Atlanta Notes: A Race Gordon Glad He Didn’t Win
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
Hampton, Ga. – Jeff Gordon reminisced Saturday morning about his role in what is arguably the most-famous finish in the 50-year history of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Just weeks following the death of Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick pulled off an improbable victory after edging Gordon by inches at the 1.54-mile oval in March 2001.
“At the time, I was really wanting to be the spoiler of that victory because we wanted to win and you see the checkered flag and you just want to go for it,” Gordon said. “But looking back on it, it was a special moment for our sport with the loss of Dale and bringing Kevin on. It was just meant to be for those guys.
“Looking back on it, I’m kind of glad we didn’t win that race that day. It certainly made for an even better story and great highlights to see just how close we did come to getting that victory that day.”
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Drivers and crews appear to be in favor of the condensed schedule at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.
Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams checked into AMS early Friday afternoon to work their cars through technical inspection.
That makes Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 a one-day on-track show for NASCAR’s junior circuit. The Cup teams will do all of their practice on Saturday followed by qualifying later in the afternoon, in advance of Sunday night’s Emory Healthcare 500.
A typical Nationwide Series weekend includes two consecutive days of on-track activity. But driver Justin Allgaier, who roamed the garage on Friday while his team tuned on his No. 12 Dodge, is a supporter of this weekend’s schedule
“My big perspective is the crew guys,” said Allgaier, one of 43 Nationwide Series driver that took to the 1.54-oval when practice started at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
“Having it all on one day makes it tough because, obviously, they’re working hard. But at the same time it gets them back home to see their families. It gets them back home to get stuff done at the shop.
“I’m a huge fan of it. For all intents and purposes, I think this is a good schedule and I’m glad they did it this way.”
The schedule also permitted Cup teams to sleep in their own beds Thursday night and arrive in Atlanta on Friday. The Cup cars won’t have any practice following qualifying late Saturday afternoon.
“It’s not just here, but we do it on a lot of the short tracks,” said Shane Wilson, crew chief on Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 Chevrolet. “It’s kind of a modified impound where we get the cars back to do some stuff. We’re kind of used to that now.
“I think people were more scared of that a year ago. But we’ve done it enough now so it doesn’t seem to be a big deal.”
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Jamie McMurray has shined this season in the season’s biggest events. The Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 champion narrowly missed recording victories in Charlotte, N.C. and Darlington, S.C.
So does he consider Atlanta a big event?
“They all seem the same,” said McMurray, who trails Bowyer by 100 points for the final spot in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. “I know the media puts more emphasis on certain races, and certainly I think Daytona and the Brickyard are two of the bigger ones viewed by everybody.
But it’s a big weekend for us, certainly to run well and make up as many points as we can. But I don’t know that us making the Chase or us not making the Chase depends on us running well. I think it’s more on (Bowyer) having bad luck.”
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