Archive for the ‘NASCAR/Auto racing’ Category

Fire, rain, Tide, Twitter: Daytona was crazy like a Fox (wink)

An accident, huh? Yeah, and I've got a bridge in Brooklyn that you can have real cheap. (AP photo)

An accident, huh? Yeah, and I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you can have cheap. (AP photo)

There have been times — in 2002, when Sterling Marlin lost the Daytona 500 by doing a spot of fender repair while cars were stopped; in 2007, when Clint Bowyer crossed the finish line with his car upside down and on fire; in 2010, when one persistent pothole halted proceedings for two hours — when I’ve thought to myself: “You couldn’t make this stuff up.”

Last night, or maybe it was early this morning, I realized: “They have to be making this stuff up.”

In most things, I refuse to accept the concept of global conspiracy. Where Daytona is concerned, I’m ready to go all Roswell/UFOs/Area 51. How else could you explain the events of Sunday/Monday/Tuesday?

1. The Daytona 500 is postponed for the first time not because it’s raining all over Florida but because it just happens to be raining — pretty much all day — on Daytona Beach. That’s postponed to Monday, as opposed to delayed into prime …

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Remember the NASCAR race Atlanta lost? It went … not well

Oddly enough, traffic flows freely on the Bruton Smith Parkway in Georgia. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Oddly enough, traffic flows freely on the Bruton Smith Parkway in Georgia. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

You’ll recall that the annual spring NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway became the new summer NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway, which sits 40 miles from Cincinnati off I-71. About this piece of highway, Bruton Smith — who owns, conveniently enough, both AMS and the Kentucky Speedway –  said on Speed TV:

“I’m trying my best to get the governor [Kentucky's Steve Beshear] to understand that Interstate 71 sucks. That is the worst interstate highway I’ve ever been on. I think it’s a disgrace to the great state of Kentucky to have something like that.”

As Terry Blount of ESPN noted, Bruton Smith spoke those words three hours before the Saturday night race. Imagine what he must be thinking now.

One of the Busch brothers won the inaugural Sprint Cup Event at the Kentucky Speedway, but nobody will remember which. Everyone involved was so appalled by the road conditions that …

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Atlanta loses a NASCAR race, but the bigger one remains

The Labor Day night race is now the franchise for AMS. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The Labor Day race is now the franchise for AMS. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A long-running rumor became sobering reality Thursday: Atlanta Motor Speedway has lost one of its Sprint Cup events for 2011. The track that has played host to two NASCAR events for half a century — NASCAR itself is only 63 years old — has seen its allotment halved. This is not good news.

To his credit, AMS president Ed Clark didn’t try to pretend it was. “It’s got a little sting to it,” he said. “The tough part was telling the staff. They deserved to be the first to know. But every one of them said they have a commitment to building the Labor Day weekend race into the biggest event in the state.”

The cold reality is that the Speedway has no choice. No longer does it have two races to market, two sets of tickets to sell. It’s down to one.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a great thing,” said Clark, meaning losing one race. “But there’s opportunity in it.”

And there is. The Labor Day weekend Sunday night race …

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Extra! Extra! Persistent pothole wins the Daytona 500!

I’m not a big fan of pranks. (I’m basically a humorless old coot.) But I laughed out loud about 6:15 Sunday night. While waiting through the second televised pavement malfunction, I clicked on the Wikipedia entry for the Daytona 500. As the 2010 winner, some devious gearhead had already entered “Pothole.”

Under “make of car,” the listing was “Hole.” Under “car number,” the listing was “2.”

I’m sorry. For reasons unclear, I found that hilarious. Maybe because I use Marietta Street to get downtown and nearly lose a hubcap on a weekly basis. Maybe because it seemed rather incongruous that the self-appointed Great American Race could be halted — for 2 1/2 mind-numbing hours! — by the not-so-great American pothole. But it was most amusing watching Fox fill (and fill, and fill) to the point that a third delay would surely have prompted Chris Myers to tell the story of how Jim Mora screamed at him at halftime of a Falcons-Panthers game in 2004. (Haven’t heard that one, have you?)

I’m …

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Night NASCAR: A ’state fair’ with a race thrown in

They weren't going quite this fast. The iPhone has a slow shutter speed. (Photo by M. Bradley)

They weren't going quite this fast. The iPhone's shutter speed distorts. (Photo by M. Bradley)

This didn’t seem just another Sunday raceday. This was different, bigger, better. This was a raceday at night in the city — well, just south thereof — on a holiday weekend, and the crowd seemed larger and more engaged. Not just another race, this seemed an event.

Ed Clark is the president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, and he took a chance. He opted out of a later race date and a spot in the Chase for a night date on the Sunday before Labor Day. There was reason to think it would work, but also reason to fear it wouldn’t.

The college football season opened in earnest Saturday, and the city was host to two games: One at Georgia Tech and the other under the Georgia Dome. Would folks invest in two (or three) sporting events over one holiday weekend at a time when money’s tight? Would they opt for the Braves instead? Or would they simply sit home and grill burgers in the backyard?

Just …

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Chattin’ with Bradley: UGA, Braves, Shockley & NASCAR!

The view from my perch. The stage awaits Diamond Rio, I believe. (Photo by M. Bradley)

The view from my perch. The stage awaits Diamond Rio, I believe. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Hello there. I’m at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where a goodly crowd has already gathered in preparation for tonight’s Pep Boys 500, which will be a significant gasoline-driven event in local annals. It is, as you’re aware, the first night Cup race in track history, and hopes, as they say, are high.

But because this is NASCAR and we car-racing veterans know to get to the track early lest ye sit in traffic worse than the seventh circle of Hades, I’m here with time to burn. And I’d like to spend it with you, dear readers. I’d like to give you my impressions of a fairly eventful weekend in Atlanta sports doings, and I’d be greatly interested in hearing your feelings. So here goes:

Georgia: I wasn’t shocked the Bulldogs lost. I was shocked they lost the way they did: Rather routinely after having jumped out to the necessary on-the-road start. Oklahoma State seemed determined to choke on that game, …

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Night NASCAR on a holiday weekend: A hit or a miss?

A night race at venerable Bristol. Looks pretty swell, doesn't it?

A night race at Bristol. Looks pretty swell, huh? (Photo from CaptainThunderRacing.com)

Our geographic clocks — we do live in the South — are synchronized to Sept. 5, which is the first big Saturday of the college football season. Georgia’s at Oklahoma State that day for a game the Bulldogs may or may not lose 387-24. Georgia Tech opens at home against Jacksonville State at 1 p.m. and seven hours later Alabama plays Virginia Tech underneath the Dome. But you know all this already.

What I’m wondering now is if we Atlantans know, or care, that a major NASCAR development will be held at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sept. 6. This installment of the Pep Boys 500 will be the first night Cup race in track history, and Ed Clark and the AMS folks have huge hopes for this event.

You know me: I’d rather be wrong than wishy-washy. (Explains a lot, huh?) But I could see this one going either way. I could see it become a holiday weekend staple — night racing in the A-T-L on Labor Day eve — and …

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Naked NASCAR truth: Junior sells apparel but has no clothes

Nobody likes the brothers Busch. They’re mean and snarky and they’ll wreck you for no reason. (Kurt and Kyle are also really good drivers, which makes it even worse.) But in the new world of nicey-nice NASCAR it takes a mean and snarky guy to tell the truth, and Busch the Younger told it last week at Dover, Del.

“It’s never Junior,” Kyle Busch told the media. “It’s always the crew chief.”

His many fans have spent many years making excuses for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who’s the most overrated figure in American sports. (That’s unless/until Brett Favre unretires again, in which case he laps the field.) Earnhardt has won one Cup race in 1,100 days. When he was with DEI, it was said he was too good for his wicked stepmother’s shop. But now he has been part of Rick Hendrick’s imperial garage for 17 months, and nothing has changed.

Last week Hendick fired Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt’s longtime crew chief and also his cousin. Junior ranks 18th in points, putting him a distant fourth on his …

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Atlanta Motor Speedway sees its glass as more than half-full

The Atlanta Motor Speedway folks were concerned. The Kobalt Tools 500 was their first Sprint Cup race in this era of belt-tightening, and NASCAR is different from other sports in that it has so many seats to fill. Ticket sales had lagged all fall and most of the winter, and there were days when Ed Clark didn’t know if March 8 would be a televised embarrassment.

It wasn’t. Even with empty seats conspicuous in the stands above the start-finish line, the Speedway president considered the day a victory “given what it could have been.”

AMS has never been blessed among sites. It was strafed by a tornado in July 2005, and its races have long been hampered by bad weather and worse traffic. It has been relegated to playing little brother to Daytona and Talladega and Charlotte, and some believe Atlanta could be reduced to one NASCAR event per year.

“I keep hearing that question: ‘Are we going to lose a race?’ ” Clark said. “We’re not. There are so many corporate …

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