THE PIONEERS: Kenny Meleary of Fayetteville, Ga., was at the first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway 50 years ago, and he's been to every race since then. He remembers the mud he trudged through that first day to sell tickets for the Dixie 300 - which started at $8.95 - and he remembers fondly the early days of the race track. He watched the track evolve into one of the premier motorsports showplaces in the country, and he's still enthralled with the speeds and the action.
WHAT THE FANS SAY: As any good promoter would tell you, NASCAR would be nothing without its fans. In honor of Atlanta Motor Speedway's 50th Anniversary celebration, here is what fans surveyed Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway had to say about the fast track.
FREE HEALTHCARE: What the American government couldn't get done, Emory Healthcare is - on a small scale, at least. As the primary sponsor for the Labor Day NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Emory Healthcare has set up a full slate of health screenings in the front display lot of the track for race fans attending the weekend's events.
JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 88 Hellmans/BJ's Chevrolet, Great Clips 300 winner): "We unloaded today and pretty much had the fastest car on the track. We just had a really good day. Pops (crew chief Tony Eury, Sr.) did a good job adjusting the car. I felt like at the beginning of the race I had the best car and it felt like we had a second- or third-place car in the middle. At the end, it just had tons of speed and certainly getting out in front on that last restart was critical. I really thought when we came to the green there, whoever got in front it was going to be hard to pass that guy. Fortunately we got a jump there and got ahead of Kyle [Busch]. It's the same thing every week - for the car out front, the clean air is huge." Q: What did you learn for the Cup race tomorrow: "My comfort level (for Sunday) is pretty low. We didn't have a very good day today. What we've been doing at the mile-and-a-half track just didn't work for us. We struggled here today; we qualified OK, just not where we needed to be. But the track changed - and man, the cars are so much different, but the track's going to change the same."
QUAKER STATE TO SPONSOR MARTIN: Mark Martin will have Quaker State on the hood for four events next season as the Shell company announced a renewal and expansion of the current partnership with Hendrick Motorsports.
TONY STEWART (No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet): "I think we're better. A matter of what we're going to do at night and how it's going to affect the balance." Q: Preparing for a night race after so many years of day races in Atlanta: "All we can do is go off of what we got last year and see how the balance changes. It's not like we have 15 years of notes to go off of here we've got one race here at night to really go off of." Q: 10 top-10s - setting you up good: "I'd like to believe so. Even two weekends ago in Bristol, we were running second and got crashed. We're going good and we're going good at different disciplines of tracks. That's what you've got to do to be good at the end." Q: Is there one thing lacking: "I'm sure there is, but I'm not sure I know exactly what it is." Q: Afternoon sessions preparing for a night race: "You're still trying to get the balance, still trying to figure out. This track's got a lot of bumps in it. If you can get it to go through the bumps in the day it'll go through the bumps at night. A couple tracks that really change a lot day to night, but some tracks that really don't. That's why you make those notes and every year you review those."
CARL EDWARDS (No. 99 Aflac Ford): "I enjoy racing here just because of the track and the fans and how the track drives and how competitive it is." Q: If you have a beef with a driver, would you go to Victory Lane: "I think I've done that before. It just depends ... I've gone to Victory Lane before to explain to somebody what I thought happened." Q: Compare this year to last year - better or struggle: "We got our ship together pretty well. There are a couple things we've been working on. First is our engine. It's not just one thing but I think it starts with that engine. We just got to keep digging ... it's not just one thing, it's a number of things."
NEW NASCAR TRADITION: Labor Day racing in the South is a tradition just about as old as NASCAR itself. So when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came to Atlanta Motor Speedway last year after a five-year hiatus from the land of sweet tea and barbecue, it immediately felt like a perfect fit.
Kobalt Tools 500 Pit Notes - Sunday 1
Kobalt Tools 500 Pit Notes - Saturday 2
Kobalt Tools 500 Pit Notes - Saturday 1
Kobalt Tools 500 Pit Notes - Friday 2
Kobalt Tools 500 Pit Notes - Friday 3
Kobalt Tools 500 Pit Notes - Friday 1
Pep Boys Auto 500 - Saturday Pit Notes 2
Pep Boys Auto 500 - Saturday Pit Notes 1
PENSKE GOES GREEN: Penske Racing and PPG officials announced Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway the team's conversion to an environmentally-friendly waterborne paint system.
TRUEX AND THE STONE: After suffering from sporadic bouts of intense pain during the final Sprint Cup practice session, Martin Truex Jr. was taken by ambulance to Spalding Regional Medical Center in Griffin Saturday afternoon and diagnosed with kidney stones. He passed the offending stone at about 10 p.m. and is ready to go racing today.
LOCAL NASCAR LEGEND DONATES MEMORABILIA: Raymond Parks was racing before NASCAR existed. A Georgia native, Parks was the car owner of the first NASCAR race winner. He is a two-time NASCAR champion and swept every race run on Daytona Beach. To say he was instrumental in building the foundation of NASCAR racing is probably a vast understatement.
GIMME THE GRIP: Tony Stewart was extremely outspoken last March at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his criticism of the tire Goodyear brought to the race. Three tire tests (and one race) later, all reports are that this weekend's tire will wear much better and should provide more grip. But not everyone is convinced.
AMS: MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER: Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, said Atlanta Motor Speedway is a hard track to pin down because it's ever-changing.
"It's a split-personality race track," Burton said. "In qualifying, it's fast. In the race, it's very slick with very low grip."
NEWMAN VS SPENCER: While discussing his plans for the upcoming off weekend, Ryan Newman mentioned that he would be attending a charity boxing match next weekend. He noted that he would not actually be boxing, just attending to help a friend. But the mention prompted one intriguing question from the media: Which racer would you want to box against?
WALTRIP IN NEED OF GROOMING SPONSOR: In a case of "oversharing" Friday morning in the media center, Michael Waltrip announced a developing ear-hair dilemma.
"I have hair growing out of my ears now," Waltrip said. "I might be the only guy in the Chase who's got that going on. I did not realize that until yesterday, when there was this little white hair coming out of my ear. I pulled it out and said, 'OK, I guess this is next.'"
RICK CRAWFORD MAKES IT 300: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Rick Crawford will make a series record 300th start Saturday in the American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"That's 300 steroid-free starts," quipped Crawford, driver of the No. 14 Circle Bar Ford.
GET READY FOR LABOR DAY: Everyone agrees: Night racing plus one of NASCAR's fastest tracks plus Labor Day weekend will equal a heck of a racing event.
"Anytime you can race at night at a place like this it's gonna be cool," Carl Edwards said. "It should be an All-Star style event, and it should be a blast."
LOGANO WASHED OUT OF FIELD: Bad weather dashed the dreams of former Atlanta Motor Speedway Legends champion Joey Logano, who was attempting to make the field for Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at his home track. The cancellation of Friday's Hot Shot Qualifying locked him out of the 43-car field and further delayed his attempt to get a 1.5-mile race under his belt before he begins a full season of competition in the Sprint Cup Series next year.
SCHEDULE CHANGE TONIGHT: Friday evening's schedule has been adjusted, and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice will begin as soon as the track is ready and conclude at 5:15 p.m. Hot Shot Qualifying will begin at 7:10 p.m.
Media availabilities that were scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and after will be adjusted. A new schedule will be posted on the dry-erase board in the media center.
YOUNG LOGANO: Joey Logano might be a professional race car driver, one about to embark on his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series - the crème de la crème of American auto racing.
But he still lives at home.
"Why would he leave?" joked his dad, Tom Logano. "Somebody cooks, cleans, does the laundry. He has no curfew. Of course, he still lives at home."
FASTRACK RACE CANCELLED: Atlanta Motor Speedway officials have cancelled the Fastrack Racing Series 100 Late Model race scheduled for tonight on the quarter-mile Thunder Ring. With rain expected most of the afternoon, Vice President of Events Brandon Hutchison said he wanted to keep the track clear for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's Hot Shot Qualifying this evening.