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ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY STATEMENT REGARDING NASCAR RACE WEEKEND POSTPONEMENT

With the health and safety of fans, staff, competitors, race teams and media our top priority, NASCAR and Atlanta Motor Speedway postponed this weekend’s race activities to a yet-to-be determined future date.

Ticketholders on file may use their March 13-15, 2020 tickets for the postponed event, choose to receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20%, or choose to receive a full refund of their purchase price. The event credit can be applied toward any admissions, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, infield tickets, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes.  The 120% event credit can be used during the remaining 2020 or 2021 seasons for a NASCAR sanctioned event at any Speedway Motorsports owned track, subject to availability.  

MONTE DUTTON – IT’S TIME TO WATCH THE YOUNG’UNS PLAY

NASCAR is changing next year. Big deal. NASCAR changes every year. Jonas Salk didn’t experiment as much with the polio vaccine.

But next year it’s changing a lot! The race cars aren’t going to have five lugnuts on the wheels! From the alarm from old-time fans, you’d think they’d eliminated wheels altogether and decided to race hovercraft in 2021.

Officials are also making the tires three inches wider. Tightening them with one centrally located connector will apparently keep the 18-inch tires sufficiently stable and, in turn, increase the ability of those tires to keep the cars stable and minimize wear.

None of this alarms me, though I am something of a traditionalist myself who has followed NASCAR all my life, dating back to attending my first Cup race before it was Cup, some 55 years ago in August.

MONTE DUTTON – FULL SCREAM AHEAD

A time for young fellas to carry umbrellas

And considering the climate, you really might find it

The right time to stay at home

Man, I hope not. NASCAR hopes not. The stock market hopes not. Anywhere where people gather hopes not.

The above are words from a fairly obscure Jerry Jeff Walker song. They come to mind as America confronts an epidemic – and potential pandemic – that could be endemic, but let’s hope not.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING FOR BOWMAN

Since the moment the NASCAR Cup Series hit the track during practice for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, Alex Bowman was fast and one of the clear favorites to win. Bowman backed up those beliefs with a dominant performance on his way to his first win of the season on sunday.

A surprise started the weekend out with Clint Bowyer winning the pole, only the fourth of his career which even surprised Bowyer himself. Jimmie Johnson, the hometrack favorite driving his last race in Fontana, got a close run to Bowyer and slotted himself into starting second. Clint pulled away on the start as the whole field behind him started to spread out. Bowman was on the move and into second only five laps in until Kurt Busch went three-wide with Bowman and Johnson. The three fought hard until Johnson broke away and was able to get right on Bowyer’s bumper. Johnson wasn't able to make the pass which gave Bowman the chance to go by both of them. Ryan Blaney steadily drove into second and Bowman checked out as the field started to settle. Martin Truex Jr, who started at the rear after failing pre-qualifying inspection three times, fought all the way to eleventh and then pitted to start green-flag stops for everyone. Much like at Vegas, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. stayed out the longest to try and get lucky with a caution; it didn't work and Bowman took the lead again as Stenhouse pitted. Kyle Larson gets heavy damage from being pushed into the wall by Denny Hamlin when he got a fast run, Larson was able to pit and continue on but with no caution he fell a lap down. After the near caution, the field settled down and Bowman was able to cruise to his ever stage win.

MONTE DUTTON – THE TOUGH GET GOING

Sigh. Whew. Everyone sighs and says whew where Ryan Newman is concerned. It’s a wonder he wasn’t hurt worse. It’s a wonder the car didn’t blow up when it came to a halt. It’s just a general wonder, and a lot praying went into it.

It’s just like those catch fences that almost gave way. They didn’t give way. They did their job. That battered Ford that Newman was driving almost gave way. It didn’t give way. It scared everybody, but it did its job. It’s just another reminder that comes along from time to time to remind us that NASCAR must be ever vigilant regarding safety.

Everyone should understand this. When I was a kid, parents used to say of a BB gun, “You could put an eye out,” and of a firecracker, “You could blow your fingers or off,” but as long as no one puts an eye out and no one’s finger is blown off, folks just keep right on playing with BB guns and firecrackers. A lot has changed, but there’s always danger out there somewhere.

DENNY HAMLIN DOMINATES A DELAYED DAYTONA 500 TO A SOMBER VICTORY

 

It’s safe to say that Denny Hamlin knows how to race at Daytona International Speedway; he only has three wins at the track, but they've all come the most prestigious race of them all, the Daytona 500. Hamlin was able to pick up the win after passing Ryan Blaney and Ryan Newman on the last lap but the victory celebration would be overshadowed by a scary situation developing on the track.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr driving for his new team, JTG Daugherty Racing after being let go from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2019, secured the pole for the 500 with Alex Bowman starting second and Joey Logano and William Byron would start behind them after winning their respective duels. That was all overlooked as President Donald Trump was announced as the Grand Marshall for the race; the first time since the 2004 Daytona 500 that an active U.S. president attended a NASCAR race. After President Trump gave the command, he stepped into his limo to take a lap around the track with the drivers. Right as he pulled off the track is when the long night began.

MONTE DUTTON – THE DAYTONA THAT WAS

When I think of Daytona Beach, it’s always February that comes to mind. July (which is no more) is just hot. The only image that remains vivid is the year of the wildfires and postponement and the smoke in the air that made me think it was a banana republic and the revolutionaries were on the outskirts of town.

It was always hot, though, in July. The ocean was cool and suitable for a swim after the races when they were in the daytime. Now the only nightlife is at the track.

February, though, is cool and windy, and the air seems moist whether it’s raining or not. February is two weeks instead of two days. Glittering yachts moored near the Chart House. Seagulls rising by the hundreds in the infield when engines are fired. Music and seafood in St. Augustine. Racing slot cars at the condo on a tiny track purchased at the Family Dollar.

MONTE DUTTON – THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL

In a long career, a journalist is bound to ask the occasional stupid question. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes a good question scares a subject to death or makes him (or her) angry. It’s about eliciting a response.

The worst part of transcribing interview recordings is that it’s boring. The second worst part is that it’s cringe-worthy. Even though we transcribe the answers, we hear the questions. It’s sort of like thinking of something really stupid from youth. Bad questions are plaid sportcoats with a pad on the shoulder in case the need to fire a shotgun arises for some reason.

In the spring of 1993, my first as a full-time NASCAR scribe, I interviewed John Andretti in the lounge of his team’s transporter at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The first racing simulation game I ever played was of the Indianapolis 500, and while apparently primitive by today’s standards, it seemed realistic when released in 1989. The interview was over, and I don’t remember a word of it today, but John and I chatted a while after I turned off the microcassette player, which was then also state of the art.

MONTE DUTTON – A THEORY OF RELATIVITY

I have this compulsion to tell old stories. It could be because I’m ready for a new NASCAR season to begin. I’d like to think it isn’t a consequence of age, but it probably is.

Last night I was at a middle-school gym. I was surprised to see the former mayor of a nearby town, first because he was there and second because he was wearing a Brickyard 400 jacket. I never knew he was a NASCAR fan. Turns out he used to live in Darlington.

“That’s where my dad used to take me as a kid,” I said. “It’s hard to grow up going to Darlington and not love Pearson and Cale.”

MONTE DUTTON – LET THEM RACE AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS

I’m about to make some glaring generalities. My attention has recently been light. I am vaguely aware that the new season is going to bring with it massive changes, and the next year NASCAR is going to bring even more, and all that research-and-development money is not going to be spent in vain.

Hell, NASCAR changes massively every year. It reminds of of that alleged Yogi Berra line (Berra himself said half of those things he never said): “That place is so crowded, nobody goes there anymore.” If NASCAR changes anymore, it’ll be back to square one.

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