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Atlanta a Big Part of Earnhardt's History

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In many ways, it's hard not to think of Atlanta Motor Speedway and have Dale Earnhardt Sr. come to mind. 

In fact, a quick stroll around the AMS corporate offices reveals memories of Earnhardt Sr. After all, his nine victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway remain the most of any driver in NASCAR history.

So with the arrival of late April, a special time of year for Earnhardt's fans with what would have been his birthday rolling around, it's worth nothing that many of Earnhardt's career highlights came at
Atlanta.

"Dale loved racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was always a fast track, in both of its configurations, and it suited his style of driving - all out," Childress said earlier this year. "He won in 1980 and 2000 and seven times in between. The No. 3 team went to the racetrack with the belief that the trophy and the prize money was ours and the success we had at Atlanta gave us a little more swagger when we walked through the gates." 

In the main conference room at the Speedway, where many meetings amongst the AMS staff take place, two large pictures adorn the wall - one of Earnhardt's photo-finish victory over Bobby Labonte in 2000 and a similar finish from a year later when Kevin Harvick edged Jeff Gordon in another photo-finish. 

"The 2000 win was vintage Dale, racing hard with Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag and never giving an inch," Childress said. "The 2001 win with Kevin was such an emotional victory. We were all so numb from the loss of Dale. But with some extra help from above, Kevin did a great job behind the wheel and brought home the win."

That 2001 finish still sticks heavy for many of our staff that were here then. AMS President and GM Ed Clark still recalls the post-race celebration, when many fans just kept cheering and cheering after the race - one that came three races after Earnhardt Sr.'s untimely death at the Daytona 500.

But there was much more to Earnhardt's career at AMS than his dramatic 2000 victory. Take, for instance, in 1995 when he won at AMS in the No. 3 car in a race completed in three hours, three minutes and three seconds. How's that for hitting the numbers? 

Atlanta's placement on the Cup schedule as the season's final race for a number of years also created many a fond memory for Earnhardt and his many fans. AMS hosting the season finale up until 2001 meant that each season's championship was celebrated and sometimes clinched at Atlanta. That means that Atlanta was usually a fun place for any driver when it came time to celebrate a championship, and that included the No. 3 team. 

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