Atlanta: News of note

Let's drive three: Shane Hmiel, Jimmy Spencer attempting tripleheader Moving up: Kyle Petty enjoying successful 2005 debut History lesson: Atlanta Motor Speedway home to speed, milestones and streaks NEWS AND NOTES Doing the triple: Hmiel, ...

Let's drive three: Shane Hmiel, Jimmy Spencer attempting tripleheader
Moving up: Kyle Petty enjoying successful 2005 debut
History lesson: Atlanta Motor Speedway home to speed, milestones and streaks

NEWS AND NOTES

Doing the triple: Hmiel, Spencer to run all three Atlanta events ... All three NASCAR national series will compete in Atlanta this weekend, which means three races in three days. Although running one race sometimes is a daunting task, three drivers will attempt the tripleheader feat. Shane Hmiel (No. 32 WIN Fuel Chevrolet), who's competing fulltime in the NASCAR Busch Series, and veteran driver Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE/Carquest Dodge), who's competing fulltime in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, each will attempt to qualify for Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event (World Financial Group 200), Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Busch Series event (Aaron's 312) and Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event (Golden Corral 500).

If they finish all three races, Hmiel and Spencer will have traveled a total of 1,012 miles and 658 laps by Sunday evening. That's 500 miles and 325 laps in the Golden Corral 500, 312 miles and 203 laps in the Aaron's 312 and 200 miles and 130 laps in the World Financial Group 200.

Hmiel will drive the No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Chevrolet in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying and the No. 08 WIN Fuel Chevrolet in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup qualifying. Spencer will drive the No. 50 US Micro Dodge in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup qualifying and the No. 98 Bryan Meats Chevrolet in NASCAR Busch Series qualifying.

Look who's here: Kyle Petty in Top 20 ... Yes, the top two drivers from 2004 are at it again early in 2005; last year's runner-up Jimmie Johnson trails defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Ford) by 10 points three races into the schedule, but there's some significant happenings a little further down the point standings, where Kyle Petty (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge) sits 16th, only four points out of 15th. It's the highest Petty has been in the points since Feb. 17, 2003, when he was 13th following the season-opening Daytona 500. At the helm of Petty Enterprises, one of NASCAR's most storied teams, Petty has been leading a massive rebuilding of the organization in recent years. This marks his fourth season with the No. 45 team, and this year he's paired with a new crew chief, Paul Andrews. One more Petty snapshot: The next highest standing for a Petty Enterprises driver was John Andretti's 12th-place spot during the week of April 25, 1999, following the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

From the Archives: Reconfigured Atlanta track home to speed, history ... Atlanta Motor Speedway has hosted the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series since 1960. The 1.5-mile track became the fourth superspeedway to stage NASCAR events following Darlington, Daytona and Charlotte, and originally was to open in 1959 just after Daytona's inaugural event. Bad weather, however, delayed construction. In 1997, Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured from an oval to a tri-oval similar to Lowe's Motor Speedway. The frontstretch and backstretch also were "swapped," and all of the changes have helped make Atlanta the fastest non-restrictor-plate track to host NASCAR-sanctioned events.

The first Atlanta race was a 300-miler on July 30, 1960. NASCAR legend and Florida native Fireball Roberts won the race. A second race in 1960, the Atlanta 500, was run on Oct. 30 and won by Bobby Johns, also a native Floridian.

Throughout its history, the Golden Corral 500 has been the first, or only, win for several drivers. Nebraska native Bob Burdick drove a family--owned Pontiac to his only NASCAR premier-series win on March 26, 1961 in what was then known as the Atlanta 500. Open-wheel star Jim Hurtubise won his only NASCAR race in the 1966 Atlanta 500. Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) won the spring 2001 event for his first series victory, and in dramatic fashion; Harvick beat Jeff Gordon by only .006 of a second for one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history. His win was doubly significant because it came only three weeks after Dale Earnhardt's death; Harvick had succeeded Earnhardt for Richard Childress Racing.

The 2005 Golden Corral 500 marks the 46th edition of the spring Atlanta event. Cale Yarborough won it a record six times, including three in a row from 1967 to 1969 while driving for the famed Wood Brothers. The 1967 race was Yarborough's first superspeedway win. The Wood Brothers have the most victories in this race -- seven. Their winning drivers have included Yarborough, Marvin Panch, A.J. Foyt, David Pearson and Morgan Shepherd.

Sad News: RIR President Mourning Loss of Mother ... Dorothy Ann Fritz, the mother Richmond International Raceway president Doug Fritz, passed away last Saturday due to respiratory failure. She was 75. A native of Columbia, Pa., she lived in Burke, Va. A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, March 18 at the Burke United Methodist Church at 6200 Burke Center Parkway in Burke, Va., 22015. Private burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, 322 8th Ave., 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10001.

On the Right Track

• Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 16 wins in the spring event at Atlanta. Ford is second with 12 Atlanta wins. Dodge has three Atlanta victories, the last in 1977 with Richard Petty.

• There has been only one repeat winner since 1998, when Bobby Labonte won the spring race that year and again in 2003. No one has won back-to-back spring events at Atlanta since Yarborough's 1960s three-peat.

• Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) is looking for his fifth straight pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

• Richard Childress Racing leads all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams with five wins in the spring Atlanta event.

On Deck: Bristol Motor Speedway ... Race No. 5 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, April 3 -- the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. BMS, a 0.533-mile oval, has been part of the schedule since 1961 when the respective race winners were Jack Smith and Joe Weatherly. ... Kurt Busch is defending champion; Ryan Newman was last year's polesitter.

Fast Facts

The race: Golden Corral 500. (Race No. 4 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)

The track: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga. (1.5-mile oval.)

The date/time: Sunday, March 20, 1:15 p.m. (ET).

TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.

Posted awards: $4,761,128.

Race length: 500 miles, 325 laps.

2004 winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2004 polesitter: Ryan Newman.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 510. 2. Jimmie Johnson 500. 3. Greg Biffle 428. 4. Jeff Gordon 418. 5. Carl Edwards 408. 6. Tony Stewart 402 7. Rusty Wallace 395. 8. Ryan Newman 389. 9. Mark Martin 374. 10. Kevin Harvick 369.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kyle Petty , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Shane Hmiel , Richard Petty , Morgan Shepherd , Carl Edwards , Marvin Panch , A.J. Foyt , Cale Yarborough , Jack Smith , Mark Martin , David Pearson
Teams Richard Childress Racing