Dan's Race Journals
"Atlanta 500 Classic"
Friday, August 28th
I got up early and drove from Indianapolis to Atlanta. It took me 8 hours to get there. The drive down I-75 takes me through the Smokey Mountains or Appalachians as I speed through Kentucky and Tennesee. I go through towns such as Louisville, Lexington, Knoxville and Chattanooga. I'm staying up in northern Atlanta and the Atlanta Motor Speedway is around 15 miles south of downtown Atlanta. Its too late to go to the track. I guess I kinda goofed up when planning my trip. I should have left Thursday and then I could have spent Friday at the track as well as Saturday. You see, an old friend of mine, Andy Hillenburg was down there racing in the ARCA race Friday. It was Atlanta Motor Speedway's first night race.
I bought Friday's paper. There is a picture of an Indy car on the front of the Sports section and a little article about some of the drivers. Inside, there is an even bigger article about some bicycle rider (Lamond?) who is going to compete in the Formula Ford 2000 race before the start of the first Atlanta 500. Strange. Even more articles about NASCAR who isn't even in town, if that tells you anything. Well, I held off buying tickets until I got into town. I'm glad I did. In the paper is a coupon to get $20 off of a $50 ticket!
Saturday, August 29th - Race Day
Anyway, the article about the ARCA driver's death is on the front page of the sports section. I look through the rest of the section. One article by a Mr. Steve Hummer refers to the Indy Cars as "gnats" and "weird looking". Whatever. I don't even want to get started here comparing stock cars and Indy cars. Lets just say that his article was all opinions he pulled out of his ass and it was obvious he had never even seen an Indy Car race. I thought it was funny how he was slamming an event that was doing nothing but helping out their community. On the very same page as Hummer's article, were several paragraphs about IRL drivers who were behind big charities that were helping out the poor of Atlanta - one driver was giving 15 tons of food to the needy! Hummer only said that he was disappointed that the IRL was not giving away beef jerky and cigarettes in the press box like the Winston Cup guys. WHAT A JERK!
BTW, Atlanta has around 3 million people and considers itself an "international" city. So, it is much larger than Indianapolis. I don't know their percentage of foreigners there, but they seem to have a very integrated society, where as Indy is pretty segregated. The highways are wider, the traffic is worse and people seem to drive faster. It was hilly and it was hot - in the 90's. They were also having some problem with their ozone...
Anyway, unlike the Indy Speedway, which you can approach from a dozen directions, the Atlanta Speedway has one highway leading to it. Consequently, the traffic jam started pretty far away. My uncle Jim drove us there. The parking was free.
I was very impressed as I walked towards the track.
It looks like a giant prison. From the outside of the track at Indy, you see grand stands. At Atlanta, you see alot of WALL. They also have these huge hotel like things that overlook the track. Pretty cool.
Once inside at my seat, I could see all the way around the 1.54 mile oval! However, I wished that I would have brought my binoculars. Also, I couldn't hear anything from the loud speaker system, so a radio with headphones would have helped a lot.
They only sold tickets to the Main Grandstand, Petty Grandstand and North Grandstand. Also, they did not let anyone sit in the first 15 rows because of what happened in Michigan a month ago at that CART race where some suspension parts went flying over the fence and killed 3 people. I thought that was pretty goofy. Anyway, they have other stands around most of this track that remained empty. I think they had around 40-50,000 people show up, which was pretty good condsidering. I saw people wearing NASCAR clothing and I saw just as many wearing their INDY 500 stuff. And to my surprise, I even saw some IRL gear!
The IRL race was great. It was LOUD and it was FAST! Billy Boat had the pole at 224 MPH. My favorite driver, Scott Goodyear, soon moved into the lead. He was SCREAMING around that track.
It was the night the lights went out in Georgia...
A row of lights atop my grandstand malfunctioned 54 laps into the race, leading to a yellow flag while officials tried to solve the problem.
After a six-lap caution period, the race resumed when the drivers reported the dark spot didn't bother them. Eventually, the lights came back on.
Goodyear went on to lead the most laps of the race. I was going nuts. I just knew he was finally going to win. But suddenly he started dropping back! Arggh. And to make matters worse, Tony Stewart, who had started last, had worked his way up toward the front and actually passed Goodyear. I was in agony.
The race did not have many yellow flags. There were some incidents, but they occurred at the inside of the track on the opposite side of the track than where I was. Consequently, I couldn't see much. Billy Boat screwed up late into the race and cut in on Marco Greco which caused a accident knocking them and Unser and someone else out of the race.
Scott Goodyear made another stop and got some good tires back on his car and was then able to move up ahead of Stewart and finish in 4th place - not what he deserved, but better than 5th. AJ's other driver, Kenny Brack ended up winning - his 3rd IRL racewin in a row - a new record. It has been nice seeing A.J. Foyt's POWER TEAM kicking whining Menard's ass!
This race was plenty of fun and I'd love to go back next year.
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