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 ...
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.
"We hate to have to cancel any events, but in fairness to the competitors, we wanted to let them know as early as possible," Hutchison said. "This is a Sprint Cup weekend, and our emphasis needs to be on making sure we get in Hot Shot Qualifying tonight."
With a green track and cool temperatures this evening, insiders are expecting fast speeds.
"It'll be loose until they get some rubber laid down, but if the trucks get out first, that'll help," TV analyst and former NASCAR crew chief Larry McReynolds said. "It's going to have a lot of grip, and it's going to be fast."
Don't expect speeds anywhere near the track record of 197.478 mph set in 1997 by Geoffrey Bodine, but McReynolds said qualifying at one of NASCAR's fastest tracks will not disappoint.
DRIVERS SUPPORT RONALD McDONALD: Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler announced plans Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway to support Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).
Kahne announced a $150,000 donation, and Sadler will drive an RMHC-themed race car in Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500.
BOB DECKER NAMED PILOT CHAMPION: Roush Fenway's No. 99 Office Depot transporter driver Bob Decker was named the 2009 Pilot Truck Driver Challenge champion Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The announcement brought tears to Decker's eyes, and he struggled to regain composure as he later addressed the crowd.
"I used to watch this on TV, and I used to say I could beat these guys, and it came true," Decker said, his lip quivering. "This has been an amazing year."
Decker won $50,000 for his efforts. Joe Gibbs Racing transporter drivers Peter Jellen and Tom McCrimmon split $25,000 for tying for second place.
The entire No. 99 Office Depot team attended the press conference in support of their winning driver, including team owner Jack Roush.
"These race teams ride on the backs of our truck drivers," Roush said. "I couldn't be prouder of Bob. You know, every time Carl wins, he has to give some back to the team. But this $50,000 is yours, pal."
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."
His living situation won't be the only thing that differentiates him from the other drivers. At 18, Logano will be the youngest competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year when he takes over the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot car for Joe Gibbs Racing, and he wasn't even born when many of his competitors were already competing in stock car's top series.
"Racing with guys who are older than me is not new, but racing at this competition level is new," Logano said. "It's hard to get prepared for something of this caliber, but everyone's got to deal with it. It's gonna be a learning curve as we go into this series, I think."
Maybe, maybe not. Logano needed just three races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series to earn his first win. And Mark Martin thinks you'll see more of the same next year in the Sprint Cup Series.
"He'll be ready," Martin said. "This kid is talented."
Martin was the first one to voice that opinion, singling him out three years ago, when Logano was an unknown late-model driver.
"I am high on Joey Logano because I am absolutely, 100-percent positive, without a doubt that he can be one of the greatest that ever raced in NASCAR," Martin said at the time.
That single sound bite might have changed Logano's life. At the time, his father wasn't sure it was all for the best.
"I called Mark the next day and said 'What are you doing? You're really putting the pressure on that kid'," Tom Logano said.
But Joey Logano didn't see it that way. In fact, he didn't think much of it at all.
"I just went with the flow," Logano said. "Looking back, it was a huge, huge deal, but I didn't see that at the time. I was just a stupid kid."
Now he's a much more mature 18-year-old with a sweet ride. And a bedroom at mom and dad's.
REPLICA PETTY CAR DONATED TO DARRELL GWYNN FOUNDATION: A replica of Richard Petty's 1970s-era Superbird was presented Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway to the Darrell Gwynn Foundation. The car, donated by former pro wrestler Bill Goldberg, will be auctioned at the 2009 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event in Scottsdale, Az., and proceeds will benefit the Gwynn Foundation, a nonprofit established to prevent, provide and cure spinal cord injuries and other debilitating illnesses.
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.
"You want to know how much this sucks, right?" Logano asked as he saw a reporter approach. "A lot. It's just one of those deals. Not much you can do about weather."
Not making the race will allow Logano to leave for Memphis, where he will compete in Saturday's Nationwide Series race despite never having turned a lap there before. He missed practice at Memphis on Friday while trying to wait out the weather in Atlanta.
Had Logano made the field for the Pep Boys Auto 500, he would have also stayed in Atlanta for Sprint Cup practice Saturday morning, thereby missing qualifying for the Nationwide Series race and forcing him to start from the rear of that field.
"I guess now I get the two qualifying laps, at least," Logano said. "And hopefully I can get in a pace car in the morning (to see the racing line)."
TIRES SHOULD BE BETTER: Scott Riggs is one of three drivers who competed in the two tire tests Goodyear conducted at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the March event, when several drivers were very outspoken about the tires' poor performance, and he thinks the drivers will be much happier this weekend.
"The word I kept using the most was 'predictable'," Riggs said. "You could really drive the race car; you knew where it was gonna go. It didn't have a darty, rolled-over-on-the-sidewall kind of feeling. I think it'll be faster than what we had here before, and it won't wear out as fast. It will be a lot more consistent."