Monday, September 07, 2009
Saturday a friend and I trekked our way south to Hampton, GA, home of "Atlanta Motor Speedway", so named despite the lack of proximity. Saturday afternoon was filled with practice sessions and cars flying in and out of the garage area while whistles blew to warn the less observant of oncoming race cars.
As I set with my back to the garage and took this all in, I chuckled to see Mike Helton, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director signing autographs.
A couple drivers elected to utilize the high line around Atlanta Motor Speedway and found themselves a little to close to the SAFER Barrier walls and their cars showed the scars for it.
Qualifying then followed for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who has had a miserable season with no wins qualified on the pole for the "B Series" race. When his crew informed him he had set the pole, his response was "(expletive deleted), Really?" Yes, Junior, really. And, we were as surprised as you were.
Qualifying then followed for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race which would run Sunday. Martin Truex, Jr. set the pole for that event.
Activities on the track ceased while the sun began to set and $7 hamburgers and $4 Cokes were sold.
SheDaisy sang the national anthem, three F-18's performed a flyover, and then it was time to get the party started. After a break for TV commercials, driver's fired their engines and took to the track. I reclined against the wrought iron fence surrounding winner's circle and began listening to team chatter on their radios as a handsome pair of Chevrolet Corvettes led the field for pace laps.
Once underway, the sun set and the temperatures were quite pleasant. I regretted wearing a long sleeve dark colored shirt expecting cooler temperatures after sweating for most of the day. My cohort beat the heat by steady trips out of the pit area to get a cold beer and then the subsequent trips to the dayglo green porto-lets.
As the race wore on, it became obvious we were well positioned for seating as we were in eye shot of the pit area of Kevin Harvick's No. 33 Jimmy John's Chevrolet. So while Harvick battled with the less popular Kyle Busch, we enjoyed watching the team's pit work and listening to their strategy.
(sorry for the blur, things were a bit hectic).
Harvick won the event, so we stood up, turned around, and took in all of the festivities that are Victory Lane, Winner's Circle, etc.
Sunday, my compatriot was unable to attend, but my wife and I set course for parts south and eventually arrived at the raceway.
When we arrived, pit road was jammed with tour groups who had pre-race passes, so we set down with our backs to Victory Lane and watched people and listened to the conversations of the autograph hounds. While performing this task, I met Sirius Satellite NASCAR host Claire B. Lang who was quite delightful.
Once pre-race fluff died down and the pits were clear of the pre-race pass toting autograph hounds, the race got underway. I think everyone was surprised to see Truex stay out front for a considerable amount of time before finally fading struggling to find traction with the tires Goodyear supplied.
Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne all took turns leading the event, but Kahne won the battle on the final restart with 12 laps to go and went hope with the big trophy and the big check.
With my notepad full of notes, and my feet beginning to ache, we proceeded to make our way out thru back roads until finally reaching the interstate and heading back to the civilization of points north. As we maneuvered the mix of two lane roads, we watched the various driver's and team's personal jets taking off from the race track airport and begin their way back to North Carolina.