Atlanta II: News of note

* NASCAR community mourns, unites after Hendrick Motorsports aviation tragedy * The race for 11th place -- Jarrett, Harvick battle for 12th, try to catch McMurray NASCAR FAMILY SHAKEN BUT STEADFAST -- AND SUPPORTIVE Last Sunday's accident...

* NASCAR community mourns, unites after Hendrick Motorsports aviation tragedy

* The race for 11th place -- Jarrett, Harvick battle for 12th, try to catch McMurray


Last Sunday's accident involving a Hendrick Motorsports airplane claimed 10 lives, and affected countless others. NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter offered these thoughts on the tragedy:

"NASCAR is a major nationwide sport involving thousands of people, but whenever something like this happens, we're reminded of just how close-knit we are, despite the growth of the sport," Hunter said.

"The term 'NASCAR Family' is not a mere slogan. In times like this we pull together as any other family would. All of us at NASCAR continue to keep those affected by the accident in our prayers. We will continue to offer support and comfort whenever possible. We will carry on and, simply, do the best we can under these incredibly trying circumstances."


The race for 11th place: McMurray extends lead ... Jamie McMurray shows no sign of faltering. He retains his lead over 12th-place Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford); last week, McMurray led Jarrett by 74 points, this week the margin is 197 points thanks to McMurray's second-place finish last week at Martinsville and Jarrett's accident-marred 37th-place finish. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) remains 13th in the standings, but last Saturday's eighth-place Martinsville finish was a signal that he's not done. Harvick now trails Jarrett by 47 points and McMurray by 244 points, but he gained 10 points on Jarrett at Martinsville. Below Harvick, Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) remains 14th and Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) remains 15th.

"Awesome" Bill's back ... Former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Bill Elliott (No. 91 McDonald's Dodge) hasn't seen much of the top circuit this season, but that's how he planned it. After announcing at the end of 2003 that he'd scale back to a partial schedule in 2004, Elliott has spent much of his time testing for Evernham Motorsports, participating in dirt-track events, working with his successor, Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Kasey Kahne and even running a NASCAR Busch Series event (last week at Memphis). A native Georgian, "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" is back before the home crowd for this week's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. And look out: In the five previous events he's entered this season, Elliott has three top-10 qualifying efforts, including a third-place start at California on Labor Day weekend. To date, he's raced at Las Vegas (finishing 10th), Texas (36th), Daytona in July (18th), Indianapolis (ninth) and California (25th).

RCR, Robby Gordon part ways ... After more than three seasons together, Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) announced Monday that he won't be returning to Richard Childress Racing in 2005. Gordon's RCR stint yielded his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career highlights, but this season's inconsistency and his personal ownership goals helped lead to Gordon's departure at the end of this season.

Still, he considers owner Richard Childress very much a mentor.

"I've leaned as much outside the car as I have in it with RCR, and Richard has taught me a great deal about the business of NASCAR," Gordon said. "He's a man of his word and someone I will always respect immensely. But I think everyone knows what my long-term goals are, both as a driver and a car owner, and now is the time for me to start my future as an owner at NASCAR's highest level. If I can be half as successful as Richard has been, I'll be very happy."

Heading into Atlanta, Gordon has three wins, eight top fives and 23 top-10 finishes in 114 races with RCR. He said he hopes to announce details about his new organization soon. Meanwhile, RCR will announce Gordon's successor Friday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m., (ET) at Atlanta Motor Speedway's infield media center.

Chevrolet-Ford-Dodge in Manufacturers standings ... Jimmie Johnson's (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) win at Martinsville gave Chevrolet its series-high 19th victory of the season. Although Chevrolet has clinched the 2004 Manufacturers Championship, it keeps adding to its point total, which now stands at 233. Ford has 199 points and Dodge has 176 points. Ford has nine wins and Dodge has four. Chevrolet has dominated Atlanta Motor Speedway in recent years, leading all manufacturers with 29 victories.

CONTINGENCY CORNER ... In only its second season, the McDonald's/PowerAde Drive-Thru Pit Championship Award, has become a favorite among NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams. It measures the total amount of time a team spends servicing its car during each event, and the winner is the fastest team among those participating in the award.

"It's nice to have a program that draws attention to and rewards the crew guys for their hard work on race days," said Scott Radel, jackman for Kurt Busch's (No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Ford) team.

The McDonald's/PowerAde Drive-Thru Pit Championship Award also is the only award that includes a television presentation (taped at track the following week for use on the pre-race show). Already this year, Elliott Sadler's (No. 38 M&M's Ford) team has dressed up like Sadler's fifth-grade class to accept one of its awards; in another presentation, No. 38 crew members did a stunt that made everyone look upside down. As a nice touch, Sadler's crew has donated its winnings ($20,000 per race) to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Autism Society of America.

Heading into Atlanta, Sadler's team leads the standings with 1140 points. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) team is second with 1129 points and Busch's team is a close third with 1127 points. Earnhardt's team is the defending award champion. This season's year-end winner will earn $200,000.

"They've won lots of weekly awards, but we've stayed with them," said Tony Eury Jr., Earnhardt's crew chief, of his team's battle with the No. 38. "They've been making two-tire stops and we've been doing four. Hopefully in the next four races we do the same stops and compete that way."


"A lot of teams seem to run well at Atlanta. It isn't necessarily imperative that you qualify well since you can pass. Atlanta always seems to have some good cars qualify toward the back, but can run in the front during the race because of how wide the track is during the race." -- Jeff Burton (No. 30 America Online Chevrolet).

"This whole team has been looking forward to this weekend since we announced the program at Daytona back in February. This is a huge weekend for Bass Pro Shops and we're definitely looking for a solid finish." -- Kerry Earnhardt (No. 33 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet).

"We had a pretty good car in Martinsville, but got clipped one too many times. That was last week -- it's in the past. Right now I am looking forward to Atlanta. It's fast there and that's what we like." -- Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet).


Atlanta Motor Speedway has hosted races since 1960. But the current track isn't the area's first superspeedway. It's the third. In 1909, Asa Candler of the Coca-Cola Company built the Atlanta Motordrome, a two-mile, flat dirt oval in a rectangular shape. The first race was held on Nov. 9, 1909. Ray Harroun, who would win the first Indianapolis 500 seven months later, also won the Atlanta track's final event on Oct. 6, 1910. Another race was scheduled for Oct. 8, but fell victim to inclement weather. The track closed and the property was sold to the county. The land later became Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with the old speedway's frontstretch serving as the airport's main runway. Atlanta's second superspeedway was a one-mile dirt track known as Lakewood on the south side of Atlanta. Remnants of that track still remain. It was built in 1915 and was one of the country's most famous speedways. NASCAR founder Bill France raced there before World War II. NASCAR held events at Lakewood from 1948 with the premier series racing there from 1951 to 1959. The track closed in 1979.

Fast Facts

What: Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 (Race No. 33 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
When: Sunday, Oct. 31, 12:30 p.m. (ET).

TV: NBC, 12 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $5,831,269.

Race length: 500 miles, 325 laps.
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval.

2003 winner: Jeff Gordon.
2003 polesitter: Ryan Newman.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 6,015. 2. Jeff Gordon 5,919. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5,890. 4. Jimmie Johnson 5,808. 5. Mark Martin 5,791. 6. Tony Stewart 5,769. 7. Elliott Sadler 5,760. 8. Matt Kenseth 5,755. 9. Ryan Newman 5,749. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 5,651.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kerry Earnhardt , Kasey Kahne , Elliott Sadler , Jim Hunter , Asa Candler , Mark Martin
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports