Atlanta Rear View Mirror

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Like many of you out there across NASCAR Nation, I’m “old school” when it comes to Labor Day weekend.

For most of my life Labor Day weekend meant one thing – NASCAR racing at Darlington Raceway.

As a kid the Southern 500 helped get me through the end of summer blues, when I knew school was right around the corner as soon as the checkered flag waved at Darlington and Jerry Lewis shut down the annual telethon.

But then NASCAR decided to “modernize history” and rip the very roots of the sport out of Darlington and bring Labor Day racing to of all places Auto Club Speedway. Needless to say it was a complete failure and thankfully the experiment ended a few years ago and the final holiday weekend of the summer returned to the Southeast and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Now Labor Day Sunday night at AMS is not Darlington and the Southern 500. But it’s a step in the right direction.

When parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. decided to harvest a date from the ATL to give Kentucky Speedway a Sprint Cup race, it gave Atlanta management an opportunity to pump the new Labor Day weekend tradition up to a much bigger deal as NASCAR’s only visit to Georgia.

So far it’s been a solid hit if not sterling success.

Atlanta still has to deal with the challenges of breaking through the entertainment clutter of a huge metropolitan area where a three-day weekend brings festivals, conventions, Major League Baseball, NCAA football and of course family barbeques and gatherings.

The good news is the on track product is still magnificent and hopefully Atlanta’s old worn out surface will stay in place without a fresh coat of asphalt in the near future.

More fans still need to support the Atlanta events. The attendance at Friday’s truck race and Saturday’s Nationwide Series race was not stellar. Sunday’s Sprint Cup main event drew a decent but certainly not a sell-out crowd. The potential bad weather from Isaac didn’t help matters.

Atlanta to shut down the NASCAR summer stretch is okay by me. I hope we’re saying that for years to come.

  • Sunday night’s race was pretty non-eventful until the end when Martin Truex Jr.’s lead was erased by caution for Jamie McMurray’s blown tire and wreck on the front straightaway. That allowed Denny Hamlin’s team to bust off a great pit stop and get the No. 11 car the lead, which the Joe Gibbs Racing driver held on to for win number four of the season. It was another example of it’s not over, until it’s over.
  • Chase hopes of probably over for Carl Edwards, who despite having a fast car had his night end prematurely with a blown engine. The man who went down to the wire in last season’s championship battle with Tony Stewart will more than likely be reduced to the role of spoiler during the Chase unless somehow a miracle unfolds next Saturday night in Richmond.
  • Jeff Gordon put on a valiant charge to try and run down Hamlin on the dash to the checkered flag but came up short. Now he’ll need a Hail Mary next week in Richmond in order to try and get into the Chase as a Wild Card. In fact the final race of the regular season is shaping up to be a pretty interesting all or nothing battle to Victory Lane, which is exactly what NASCAR had hoped for at the start of the regular season.
  • Pretty rough weekend for Stewart-Haas Racing with Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick struggling in the race, Ryan Newman getting swept up in a multi-car crash with Jimmie Johnson and Sam Hornish Jr. and the announcement Office Depot would leave the team as a primary sponsor next season. Coupled with the U.S. Army’s defection from the No. 39 team in 2013, the defending series championship organization faces the daunting task of finding millions of dollars in sponsorship.

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