NASCAR is in HOTlanta!
By Blake Smith and Moon Mullins
Even though I was in Nashville during the running of last Saturday’s race, I was still able to catch the majority of the race. What I didn’t catch…the DVR did! It was an exciting 500 miles as always in Thunder Valley. The Sprint Cup Series is back under the lights this weekend as the series rolls into Atlanta for the Advocare 500.
The Atlanta Motorspeedway Media Center is full up this weekend with driver/team announcements for the 2014 season. My insiders in Charlotte have been keeping my telephone and e-mail busy with rumors and rumblings for these announcements. I am here to give you the inside news!
Kurt Busch to 4th Stewart-Haas Car
The rumor of Kurt Busch to Stewart-Haas began to surface during the Brickyard 400 weekend. That is when Gene Haas approached Busch offering him a ride in their 4th car for the 2014 season. One person who was not present during this invitation was infact…Tony Stewart. Kurt Busch accepted the position with that 4th car after the race at Bristol and an official announcement was made earlier this week. Haas Automation is expected to be the primary sponsor on the car. The car number has yet to be announced.
Allmendinger to the #47 in 2014
My sources tell me that AJ Allmendinger has accepted an offer to drive the #47 Toyota for JTG/Daugherty Racing for 3 seasons beginning in 2014. Allmendinger will be behind the wheel of the #47 Toyota this weekend at Atlanta, as previously scheduled. A formal announcement is expected on Saturday in Atlanta.
Harry Scott is the new owner of Phoenix Racing
It was announced earlier than the year that James Finch was in the process of selling his #51 team to an unknown buyer. That buyer is now known and is Harry Scott. Scott is not an unknown name in the NASCAR garage as he is a member of the Turner-Scott Motorsports team that fields teams in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. The team will remain known as Phoenix Racing and will be a separate entity from the Turner-Scott team. Scott will take control of the team following next weekend’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond. Turner-Scott driver, Justin Allgaier will be behind the wheel of the #51 for 3 races with Brandt on the hood. The driver for the other 7 races is yet to be announced.
Kyle Larson to the #42 Target Chevrolet in 2014
As announced a couple of weeks ago, Juan Pablo Montoya would not be returning to the #42 car in 2014. The team has scheduled a press conference for today at Atlanta Motor Speedway at 2:35 PM to announce the driver. Sources in Charlotte have confirmed that the Montoya replacement for 2014 will be rising NASCAR star, Kyle Larson. Larson is under a developmental contract with Ganassi but has been on loan to Turner-Scott Motorsports since 2011. Larson won the Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingam back in April. Montoya is expected to finish this season in the 42 but is reportedly in talks with Andretti Racing for a return to Indy cars in 2014.
Truex, Jr. to race at Atlanta despite a broken wrist
An MRI on Monday confirmed a fracture and sprain of Martin Truex Jr’s right wrist following an accident in Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race. Doctors cleared Truex to race on Sunday and fitted him with a specialized cast to better grip the steering wheel. MWR has yet to determine if a stand-by driver is needed for this weekend. Truex is 14th in the points and holds the first of two wildcard entries as he seeks his second consecutive entry in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Mike Bliss in the #51 for injured Bobby Labonte
Bobby Labonte was treated at a hospital near his home on Wednesday for 3 broken ribs he sustained in a bicycling accident. Labonte was transported by ambulance and kept overnight on Wednesday for observation. Labonte was entered to drive the Phoenix Racing #51 Chevrolet but has since been replaced by Mike Bliss. Bliss was entered in the #19 car for this weekend, the replacement driver for the #19 has yet to be named. Labonte has 6 wins at Atlanta Motorspeedway.
Track History: Atlanta Motorspeedway
Since the first race in 1960, there have been 105 Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motorspeedway. Between the Spring and Fall races in 1997, the track was reversed and reconfigured to the Atlanta we have today. The track is known for it’s fast speeds and varied racing grooves and is personally one of my favorite tracks on the schedule.
Atlanta season ticket holders have stopped using ink pens to fill out their vacations at work and started using erasable pencils. The reason I say that is, Atlanta’s race dates have varied and moved more times than Miley Cyrus can stick her tongue out at an awards show. For years, Atlanta was the final stop on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. That all changed when Homestead Miami Speedway claimed the final date of the series. The Hampton, Georgia track used to hold 2 races per season but now only holds one spot on the Cup schedule. Since 2009, the Sprint Cup Series has been visiting Atlanta each Labor Day weekend for racing under the lights.
Scenes from the movies “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Stroker Ace” were filmed at Atlanta Motorspeedway. President Jimmy Carter once worked at the track as a ticket taker and was a frequent atendee of races at Atlanta while he was both Georgia Governor and President of the United States.
Race Preview: Advocare 500
Forty-four teams are entered for Sunday night’s Advocare 500 meaning one team will go home following this evening’s qualifying session. Crew chiefs will once again be faced with the challenge of preparing a setup for night racing based on daylight practice sessions.
With that said, there will be a lot of “comers and goers” during Sunday night’s race. There will be some cars that are better prepared for warmer conditions and will be more competitive during the beginning portion of the race. Other teams may sacrifice speed at the beginning of the race to have a faster more competitive car for the second half of the event. The team that can build adjust-ability into their car and be competitive during both times will be a tough team to beat.
A crew chief who is notorious for preparing a fast car for a night race is Kenny Francis. That is one of the reasons he has such a good track record for the Coca-Cola 600, with his team finishing 2nd this year. Kenny can also set up a good car for about any superspeedway. My pick for Atlanta is Kasey Kahne, who is bringing the same car he won with at Pocono just a few weeks ago!
Moon’s pick is a driver who has one thing that the rest of the field doesn’t have…a hair scrunchie. Danica for the win at Atlanta!
I think she will be inspired y the fun time she and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had Thursday night at the Blake Shelton show.
Coverage of the Advocare 500 begins at 5:30 PM on Sunday on WBKR and WBKR.com!