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Auto Racing
AMS Friday finder - plenty of unknowns with new Cup package
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AMS Friday finder - plenty of unknowns with new Cup package

AMS Friday finder - plenty of unknowns with new Cup package
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crews push their cars onto the grid just before qualifying at AMS on February 22, 2019.

AMS Friday finder - plenty of unknowns with new Cup package

If the NASCAR media corps took a shot for every time we uttered the word “package” Friday, we would be as drunk as we are sugar-buzzed in the QuikTrip-laden media center. The rules package for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a radical departure from what the series has been running. At tracks greater than a mile, Cup cars are running a higher spoiler (to create more drag), a bigger front splitter (for more downforce), and engines with a greater tapered spacer (to choke horsepower down 200 counts to 550). This is all in hopes of keeping the pack closer together on race day, hopefully creating more meaningful passes for position. 

After a few tests and months of speculation, the MENCS cars took to the track for practice and qualifying Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Since the cars were in qualifying trim for the bulk of the session, drivers still didn’t get a feel for how long they would be able to run laps wide open around AMS’ worn, 22-year-old surface. Only Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and his teammate Erik Jones ran 10 or more consecutive laps. 

The Stewart-Haas Racing Fords of Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola led the session. Afterwards, drivers didn’t seem to agree on how the race or qualifying would unfold. Crew chiefs and engineers may very well hold those cards. 

As qualifying for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 got underway just after 5 p.m., the skies had darkened, the wind picked up, and the temperatures were far cooler than the lunchtime practice. Speculation about how the draft would come to play in group qualifying went mostly out the window. Cars generally laid down laps without drafting. But drivers, however, had to hit the track quickly, as the three rounds had shortened to 10, 10, and five minutes a piece. Some drivers did flirt with drafting. Hamlin and teammate Martin Truex Jr. ran about a car length apart in Round Three, timing into the show 3rd and 9th. 

Momentum seemed to be the biggest decider. Drivers began using their warm up laps to gain speed on the high line and the fastest ones hugged the yellow line on the bottom of the turns on lap two. This netted Almirola his second-career pole (first since the 2012 Coca-Cola 600), with a speed of 181.473 mph. Kyle Busch won the pole year ago at 184 mph and speeds in 2018 topped 186 in Round One of that qualifying session. 

For the decrease in horsepower, the decrease in speed is very small. This shows how much engineers and mechanics have already figured out to keep the corner speeds up and compensate for the rules change. While some smaller teams had decent qualifying efforts - Michael McDowell was 12th, Matt DiBenedetto 20th, Ty Dillon 21st, David Ragan 22nd, and Corey Lajoie 24th (he was 13th in Round One) - the cream generally rose to the top. 

The Penske Fords were nothing like their counterparts at Stewart-Haas. Brad Keselowski was 19th, Ryan Blaney 26th, and Joey Logano 27th. And while SHR’s Almirola, Bowyer, and Daniel Suarez were 1st, 3rd, and 5th, defending AMS winner Kevin Harvick was only 18th. 

Roush Fenway Racing looked very stout with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. placing 2nd and Ryan Newman 13th. And Richard Childress Racing is looking better than it has in a while, as Austin Dillon qualified 10th and was 3rd in practice. His rookie teammate Daniel Hemric was only 28th. 

Teams will switch to racing trim for happy hour practice and prepare for Sunday’s race. But AMS is a different animal than other tracks, because of tire wear. Drivers speculated that next weekend’s Las Vegas race may see cars running wide open much of the time. In fact, many likened this package (drink) to how the Gander Outdoor Truck Series races. Skip around on this video and watch how that Truck race at Vegas played out a year ago. It was quite entertaining. 

So whatever transpires Sunday, fans shouldn’t read too deep into it. Atlanta races totally different than other tracks and doesn’t run the front air dams that tracks like Vegas will. And by the time the Cup Series completes its West Coast swing in a month, drivers and crews will have more data to bolster their fleets and their strategy and change the complexion of the races soon enough. 

Listen to the Performance Racing Network on GoPRN.com and the PRN app for live coverage of the Rinnai 250 Xfinity Series race at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Gander Outdoors Truck Series runs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the Motor Racing Network.

Hear Turnbull’s interviews with Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Corey Lajoie, Reid Wilson, Matt Tifft, Daniel Hemric, and Austin Hill on a bonus episode of the “Five to Go” racing podcast

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News

  • A new study on the effects of medication prescribed to those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suggests that teens and young people could face an increased risk of psychosis with certain drugs. >> Read more trending news   The study, conducted by researchers at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, looked at teens and young people who had recently begun taking two classes of drugs – amphetamines (marketed as Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidates (marketed as Ritalin or Concerta) – used to treat ADHD. The study showed that while the chance of developing psychosis – a condition that affects the mind and causes a person to lose contact with reality – is low, there is an increased risk of developing the disorder in patients taking the amphetamines. “The findings are concerning because the use of amphetamines in adolescents and young adults has more than tripled in recent years. More and more patients are being treated with these medications,” said Dr. Lauren V. Moran, lead author of the paper. “There is not a lot of research comparing the safety profiles of amphetamines and methylphenidate, despite increasing use of these medications,” Moran said. Moran said that clinicians have long observed “patients without previous psychiatric history” developing psychosis “in the setting of stimulant use.” The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, looked at insurance claims on more than 220,000 ADHD patients between the ages of 13 and 25 years old who had started taking amphetamines or methylphenidate between Jan. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2015. According to the study, researchers found that one out of every 486 patients started on an amphetamine developed psychosis that required treatment with antipsychotic medication. One in 1,046 patients started on methylphenidate developed psychosis. The study showed that the development of psychosis appeared in people who had recently begun taking the amphetamines. Moran stressed that “people who have been on a drug like Adderall for a long time, who are taking the drug as prescribed and are tolerating it well, are not likely to experience this problem (psychosis).” The paper, “Psychosis with Amphetamine or Methylphenidate in Attention Deficit Disorder,” is set to be published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. 
  • Do you like your tea served piping hot? Beware— you could be doubling your cancer risk, according to a new report.  >> Read more trending news  Researchers from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently conducted a study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, to determine the association between drinking hot tea and esophageal cancer. To do so, they examined more than 50,000 people, aged 40-75, in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran. They followed the participants for 10 years, tracking the temperature of the tea they drank as well as their overall health. During the follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified.  Furthermore, they found those who drank tea warmer than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit and consumed more than 700 ml of tea daily were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, compared to those who drank less tea and at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius. >> Related: Drinking this type of tea could ruin your teeth, study says “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” lead author Farhad Islam said in a statement. Tea is rarely consumed at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius in the United States or Europe. However, in places like Iran, Russia, Turkey and South America, it’s more common to serve tea at that temperature or hotter, Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, told CNN last year. The scientists do not know why drinking hot tea is linked with esophageal cancer, but this isn’t the first study of its kind.  A 2018 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found that consuming “hot” or “burning hot” tea is linked with a two- to five-fold rise in esophageal cancer, but only among individuals who also smoke or drink alcohol. >> Related: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says The analysts from that evaluation believe hot beverages may damage the tissue lining the esophagus, which could increase the risk of cancer from other factors, such as repeated irritation of the esophagus and the formation of inflammatory compounds.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal to devise health care “waiver” programs that might ease insurance for some poor and middle-class Georgians passed a special House committee on Wednesday. The measure, Senate Bill 106, has already passed the state Senate. Its next step is to be seen by the House Rules Committee, the gateway to the House floor. Then, if passed without amendments, Kemp would have before him the legislation he first suggested word for word. “I’m very pleased with it,” said state Rep. Richard Smith, R-Columbus, who is chairman of the House Insurance Committee and led the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, which heard SB 106 Wednesday. The committee voted for it 11-3, with at least one Democrat in favor and no Republicans opposed. The often positive testimony from witnesses reflected the findings of Atlanta Journal-Constitution polls expressing a desire to figure out how to insure the hundreds of thousands of Georgia poor who are currently not eligible for Medicaid. The legislation would give Kemp the authority to request federal “waivers” to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act rules in order to design programs tailored to the state. It is possible that the waiver programs could end up insuring hundreds of thousands of poor childless adult Georgians who are currently ineligible for Medicaid. Or it might do something much less. The choice would be Kemp’s. The near unity among witnesses in favor of a waiver broke down over what exactly such a waiver should do. A parade of advocates testified to Smith’s committee that they supported the effort to expand coverage. But several, including Democrats, said the measure didn’t go far enough, and they either spoke against it or wouldn’t urge a yes vote. Many are concerned that as Kemp decides how best to shape the state’s Medicaid program, the bill limits him to dealing only with the population up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or those who make about $12,000 a year for an individual. Federal law encouraged expansion of Medicaid to all poor people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 for an individual. Several groups, including the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, praised the possibility of expanding Medicaid and asked for it to go to 138 percent of the poverty level. Georgia Watch’s Laura Harker praised the benefits of Medicaid coverage to the poor and to the economy. “We are, however, struggling with consternation about the 200,000 or so just above the poverty line that may miss out,” Harker said. State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, is not on the committee but did testify. She said she was concerned not only that the bill stopped short at the number of poor people it would include, but also at the amount of power the bill gives the governor. There is no requirement for him to run his eventual decisions by the Legislature. One speaker, with the libertarian group Georgians for Prosperity, opposed the bill for the opposite reason, because he said insuring so many more poor people with Medicaid would encourage unemployment. Many said it was worth doing something rather than nothing. State Rep. Patty Bentley, a Democrat from Butler, was among them. “What we have on the table right now, my friends, I see as a way to help my area,” Bentley said. “So, my friends, I respect you, I honor you, but I’m voting for this bill.” Asked why they would restrict the governor to considering a smaller group of people, the committee chairman, Smith, and state Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, who made the motion for the bill, both said that was simply what the governor requested. Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
  • The American Kennel Club's annual ranking of the most popular dog breeds found that the Labrador retriever once again is the nation's top dog for the 28th year in a row. >> Read more trending news The AKC released its 2018 rankings on Wednesday. After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers. All held their same positions on the top 10 with the exception of that German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier swapping the ninth and 10th position. Labs have been on top since 1991 when they unseated Cocker Spaniels from the number one slot and their reign is the longest of any breed since the AKC began the popularity ranking in the 1880s. At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile — some work as drug- and bomb-detectors — and active companions. “I think people are learning about how fun the breed is,” AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter said. The listings come from 2018 AKC registration data, and do not include mixed breeds. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Wildlife officials in New Mexico are warning hikers and other visitors about a potential danger on a trail in the Sandria Mountains east of Albuquerque: mountain lions. >> Read more trending news  Although the chances of actually encountering a mountain lion are low, officials have fielded numerous calls recently over sightings of the big cat on the La Luz Trail, according to KOB-TV. Forest workers want people to take precautions, especially around dawn and dusk when jogging and running can trigger the big cats’ instincts to chase and attack. “We do not want to discourage people from visiting the forest,” wildlife biologist Esther Nelson told KOB, “but we do want to make people aware and offer some precautionary measures to keep visitors and their pets safe.” A few other tips include keeping children and pets close at all times and don’t hike alone. Although mountain lions are usually quiet and elusive animals, the National Park Service offers recommendations in case of an encounter. If you see a lion, stay calm, don’t approach it, don’t run from it, and don’t crouch down or bend over. >> Related: Jogger kills attacking mountain lion with bare hands If a mountain lion moves toward you or acts aggressively, do everything you can to appear intimidating. Speak in a loud voice and try and appear larger. If that doesn’t work, park officials suggest throwing stones or branches at the cat to try and scare it off. If it does attack, fight back however you can. Also don’t forget to report any attack to a forest ranger.    
  • A Wisconsin woman was arrested for handing out marijuana cookies at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, police said. >> Read more trending news  Cathleen Krause, 57, has been charged with delivering THC, possession of THC and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, WBAY-TV reported. A witness told sheriff’s deputies that while she was attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, a woman dressed in a leather coat and green hat gave her a cookie with marijuana in it, according to a Shawano County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit. The witness turned the cookie over to the deputies. The deputies later tracked down Krause, who was 'visibly intoxicated' and smelled of alcohol and marijuana, according to the affidavit. When asked about the cookies, Krause pulled out a gallon-sized bag that contained cookie crumbs, WBAY-TV reported. The deputies then searched her and found a container with pills and some gummy candies, the news station reported. The Sheriff’s Office said the cookie and the gummies tested positive for marijuana. Krause appeared in court on March 18. As a condition of the $1,000 bond, she must remain sober, according to court records.