On the heels of Trevor Bayne's stunning win in the Daytona 500, the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers car is once again the talk of the NASCAR world. Back in 1973, the No. 21 snatched the headlines at Atlanta, with David Pearson sweeping both of the season's races.
The sweep of both 1973 races at Atlanta puts Pearson among elite company as just five drivers have swept both races in a single season at AMS. But to accomplish the sweep, Pearson had to outduel another NASCAR legend not once, but twice in 1973 – Cale Yarborough.
In the spring race, the Atlanta 500, Pearson and Yarborough dominated, combining to lead all but 19 laps. After exchanging the lead throughout the race, Pearson was better in the end, passing Yarborough with 58 laps remaining to win. Yarborough, meanwhile, faded to finish fifth with Bobby Isaac finishing second.
In that season's fall race, the Dixie 500, Yarborough and Pearson again set the standard, combining to lead 288 of 328 laps. Pearson, however, blistered the field in the race's final half, taking the lead at the halfway point and never giving it up, winning by a margin of more than a lap ahead of Yarborough, who finished second ahead of Donnie Allison.
Yarborough's string of second-place finishes ended the next spring with an Atlanta victory – one of seven career wins at AMS. Pearson finished his career with four Atlanta wins with the final one being in 1976.
Thanks to legends such as Pearson and Yarborough, iconic moments for all that have seen NASCAR at Atlanta Motor Speedway through the years have been burned into the memories of countless fans. More of those moments for some of the best fans in NASCAR will be at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Labor Day weekend when NASCAR Night Racing Returns to Atlanta!
NASCAR returns to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, and fans have a chance to win tickets to the Great Clips 300 Nationwide race by having their picture taken with the Great Clips show car in the Atlanta area this weekend and by connecting with AMS online!
We'll be giving away three separate pairs of tickets!
Here are the details!
This weekend, a replica Great Clips stock car, similar to the one raced in the Nationwide Series, will be on display in three Atlanta area locations:
Fans will need to have their picture taken with the Great Clips car and e-mail the photo to email@example.com by no later than midnight on March 4 and include a link to either your Facebook or Twitter profile page.
Fans also must do one of the following to be eligible to win:
Post the picture of you with the Great Clips Show Car as your Facebook profile picture or post a link to the photo on your twitter profile with the hashtag "#labordayatams"
If you are unable to e-mail the photo, you can mail it to the following address if it is postmarked by March 4.
Atlanta Motor Speedway
c/o Photo contest
P.O Box 500
Hampton, Ga 30228
A total of three winners will be selected, each by random drawing!
Good luck, and we cannot wait to see you on Labor Day Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway!
If you're involved in NASCAR, it's easy be excited right now! The season is underway and there's plenty to talk about! There is a new sense of energy around the sport! And right now, that energy extends to Atlanta Motor Speedway!
We're wrapping up final details before we tickets go on sale to the public for the Labor Day NASCAR Night Race Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway! It's going to be an incredible weekend of night racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series. Add in the fun of being at the track camping, grilling out, meeting up with new and old friends and so much more, and it's an event you won't want to miss out on!
And yes, we will have a pre-race concert on Labor Day weekend too! We'll be announcing the artist for the concert that will make the Biggest Labor Day Party in the USA even bigger!
On this day 10 years ago, the racing world lost Dale Earnhardt. The driver known to many as "The Intimidator"
left an indelible impact on many individuals involved in NASCAR, ranging from fans, to competitors and others within the sport. AMS President and GM Ed Clark is among them. Earnhardt enjoyed a rich history at Atlanta throughout his career
AMS was one of three tracks at which he won nine Cup events. He won more races at only one other track, Talladega. Of Earnhardt's Atlanta wins, his final one remains among the most thrilling – the 2000 Cracker Barrel 500 when he held off Bobby Labonte to win by .010 seconds.
"His last win here was pretty special. It's one that people will always remember," Clark said.
Clark got to know Earnhardt rather well when he was working at Bristol Motor Speedway and later at Charlotte Motor Speedway before coming to Atlanta Motor Speedway. In fact, when Clark first moved to Charlotte, he actually stayed at Earnhardt's house for a short time.
"We were just really good friends and did a lot of stuff together, especially back in the early days," Clark recalls.
Clark has many memories of Earnhardt. But among the most vivid came in December of 2000 at the NASCAR banquet when it was held in New York City.
"Usually when the banquet was over, Dale would be the first one out of New York, when it was over he was gone on the plane and going home," Clark said. "We went to the after-party and low and behold, there's Dale and (his wife) Teresa there."
Clark notes that Earnhardt was present after the banquet despite not being that season's champion, having finished second to Labonte.
"He wasn't the champion, he walked around with a bottle of champagne under his jacket and poured it for his friends," Clark recalls.
Earnhardt then beckoned Clark and his wife, Teresa to join him off to the side of the activity.
"Dale grabbed me and said, 'let's go somewhere quiet and talk.' He four of us went across the hall to and empty area with some food and just sat there and talked for about 45 minutes.
"It just struck me. This was a different Dale Earnhardt. He was talking about what's really important and taking care of your employees and the people that work for you and take care of you...things that just weren't the old driven Dale Earnhardt kind of guy."
Indeed, it was a side of Earnhardt not much like his Intimidator persona that had made him famous throughout his career.
"It kind of struck almost that he had made it, and now his thing was to elevate other people and help them out, with the drivers he was hiring at DEI and stuff like that," Clark said. "Even my wife was like ' that's not the Dale we've seen all those years but isn't it refreshing to see him that way?'
"That's always stuck with me. It's a shame, because I think he would have made a great team owner and they would have really built something at DEI they would have been up there with Hendrick and those guys right there."
Clark's final encounter with Earnhardt was not long before the start of the 2001 Daytona 500.
"I was sitting on pit wall talking with J.R. Rhodes, who worked for him. Earnhardt always had this ring and he'd hit you in the back of the head with it," Clark recalls. "All of a sudden I'm sitting there and he something whacked me in the back of the head. I turned around and it was him. I wanted to just punch him and he just grabbed me and hugged me. I never knew that was the last chance I'd have to talk to him."
"There's never been a tougher competitor on the track who is more determined to do it," Clark said.
There are likely fond memories for fans of Rusty Wallace resting within the history of Atlanta
Motor Speedway. Wallace finished second in AMS in his first Cup start in 1980 and won twice here. One of the sweetest of those memories came in the 1989 Atlanta Journal 500.
Wallace, seen in the photo to the right, clinched the Cup title that day driving for car owner Raymond Beadle in the No. 27 Kodiak Pontiac, finishing well enough to hold off a dominant Dale Earnhardt by 12 points. Earnhardt turned the tables on Wallace in 1993, with Wallace winning the fall Atlanta race and Earnhardt claiming the championship.
Wallace entered Atlanta with a 73-point lead over Mark Martin and a 79-point edge ahead of Earnhardt. He ended up needing most of those points. Wallace endured a tough day but was able to persevere and finish 15th, three laps off the pace. That effort wound up carrying Wallace to a championship. With Wallace fallen back and Martin exiting the race with 104 laps remaining with engines problems, a window of opportunity was opened for Earnhardt. He nearly cashed in on it. Earnhardt dominated the race, leading 249 of 328 laps. But it ended up being not quite enough as Wallace's 15th place effort earned him the championship.
Rounding out the top five behind Earnhardt were Geoffrey Bodine, Ken Schrader, Sterling Marlin and Darrell Waltrip.
Wallace's championship came a year after winning the Atlanta fall race but finishing second in the points to Bill Elliott, who that day finished 11th and won the championship by 24 points.
In 1989, it turned out to be Wallace that didn't dominate the race, but ran well enough to clinch the championship. Wallace fell off the lead lap early on and actually finished three laps off the pace in 15th.
Fond memories exist for fans of Rusty Wallace with Atlanta being the site of him clinching the 1989 championship. Atlanta Motor Speedway will be home to many more exciting memories this Labor Day when NASCAR Night Racing returns to AMS.
Sometimes, especially in NASCAR, a race is remembered not for what happened during it, but rather for what occurred afterward. That was truly the case in the 1993 Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the subject of this week's throwback photo.
The 1993 fall race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the end point for a season-long fight for the Cup title between Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Earnhardt was crowned champion that day, celebrating his sixth title with Wallace passing Darrell Waltrip late to take the win.
Sure, Earnhardt's championship and Wallace victory were quite memorable. But what happened following the race remains to be one of the most vivid post-race tributes in NASCAR history. In fact, a painting hangs on the AMS corporate offices commemorating the post-race tribute by two of NASCAR's champions to two former rivals and competitors.
The year of 1993 proved to be a tough year for NASCAR to endure. Its reigning champion, Alan Kulwicki, died in an April plane crash. The following July, Davey Allison, one of the sport's biggest stars, died as a result of injuries sustained in a helicopter crash.
Flash-forward to the 1993 finale, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Wallace started 20th, but that didn't stop him from dominating, first leading on the race's 81st lap, the first of 189 laps led, the most among all drivers. In fact, other than Harry Gant, no driver paced the field for more than 18 laps. That driver turned out to be Darrell Waltrip, whose late-race fuel mileage gamble allowed him to lead the race for 13 laps until running out of fuel with only a few laps to go, opening the door for Wallace to win his 10th race of the season. Despite it being Wallace's best career season in terms of race victories, it wasn't enough to win top Earnhardt in the standings, as The Intimidator celebrated his sixth title that day.
But what happened after the race turned out to be one of the most memorable moments in NASCAR. Following the race, Earnhardt and Wallace paraded around the track on a backwards victory lap made famous by Kulwicki, also known as the "Polish Victory Lap." With Earnhardt carrying a flag with Kulwicki's No. 7 on it and Wallace displaying a No. 28 flag in honor of Allison, both received cheers from thousands of fans in attendance and also from millions of fans watching on television at home.
Ask any fan that was at AMS that day, and they'll likely tell you that the events following the race was something that they will always remember.
Night Racing will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, giving fans moments they will always remember!