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NASCAR Atlanta postscript

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, September 07, 2011

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Jeff Gordon wins No. 85
"It's a rainy night in Georgia. It's a rainy, rainy night in Georgia. Lord I think it's raining all over the world." (recorded by Brook Benton, Cotillion Records-1970. composer Tony Joe White)

The lyrics of that great old R&B song certainly rang true Labor Day weekend in Hampton-Georgia when rain, associated with tropical storm Lee, made it impossible to run the NASCAR Sprint Cup's AdvoCare 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR officials couldn't even exercise the option of racing on Labor Day Monday because the weather forecast for that day was even worse including the possibility of tornadoes. 

However, the Tuesday edition of Sprint Cup racing  turned up a very exciting finish. NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series did manage to sneak their races past the weather radar and provided some lively moments as well. With these thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Jeff Gordon and his team mate, Jimmie Johnson, for that stand on your feet duel during the final laps of the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta. Between the loose conditions of their race cars combined with the lack of tire grip due to the track surface, these two drivers had their hands filled with sliding race cars. At one point you had to wonder if Tony Stewart, who finished third, was going to wind up in victory lane.

THUMBS-UP to Gordon for winning his 85th NASCAR Sprint Car Series career race. The Atlanta win now gives him sole possession of third place on the series' all time win list. The win was also his third of this season and fifth at Atlanta.

THUMBS-UP to Gordon's team, Hendrick Motorsports, who scored their 198th Sprint Cup win as well as their 11th one-two finish between Gordon and Johnson. By the way, Gordon has now won seven of those dual finishes. THUMBS-UP to Gordon's manufacturer, Chevrolet, who scored their series high tenth win of the season as well as a series high 37th win at Atlanta.

THUMBS-UP to Johnson for taking over the series' points lead with his second place finish. He came to Atlanta tied for first with Kyle Busch. He left there with a 21 point advantage over Busch. WHAT'S-UP with Kyle Busch's late race handling problems that led to a 23d place finish? At one point, a crew member was lying under the rear of the car trying to determine what the problem was.

THUMBS-UP to drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman whose Atlanta efforts allowed them to officially clinch their positions in the 2011 Chase line up. THUMBS-UP to Tony Stewart for his badly needed third place finish to help his Chase scenario along. Stewart will have to wait to Richmond next weekend to clinch. He can do exactly that with an 18th place finish or better.

WHAT'S-UP with that road rage dust up between Juan Pablo Montoya and Clint Bowyer at Atlanta? This started with some light contact by Bowyer that was clearly a racing deal and a no harm no foul issue. That certainly wasn't the case when, later in the race, Montoya did some payback that sent Bowyer into the wall and a 36th place finish. Bowyer had an outside chance of making the Chase prior to the Atlanta race. He still does but it's going to take a win at Richmond to pull it out of the fire. He was understandably angry after the crash and began his television interview by saying "you can't race with a jackass."

THUMBS-UP to driver Mike Skinner who was willing to help out fellow driver Dave Blaney during an extreme medical situation. Blaney, the driver of the #36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, was suffering through the pain of kidney stones. Skinner, the driver of the #60 Germain Racing Chevrolet, was driving for a predetermined start and park team. A driver switch was arranged to help Blaney out. Skinner drove the #36 to a 27th place finish while Blaney drove the #60 a total of two laps, parked the car and then left to seek medical treatment.

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THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for making the call to postpone the Atlanta race until late Tuesday morning. The weather forecast alone said it was an important safety move.

THUMBS-UP to the geography associated with the massive Atlanta rain delay. The Sprint Cup teams had to consider getting ready for the upcoming Richmond race. It turned out geography and travel time provided a major assist. It's only a four and one half hour drive from Atlanta to the Charlotte area where most of the Sprint Cup teams are headquartered. It's also only a four and one half hour drive from Charlotte to Richmond. The schedule for loading the car hauler for the Richmond trip may have been a little tight but the schedule was workable.

WHAT'S-UP with the frustration of the ESPN Network during their effort to fill the live television air time while waiting for the official postponement announcement? The sports network's on air talent exchanged opinions on every NASCAR themed topic and interviewed every driver they could find. This wasn't easy because many of the drivers had already left the garage area for the comfort of the private motor coach lot. That leads to a THUMBS-UP for ESPN reporter Jamie Little who canvassed that lot and coaxed a lot of drivers to leave those luxurious motor homes to do an interview. Little's signature pony tail was getting very frizzy with the moisture but she hung in there and got the job done.

WHAT'S-UP with ESPN's back up plan also getting clobbered by mother nature and her buddy Lee. The network attempted to join a college football game, between Marshall and West Virginia University, already in progress with plans to bring us updates on any NASCAR news from Atlanta. Much to ESPN's exasperation, this game was subjected to massive delays due to dangerous lightning strikes close to the football stadium. By the way, WHAT'S-UP with those die hard football fans sitting on rain soaked aluminum bleachers with extreme lightning so close by? That's never a good idea. ESPN made quick work of placing two news anchor behind the "Sports Center" desk and they provided us with updates on, you guessed it, weather conditions in Atlanta and West Virginia.

THUMBS-UP to the FX Network for airing their Labor Day weekend "Two And A Half Men" marathon. Even the whacked out Charlie Sheen was a pleasant diversion to waiting for the inevitable weather postponements.

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THUMBS-UP to Carl Edwards for winning the Great Clips 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta. The event marked Edwards' 35th career series win and his sixth of the season.

WHAT'S-UP with Edwards getting a pass through penalty, early in the race, for leaving his pit stall with an air gun and hose tangled up on his rear bumper? This was the fourth time, in the last seven Nationwide events, that Edwards had to serve a drive through penalty. But the bottom line is: it really doesn't matter if you win the race.

WHAT'S-UP with that racing moment between Turner Motorsports team mates Justin Allgaier and Reed Sorenson? On lap 171 Allgaier accidentally tapped Sorenson's rear bumper which sent him into the side of Trevor Bayne's car and then hard into the wall.  The accident had a serious impact on Sorenson's championship hopes. He arrived at Atlanta a major player in the title profile and left there 40 points behind the leader. With only eight races left on the Nationwide Series schedule, 40 points is going to be hard to eradicate. A highly frustrated Sorenson said "I'll find him after the race, I promise you that." Allgaier deserves a THUMBS-UP for immediately taking responsibility for the incident and apologizing to his team mate on national TV.

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THUMBS-UP to Ron Hornaday Jr for winning the Good Sam 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta. It marked the four time series champion's 49th career win. Hornaday used fuel mileage to, in his own words, "steal the win. Clint Bowyer did all he could to chase the race winner down but ran out of laps. THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick Inc whose trucks finished one-two in this race.

The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to the Texas Motor Speedway who will be presenting the rock band Foreigner in concert during their November 6th NASCAR weekend. Foreigner has agreed to rewrite their signature hit "Hot Blooded" to include the lyrics "No Limits" which is the speedway's advertising logo. Only speedway President Eddie Gossage could pull off a coo like this. Then again, Gossage is famous for these type of promotions.

While the concept of "life happens" somehow transplanted yours truly to southern California, the roots of my South Carolina raising runs deep and that leads to this week's final WHAT'S-UP. Why hasn't the Southern 500, at Darlington, been returned to its original and historical Labor Day weekend date the way Bill France Sr and God intended it?

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