASCAR is that, once the lead car completes one lap past the halfway point, the race is considered official.

Q: What is the most dangerous aspect of NASCAR?
A: Unfortunately, there isn’t a safe way to really compete in an automobile race. While the odds of seeing someone hurt or killed during a race are rather small nowadays thanks to all the safety precautions added to the cars and the track, there’s no way to prevent a racer’s death from a crash. There are numerous aspects in particular that are dangerous, including crashes and the constant threat of carbon monoxide, as witnessed by Ward Burton when he almost blacked out from it during a 2002 crash in New Hampshire.

Q: Why does NASCAR take pace laps after a caution or before the race?
A: These laps serve a purpose, actually; while the cars are riding around the track, they’re accumulating debris on their tires, causing them to ware down. The laps run under caution allow the drivers to help clean their tires (this is why you’ll see cars swerving before the green flag falls). Also, pace laps allow NASCAR officials to determine whether or not the track is suitable to race on.

Q: Why does NASCAR have invocations before races? The NFL doesn’t have them!
A: This one has two feasible answers; firstly, because NASCAR grew from the south, it’s likely that the strong Southern Baptist population in the south had an influence on adding the invocation into the pre-race routine. On a more serious note, because auto races are potentially dangerous to compete in, the invocation may serve as a reminder of what could potentially happen.

Q: What is the more important race? The Daytona 500 or the Indy 500?
A: Nowadays, the Daytona 500. Historically, the Indianapolis 500 is more important, if only because it’s more of an international proving ground. Not that the Indy 500 is not a major race; Lord knows that it is. But the Daytona 500 has definitely surpassed it as the most important race in North America.

Q: How come white men are the only ones allowed to compete in NASCAR?
A: There is no rule, contrary to most Northerners’ beliefs, that prohibits non-whites or women from competing. Just two weeks ago, female driver Shawna Robinson competed in the historic Mexico City race, and has previously competed in the Daytona 500. There have been black NASCAR drivers before, and thanks in part to the efforts of Magic Johnson and Sam Belnavis, there is a growing effort to increase the number of black drivers in NASCAR.

Q: Are you leaving Inside Pulse, because you spend so much time away from the site!
A: No, I’m not leaving Inside Pulse. As a matter of fact, Widro and Slayer would have to shoot me before I permanently leave… (I hear footsteps outside my bedroom as we speak)

Q: Why does NASCAR only race primarily on ovals?
A: It all has to do with the background of the sport. Whereas most European and Asian racing backgrounds involve complex circuits and Grand Prix events, American racing grew out of the dirt track lore. And dirt tracks are usually ovals, so there ya go.

Q: What is the funniest name for a race sponsor in your opinion?
A: There have been plenty of regionalized race titles that sound less than normal, but on the 2005 schedule, the honor of being the funniest race name on the Nextel Cup Schedule goes to the November race in Texas, the Dickies 500. Ha ha, hee hee.

Q: What does a partial caution mean during a road course race?
A: A partial caution means that a particular turn/corner or stretch of the track has seen an accident localized to that area, and that drivers should exercise extreme caution in that area. This is opposite of a full course caution, which would bring out the yellow flag at the start/finish line and bring out the pace car.

Q: What’s the deal with the Second Flagman at Dover?
A: This has actually become something of a tradition at Dover. Every June when the tour comes to Dover, a young man (whose name I can’t remember) will sit underneath the flag stand and wave his on set of flags in concordance with the official flag man. This guy has been doing this for something like ten years now, and even the FOX broadcasters recognize him when the cameras catch him.

Q: Is there some sort of school to attend if you want to get into NASCAR?
A: There are numerous driving schools located throughout the country that help teach students how to drive. NASCAR itself has the NASCAR Technical Institute, which teaches people about the inners workings of the sport itself. Normally, though, people get involved with NASCAR through their family tradition and/or a strong background in dirt track racing/open wheels/go carts, etc.

Q: Why can’t NASCAR race during the winter?
A: NASCAR doesn’t race in the winter, primarily speaking, because A – the weather is generally worse and not appropriate for racing and B – drivers need a break during the course of a year, because racing is very draining physically and emotionally, and it really limits the amount of time you can spend with your family.

Know Your NASCAR
This section is geared more towards international readers as opposed to American readers, who probably know a bit more about NASCAR racing by sheer osmosis. Each week, we’ll drive headlong into a facet of Stock Car Racing here in the United States, whether it be a bit about the sport itself, its personalities, or its history. This week, we’re looking back at the most important race in the history of the Atlanta Motor Speedway: the 1992 Hooters 500.

There are several important historical notes that should be made about the race. Not only was it the final race of 1992, but it served as the final race of “the King” Richard Petty. Petty crashed early on into the race, but did manage to turn a few laps at the very end and finished 35th to close out his career. On the flip side, a man that one day may very well be considered the Richard Petty of the new millennium, Jeff Gordon, made his NASCAR debut on this day, finishing 31st and, oddly enough, also crashing. The event marked the end of two important eras in NASCAR; firstly, it marked the final year that Darrell Waltrip, one of the all-time greats in NASCAR history, would win a race. It would also be one of the last hoorahs for Bill Elliott, who would never again be in a serious position to challenge for the Winston Cup/Nextel Cup Championship again. This race marked the official transition of “power” from Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt. Though the Intimidator had been a dominant force for years, he was finally able to step out from Petty’s shadow. It also marked Dale’s rise to fame outside of the South as well. These points alone could make it one of the most memorable races in history.

But most importantly, this race marked the conclusion to, in my eyes and most everyone else’s associated with NASCAR, the most exciting Winston Cup Championship points race ever. On that cold November day in Atlanta, the stage was set: three men, with different backgrounds, personalities, and heritages would be vying for the Winston Cup, the best of the best. The points leader, Davey Allison, would have to outpace Dawsonville, Georgia’s Bill Elliott and the man who has since been immortalized through the Polish victory lap, “Special K” Alan Kulwicki. The race began, with Allison running well, and both Kulwicki and Elliott running nose to tail, when the points leader suffered the most devastating collapse of his career; Davey was unable to avoid a multi-car crash down the front stretch, and he was wiped out by Ernie Irvan’s Kodak car. Allison would finish the race, but the crash would keep him off the track long enough to knock him out of contention for the points championship. So the final two were set; Alan Kulwicki running in first, Bill Elliott running in second. Kulwicki lead for awhile, gaining valuable laps in the process. Elliott frantically tried to pass Kulwicki before he could accumulate more laps led than Elliott could make up. He finally passed Kulwicki with a good twenty-five to thirty laps to go when Kulwicki made a green flag stop. As Elliott tried his best to hold onto the lead until the end, NASCAR officials tried to gauge the laps led tally. With five laps to go, with Elliott in first and Alan Kulwicki running in second, it became apparent that Kulwicki would lead the most laps in the race, and would pick up the five bonus points. Elliott, with the situation out of his control, came across the start/finish line to win the Hooters 500, praying that Kulwicki would drop out of second place, the only way Elliott could still win the points race. However, Kulwicki would not be denied, as Alan drove his car across the line in second place, claiming the Winston Cup Championship. The margin of victory between Kulwicki and Elliott? One lap. One Lap is all that separated Kulwicki from winning the Winston Cup and finishing second. Had Elliott taken the lead from Kulwicki one lap earlier, he would have won the Winston Cup Championship. Incredible.

That race essentially marked the beginning of the end of an era in NASCAR. After 1992, the sport would slowly but surely begin to grow nationally, culminating in the national power we know it as today. The work of Richard Petty was complete, as he passed the torch to Gordon (and Earnhardt, essentially). The race also marked the last time fans would really get to smile when talking about Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki. One year after the race that changed all three men forever, both Allison and Kulwicki were dead. Elliott himself was never quite the same, either. But for one cold afternoon in Georgia, three men went at each other in a race for the ages, all the while watching the King step down, a Rainbow Warrior emerge, an Intimidator become the top dog in the sport, and a new era dawn in a sport that is at the very heart of the region it helped define.

[Thanks to everyone at Belmont Abbey College who helped assist us in researching for this topic, and a special thanks to everyone who made that race the most incredible in this sport’s history.]

Victory Lap for the Pimps (Hoo-rah)
Patrick Nguyen gets the God slot today. Worship him, you foolish mortals!Mmm… Organized Crime.

Tal Aulbrook writes about general stuff. Yeah. Aulbrook!

That Bootleg Guy talks about baseball. Hey, it’s that time of the year, no? There’s no crying in Baseball!

Slayer goes bracket crazy! I’ve got Arizona upsetting UNC, personally, but I suck at this. Slayer!

And, of course, Eric gets his pimpage, too. The Man that Dub-Ya Fears

Victory Lane
Well, I hope you knuckleheads enjoyed the return to La-La land this week. As I learned over the past month, I wont even try to make a prediction as to when the RaceDay Pulse is going up, considering how bad I’ve been about posting the darn things. At the very least, have fun watching Atlanta tomorrow, and keep an eye out on those upsets in the NCAA tournament! It’s good to be back, guys, and I’m looking forward to picking up where I left off. Until we meet again, peace out.

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