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Doug Turnbull's Race Blog

    Maybe the age of opinion echos has just manifested itself again or maybe those with the perpetual sour taste about the state of NASCAR in their mouths simply have it again. But after a thrilling Ford EcoBoost 400 that saw statistically the four best drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series compete for the Championship 4 and race near each other all 400 miles, this same crowd couldn’t see the forest for the trees. This year’s championship race delivered.  The sport’s “Big Three”, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr., combined to win 20 races and did almost all of that damage in the first two-thirds of the season. The championship would undoubtedly go thru them. But as Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, and eventually Aric Almirola started tallying wins, the spotlight on the other three dimmed. However, none of this winning group really emerged as “the guy” to slay the three-headed dragon. So this seemed to set up the Homestead-Miami race as one that obviously Harvick, Truex Jr., or Busch would win.  There is a reason races aren’t run in simulators. Busch or Harvick should have put on a clinic Sunday, as Truex Jr. and the soon-closing No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota had seen their recent performance wane a bit. But Logano, who had been consistent but not front-running all season, secured his Homestead ticket by running Truex Jr. hard to the finish and taking the Martinsville win from him. And suddenly, the No. 22 team looked like a contender. But certainly Harvick, who had dominated the Texas race (with an illegal spoiler), and Busch, who had won the previous week at Phoenix, would be firing on all cylinders in Homestead. As it turns out, all four championship drivers were in some respect.  As you may remember, Busch, Truex Jr., and Logano started in the top 5 and Harvick had to climb up from 12th at Homestead. Harvick took no time driving up into the top 10 and took the lead after the first pit stops to win Stage 1. And then these four stayed right on each other all race long, with pit stops becoming a game of cat and mouse. The stops continuously cost Busch precious time and sunk an already ill-handling car deeper in the pack. But the 2015 champ kept clawing back.  Harvick had the race won after the last green flag stop. Truex Jr. had the speed on that long run at the end, but Harvick and Logano came to pit road one lap before him and Harvick was poised to win the championship. But Busch, with no chance to win conventionally, stayed out on old tires, hoping and praying for a caution to freeze him in the lead.  When Keselowski (Logano’s teammate) got into Daniel Suarez (Busch’s teammate) and brought out a yellow, Busch got the miracle he needed and his crew delivered him the lead from the first pit stall. Here’s your game seven moment: the Championship 4 would comprise the first two rows for the 15-lap shootout. Wouldn’t betting money land on Busch? He’s widely regarded as the best restarter in the sport and the driver with likey the most raw talent. With a championship on the line, the pendulum had swung in favor of Busch.  Busch got the break, but couldn’t capitalize. With equal tires and nearly equal track position, Truex Jr. and Logano dusted him and pulled away. The 2018 title would come down to last year’s MENCS Cup winner, whom Logano roughed up for a Martinsville win and who said Logano would not win the war. The war would be decided by them.  The two drivers had made contact incidentally, racing close in the race, but this battle came down to man vs. machine vs. the weather/time-worn track. Logano made a champion’s move on Truex Jr. on the fourth lap of this final run. Logano sailed the No. 22 high into a turn to a degree that made announcers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton think he missed the corner. And Logano wrested the lead away and never looked back. If the race had 30 or 40 laps remaining, Truex Jr. would have won. Or maybe Harvick. Busch finished well back in 4th. But it was Logano, who rivals Busch in the boos he gets from fans, who now joins the Big Three as a single-Cup championship winner.  For those who thought they saw bad racing on Sunday, the broadcast didn’t do any favors. NBC did a poor job covering any battles on the track that didn’t involve the lead or the Championship 4 drivers and they need to address this. Also, despite there being multiple grooves, the aero-factor definitely spread the field out. But tire wear and the difference in setups allowed drivers to make up these differences over a long run. Neither the Camping World Truck Series race Friday (race and championship won by Brett Moffitt) or the Xfinity Series race Saturday (race and championship won by Tyler Reddick) had any cautions that weren’t stage breaks. That usually prompts fans to give bad marks.  The drama Sunday may be seen as manufactured by some, but it was real. The four title contenders raced each other hard all 267 laps. And while there were some lulls in this race...like most any race...the drama and tension were palpable in those closing laps. Each move felt like it would decide the title. Not two drivers, but four decided the Monster Energy Cup and their battle was one for the ages. Or at least I hope. Could we as fans let this one live in the canon of great battles or will the sour tastes and negative fog taint this one also? Hopefully the former.  Watch the race rewind and fast forward to 10 minutes to see that final restart. 
  • This is a re-post of my blog post just after the Atlanta Motor Speedway Labor Day weekend race in 2014, the first after the passing of Captain Herb Emory. Four years to the day after his passing, please enjoy the memories and thank you for Remembering Captain Herb.  A banner at the United Against Mouth and Throat Cancer tent, an organization that provides free screenings in the Atlanta Motor Speedway Fan Zone outside the Hampton, Georgia track, had a banner that read “Remembering Capt. Herb Emory.” That was a theme for the entire NASCAR race weekend at AMS. Conyers driver Chris Cockrum piloted the No. 87 Advanced Communications Group Ford in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Track President and GM Ed Clark and his staff arranged for a display case with Captain Herb’s WSB Skycopter Lounge hat to mark his spot in the AMS Media Center, which they also named after the late Marcy Scott. TEAM Georgia, the safe and sober driving coalition Captain Herb helped found, presented his wife Karen with a community service award named after the late champion of safe driving. Several fans showed up with “Captain Herb Memorial Ride” t-shirts from the May event in the Captain’s Douglas County community that raised money for Toys for Tots. Emory, as many Atlantans know, died of a heart attack while helping at the scene of a crash in front of his house in April. WSB listeners, people from the Atlanta community, and straight up people we had no idea knew about Captain Herb poured out support and continue to in the months since that tragedy. But we hadn’t had an Atlanta race weekend since his passing - and it was hard sitting in the Marcy Scott Media Center next to a space with a clear box that used to be filled with his bellowing laugh and big smile. Seeing the empty space next to the fence outside of the Media Center, where the WSB tent used to proudly sit each race day morning, signaled the end of an era. We didn’t do a racing show this weekend, but instead decided to remember Captain Herb’s legacy with a series of reports and interviews with some luminaries from the long-running “Allan Vigil Ford 120,” which eventually changed names to “The Speedshop.” (These reports ran through the weekend on News 95.5/AM750 WSB and you can listen to them all in links at the end of this post). Captain Herb's race show stood out for several reasons. It highlighted Georgia-based racers, covered some local short tracks, and had that old school personality that new era radio and racing lacks. Captain Herb played pranks on the air, but just as easily made new drivers to the scene feel at ease. Instead of clicking off the same vanilla, polished interviews that many pull off so well, he would inject his affable, mischievous personality into them and bring out that certain guest's own character. That personality extended into the nickname business. My nickname is 'Fireball'. Jason Durden, a longtime fixture on Speedshop, is Jason 'Banjo, Spongebob Squarepants, Dale Jr.' Durden. Performance Racing Network booth anchor Mark Garrow, who delivered the 'FastCar Newsdesk' for several years already had the nickname 'Guru' - but Captain Herb had to assign his own moniker. 'He'd call me 'The Doctor of Love' and we had fun with that,' Garrow laughingly reflected, also saying he enjoyed the mix of people whom Captain Herb’s smile and authenticity drew into that WSB tent each race weekend. Atlanta Journal Constitution motorsports writer Rick Minter gave insightful racing analysis on Speedshop for many years and says that Captain Herb was so enthusiastic and credible about racing, because he took an announcing job at the now-closed Seven Flags Speedway in Douglasville. 'That showed he was true to the roots of racing. A good, all-around motorsports enthusiast,' Minter says when reflecting on the show. 'He made just as sure Dixie Speedway was covered as he did Daytona International Speedway or Atlanta Motor Speewday.' And when fans tuned into Speedshop, they knew exactly where each driver stood with him. 'He didn't make any doubt about who his heroes were and who he didn't like. He was like the number one fan in Atlanta. It's almost like a 110 appliance plugged into a 220 outlet when the show came on the air. You can't not be excited when he's that excited.' Minter also says that Captain Herb was ahead of his time in comparison to other local media in covering the local ties to a national sport. Captain Herb's appreciation for the Georgia drivers was a staple of Speedshop during race weekends. Former NASCAR driver Bill Lester moved east from California to race in the Camping World Truck Series in the 2000s. Captain Herb reached out to Lester, inviting him to the annual Toys for Tots drive he hosted at Fred's BBQ House in Lithia Springs and often put him on or mentioned him on his show. This flattered the new guy in town. 'He kind of brought me under his wing,' Lester, now an Arkansas resident, says. 'I'm surprised that anybody took notice.' Lester says that friendship put him at ease in his new world of stock cars in a new part of the country. In 2006, Lester became the first black driver to start a Sprint Cup Series race since the 1980s, making his debut at his adopted home track AMS.The WSB tent outside of the Media Center was one stop on Lester's crazy morning on that historic day and he says he's so thankful for all Captain Herb and the AMS staff did to get the word out about his feat. Georgia resident Rex White won the 1960 Sprint Cup Series championship and will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015. Many greats of White's era are either dead or forgotten. But Captain Herb never forgot the driver of the famous No. 4 'Gold Thunder' car. 'He was always great to talk to. He always made it so easy to be interviewed,' White said just before an appearance at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame display at AMS over race weekend. Bill Elliott is the most renowned of the Georgia drivers. Elliott remembers fondly shooting the bull with Captain Herb and seeing him at Allan Vigil Ford, a dealership and sponsor they both shared. “The Speedshop” saw its prominence when Elliott's career was in its doldrums in the late 1990s. Elliott says that didn't turn Captain Herb away from Driver 94. 'He was always a friend, someone to talk to, someone to bounce ideas off of.' Elliott is the 1988 Sprint Cup Series champion and will be inducted with White into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. When asked what Captain Herb would think of seeing both drivers go in at once, White summed it up best - though stammering a bit. 'He'd be flabbergasted.' Indeed he is looking down with a smile. Elliott’s 18-year-old son, Chase, is blazing a winning trail in his rookie NASCAR Nationwide Series series. His success has been supreme in 2014 and he fittingly won his first-career NNS pole Saturday for his first NNS race at AMS. He finished 5th. Elliott took his first victory in the series on April 4th at Texas Motor Speedway. He won again the next Friday night at the circuit's toughest track, legendary Darlington Speedway. Captain Herb died the next day, April 12th. 'I think that was special,” the older Elliott says. “I'm sure [Captain Herb] had that in his head with whatever else he had going on that day.' David Ragan has been the banner carrier for the Georgia gang in recent years, with two wins each in both the Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series. Captain Herb befriended him as a teenager running Legends cars and Bandeleros on AMS' quarter-mile track and interviewed him at the media days the track would set up. 'We've got a long history. Some of my first interviews were with Captain in the late '90s,' Ragan told me in his team hauler before Sprint Cup practice Saturday afternoon. He said he missed Captain Herb not just for his racing show that he had each week and also each Atlanta race weekend, but for shows elsewhere. 'I even thought about it at Bristol. He'd always come up and do a little Saturday show.' Ragan, like Captain Herb, never forgot his local racing roots and always made a point to stop by the WSB tent for his ritual race morning Speedshop appearance. Captain Herb's impression on Ragan was so deep, that the Captain’s locally famous 'Mayberry Patrol Car/Aunt Bea' Ford Galaxie - a replica of the one on 'The Andy Griffith Show' - made Ragan want his own. 'I specifically looked for one and bought one just because of Herb.' He wanted it so much he specially ordered it and had it shipped from Kansas. As Ragan's career progressed and he moved to North Carolina, Cockrum and his family became close friends with Captain Herb and made regular appearances on Speedshop. The Cockrum family was so impressed by Captain Herb's outreach, they carried 'CaptainHerb.net' - the Captain’s homepage for racing and traffic news and community events - on the rear bumper cover of his Camping World Trucks and his Nationwide Series car in the few races he was able to run. Cockrum invited Captain Herb and Karen to Daytona to see the No. 07 Advanced Communications Group truck back in February. 'I can say I took this man to his final race,' Cockrum told WSB, while choking up in his race team's hauler before Nationwide Series practice Friday. He showed up in a beautiful car with a 'WSB blue' background and 'WSB gold' accents and lettering with some red, soundboard-light graphics on the back. Cockrum says it had to happen that way. 'When he passed away in April, it really rocked my world. So I automatically circled this date.' The sight of the car moved Karen Emory to tears, as Cockrum and his family hugged consoled her and Durden, who accompanied her to the race and has been a staple for her since the love of her life’s passing. Before Saturday's race, just before TEAM Georgia and Durden presented Emory with the 'Captain Herb Community Service Award,' Emory took a pin she had earlier removed from Captain Herb's old leather bomber jacket and pinned it on Cockrum's driver's suit. 'Something that's been on a jacket for 20 or 30 years...I couldn't think of a better person to receive something from than Captain Herb,' a sweat-drenched and exhausted Cockrum said after Saturday’s race. He finished laps down in 29th, driving an ill-handling machine for backmarker team Rick Ware Racing. But the rookie kept the car out of trouble, so the crowd could see the 'Remembering Captain Herb' lettering circle 1.5-mile AMS track again and again. The staff at AMS helped handily in promoting Cockrum's being in the race with the 'Herb car.' But they dealt with a big gap and loss of their own. The aforementioned Marcy Scott was the engine behind the marketing and promotions staff, processing hundreds of requests by the vast media presence at the track and arranging events and marketing to spread the word about the races. Those that worked with her will never forget her drive and passion and those new to the game will always remember it with the Media Center in her name. Doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer a few years ago, but she overcame that and seemed well. Then the cancer showed up again in her brain last year. She passed away in November and missed last year’s race, even though she begged for Clark, her boss for eight years, to participate. He explains her impact. 'She was so much a part of our race weekends - the promotion, the planning, and the execution. We miss her - we think about her daily.' Much like Captain Herb’s untimely death, Scott’s drew the sympathy from many areas, especially the full-time national media, whom she helped facilitate their coverage needs. Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass, widely known as the hardest-working reporter in the NASCAR media corps, reflected on Twitter about how she forced him out on the dance floor at the NASCAR banquet a couple of years ago. She was more than a hard worker, she was a friend and mentor. She certainly worked hard to make sure we could pull of our show on WSB and had to shoosh us more than once when we would cut up in the back of the Media Center. Clark also had a longtime friendship with Captain Herb...about 23 years (the length of his time at AMS) to be exact. 'This is the first NASCAR weekend that I'm experiencing without him” he somberly reflects. “He was a friend not only to us, but to so many in the entire Metro Atlanta area.' Besides holding his place in the Media Center, Clark took the remembrance a step further and had 'Capt. Herb' painted in the infield grass. That gesture was a total surprise to us at WSB and to the legions of dedicated Captain Herb fans who saw it from the grandstands. 'Herb may not be with us here physically, but he's a part of this weekend, just like he always has been.' That Captain Herb grass painting had a great seat for the whole weekend - especially its ending. Sunday's Cup winner Kasey Kahne saw his win and ticket to NASCAR’s Chase slip away after a late caution. But another caution allowed him to catch up and have a chance to race hard with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin and take that needed win, the biggest of his career. He did celebratory burnouts right next to the grass tribute. That's a way to cap it off. Summer storms threatened all AMS weekend, but barely slowed any on-track activities - a big relief for a track that has suffered both weather and ticket sales problems in recent years. NASCAR is moving the track’s Labor Day race to Darlington and AMS will now assume the 2nd race date of the season on March 1st. Fittingly, this short tradition ends in a time of remembrance for the passing of a titan in the Georgia racing community and another staple in the circus that is NASCAR. To Captain Herb Emory and Marcy Scott - Godspeed to you from Georgia’s altar of high speed. Remembering Captain Herb audio:  Ed Clark piece on Captain Herb and Marcy Scott  Ed Clark full interview  Bill Lester and Mark McKay piece  Bill Lester full interview  Rick Minter and Mark McKay piece  Rick Minter full interview  Mark Garrow piece Mark Garrow audio, part 1 Mark Garrow audio, part 2  Chris Cockrum piece Chris Cockrum full interview, part 1 Chris Cockrum full interview, part 2 Chase Elliott/Chris Cockrum piece David Ragan piece David Ragan full interview Rex White piece Rex White full interview Bill Elliott piece  Bill Elliott full interview   
  • The wait is over. Chase Elliott has won his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. He held off 2017 MENCS champion Martin Truex Jr. in a thrilling finish in the Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen Sunday. His win came in his 99th career start, just over halfway thru his third full-time season with powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports. That may not be exactly the fairytale Elliott imagined when he dreamt of becoming a Cup star like his father. But both William Clyde Elliott’s, son and father, had to suffer some near-misses before their Victory Lane kisses. Each driver started with a family racing team. Chase with his affluent and established father’s Bill Elliott Racing stable and Bill with his brothers Ernie and Dan and father and car dealer George. The Elliott matriarch, Mildred, was both a moral and financial mainstay on Bill’s team. Chase’s mom, Cindy, was and is still a marketing and PR maven.  Chase had a bigger leg up starting out than Bill did, very simply because of Bill’s Hall of Fame success and comeuppance in a time when NASCAR was booming. Chase blazed through go karts and Legends cars to being a late model campaign at age 13. He won in the first two months of the 2009 season and won the Georgia Asphalt Series championship as a rookie. The fairytale was in place.  Bill succeeded on the short tracks, but struggled when he first got to Cup. This was in a different time, when really almost anyone with a car could enter and make the fields of races. Elliott’s scrappy, but ingenuitive literal band of brothers got the No. 9 Ford to the racetrack for part-time schedules from 1976-1982. But Bill didn’t get his first top 10 until his 16th start (the 1977 Southern 500) and often fell victim to the most common occurrences in races of the era: attrition. With so many levels of cars and so little of the polished sophistication and advancement of today’s generation, just finishing a 500-mile race was a miracle. Finishing on the lead lap was nearly akin to winning. So when the light switch of consistency flipped on, Bill’s results suddenly exceeded what was expected of smaller teams in those years.  Chase had great equipment through his ascent, but ran into a bit of a roadblock in 2011. At just 15-years-old, the high school sophomore signed a driver development deal with Hendrick Motorsports at a time when those were no longer en vogue. Along with his heavy pro and super late model diet, Elliott would now compete full-time for Hendrick in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.  The heavier K&N cars, higher experience level, and fact that Elliott was with a new team against more experienced ones in that series meant that his results were far more pedestrian than they had been in late models. Elliott had zero wins and only six tops 10s in 12 races in 2011 and just one win in the series in 2012 (the combined East and West series race at Iowa Speedway). He finished 9th and 4th in the points in his two years in K&N. Max Gresham won the 2011 championship. Kyle Larson did so in 2012.  Elliott kept burning up the local short tracks through those years and ran a partial schedule in ARCA and the Camping World Truck Series in 2013, garnering a quick win in each. He also won crown jewel paved short track races: the All-American 400, Winchester 400, and World Crown 300. He was rolling and ready to jump.  When NAPA Auto Parts left Michael Waltrip Racing, they partnered with Chase and JR Motorsports for the 2014 Xfinity Series campaign, a season where Elliott won three races and the championship with ease. On the eve of his 2015 campaign, Hendrick motorsports tapped the 19-year-old as Jeff Gordon’s replacement in the legendary No. 24 Chevy for 2016.  Elliott also drove five races in Cup for Hendrick in a NAPA No. 25 in preparation for his 2016 Cup career. He had a disastrous debut at Martinsville, but put together some solid runs aside from that. His 2015 NXS campaign netted just one win and a second-place points finish to champ and older young gun Chris Buescher. But Elliott remained extremely consistent in the No. 9 Chevy and carried momentum into the anointed 2016 Cup Series campaign.  Fairytale: commence. Elliott won the pole for the Daytona 500 and garnered extraordinary hype. But he got loose in the tri-oval early in the race and wrecked, as he raced three-wide in the middle. The rookie remained consistent, however, scoring his first-career top 10 the very next week at his hometrack, Atlanta Motor Speedway. Elliott went on an incredible run of top 10s and top 5s in the spring and early summer, then got into some scrapes and poor finishes. But he then scored his first of eight-career runner-up finishes at Michigan in August. Winner Kyle Larson passed him with 10 laps to go.  Elliott made a deep run into the 2016 Playoffs, but a wreck on a restart at Charlotte Motor Speedway swept him up and took him from championship contention. All in all, however, 2016 was a great rookie campaign and his numbers in 2017 were better. But a pattern had developed.  Elliott just wasn’t great at holding his position on restarts. He lost a World Crown 300 at Gresham Motorsports Park early in his Super Late Model career on a late race restart. And he famously lost several races in 2017 late in the going. Elliott finished 2nd in three out of four races to start the 2017 playoffs, including a Dover race he had in hand.  At Dover, Elliott had a comfortable lead, but didn’t change his line as Kyle Busch ate into the cushion. Busch passed Elliott with two laps to go. Elliott also led late at Martinsville, before Denny Hamlin infamously used him up and spun him out of contention for the race and likely the championship.  Then two races later on a late race restart at Phoenix, Elliott took the lead from Matt Kenseth, who made his Cup debut subbing for Bill in 1998. The restart, by the way, came as a result of Elliott and Hamlin racing hard, Elliott pinching Hamlin into the wall and giving him a tire rub, and Hamlin wrecking. Payback. Elliott led for 19 laps and then Kenseth got by him with 10 laps to go for his sentimental last win in the No. 20 car. Elliott was out of the Playoffs.  Hendrick Motorsports’ performance has been sluggish in 2018 and Elliott’s results have followed that arc. But the No. 9 team, rebranded for 2018 but with his No. 24 crew, has often beaten its four stablemates. Elliott got his 8th-career runner-up at Richmond in the spring, though he didn’t lead a lap. And while the No. 9 hasn’t been a factor most of the year, it has shown some life the last three weeks. Elliott was 5th at New Hampshire, 7th at Pocono (another race that he faded on the end race run), and then won Watkins Glen. He won Stage 2 in each race. Elliott was rapping on the winning door yet again.  Sunday’s race didn’t seem like Elliott’s at first, though the No. 9 started 3rd. Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota was on a rail, dominating Stage 1 until strategically pitting just before the green-checkered flag. Martin Truex Jr. won the stage and hung in the top 5 all race long. Busch, Elliott, Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin all duked out the top 4 spots for much of the day, but Elliott won Stage 2 outright. He then lost the race off of pit road in a strange pit sequence that saw him almost run over a crew member and Busch have to pit again for a fueling issue. Busch’s miscue gave Elliott the lead on the restart and set up an epic Stage 3 showdown with Truex Jr.  As Truex Jr.’s No. 78 Toyota closed in on Elliott’s No. 9, one could almost hear the “Jaws” music. Elliott Nation, just like any Georgia or Atlanta sports fan, was waiting for the choke once again. On a tricky road course, the chances for foibles are plentiful. Elliott almost cashed it in on Turn 1 of the final lap - he wheel-hopped. He broke down what happened in the Hendrick Motorsports post-race press release.  “I started wheel-hopping and I had two options – knock it out of gear or spin out,” he recalled of the split-second, clutch decision. “We were coming to that white flag, I felt like I had a pretty nice gap, just don't mess up, and I messed up, of course. I had to knock it out of gear and I completely missed Turn 1. Luckily, I had a big enough gap that he couldn't get up next to me.”  Elliott has infamously been hard on himself after his failures to execute. But he acknowledged that those hard times got him to where he is now.  “You have to realize that you were in those positions for a reason, A; and B, if you were in them at one point in time, you can get back to them and learn from whatever it was that prevented you from ultimately getting a win and try to correct it to do so.”  Recalling these moments and the early career of who is now the heir to the moniker of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver gives a pathology of where Elliott is now. He no longer has to answer the question of how much pressure he is under to win. Really, he has gotten that question since he was in grade school. And Elliott has always had to live in the shadow (or glow) of his father’s greatness and expectations based upon the smoothly paved road to his career.  The Apostle Paul writes in the Bible about trials wisely in Romans chapter 5, verses 3-4: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Elliott and his Alan Gustafson-led team have certainly persevered through their hard times. That’s gained them the character of these losses - loss being something Elliott even surprisingly experienced in some of his formative racing years. And with that character - and now a win - there is hope for more Victory Lane champagne and, with a guaranteed playoff berth, even a championship.

News

  • Family and friends are remembering a University of Georgia student who died in a fiery crash. William Aaron Whitaker, of Carrollton, died Thursday night in the crash that shut down the interstate between I-285 and Fulton Industrial Boulevard for about 10 hours, UGA spokesman Greg Trevor told AJC.com.  Learn how his loved ones are honoring him, on Channel 2 Action News at 5 p.m.  Whitaker was a sophomore studying exercise science and athletic training, according to an obituary on the Hightower Family Funeral Homes website.  Mario Vilan Polier, 53, of Hialeah, Florida, faces charges of improper lane change, following too closely and second-degree homicide by vehicle in connection with the incident.  Polier’s tractor-trailer overturned onto its passenger side while traveling on I-20 east around 7:30 p.m., crashing into a concrete barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes, the Georgia State Patrol said. Debris from the concrete barrier went into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles. TRENDING STORIES: Blood pressure medication recalled due to cancer risk Heads up, drivers: Multiple roads close for Super Bowl events beginning today DFCS dismissed abuse report before Georgia kids were found buried One of those vehicles was Whitaker’s, who died at the scene, GSP said. Three other people were also injured in the crash, but their conditions were not released. The deadly wreck shut down all eastbound I-20 lanes and all but one westbound lane Thursday night, and it brought brought I-20 traffic to a standstill back to Thornton Road, according to the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.  Polier is in the Fulton County Jail on a $35,000 bond, according to county jail records. He also has a hold placed on him by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • A 9-year-old boy driving an all-terrain vehicle crashed over the weekend, killing a 58-year-old passenger in Osceola County, the Florida Highway Patrol said. >> Read more trending news Troopers said the boy was trying to avoid another ATV Saturday on 8 Mile Ranch Road when the vehicle he was operating hit a brim and overturned onto Laura Bizzell, of Avon Park. The boy suffered minor injuries, but Bizzell died, according to the FHP. The other ATV driver, Samuel Christmas, 53, suffered minor injuries.  Authorities continue to investigate the incident.
  • The first time Tom Brady won a Super Bowl ring, Sean McVay was just 16 years old. Now the Los Angeles Rams head coach, who turns 33 on Thursday, will have chance to defeat Brady and the Patriots more than 17 years later in the place where he grew up. “It’s kind of ironic that the only Super Bowl that I’ve been to as a fan was the last time the Rams played the Titans,” McVay said. “I was at that game. My Grandpa, when he was still involved in the NFL, he got me tickets for my birthday.” Channel 2's Berndt Petersen traveled to Marist School in DeKalb County, where McVay led the War Eagles to a 6-AAAA state championship in 2003.  Hear from Marist coaches about what it means to have one of their own play for Super Bowl in their background, on Channel 2 Action News at 4 p.m.  Stay with Channel 2 Action News and WSBTV.com for complete Super Bowl LIII coverage leading up to the big game. Download our news app to get FREE alerts sent to phone and tablet and find complete coverage of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta here  
  • Police in Tallahassee, Florida, responded to a video of a toddler exiting a truck with her hands up over her head, mimicking her parents’ arrest, and walking toward officers who had their guns drawn, by releasing body camera footage taken from a different angle, WCTV reported. >> Read more trending news  The incident took place Thursday, and after the cellphone video taken by a passerby during a shoplifting arrest went viral, Tallahassee police Chief Michael DeLeo released several clips from officer body cameras, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. DeLeo said 10 different body camera angles were used in reviewing the incident. 'I believe that incidents like this justify our investment in body worn cameras and the importance of getting all the facts,' DeLeo said in a video released on the Police Department’s official Facebook page. The video released by the Tallahassee police shows the original video that went viral, followed by a statement from DeLeo about the incident. It ends with the body camera footage. On Thursday afternoon, Chad M. Bom, 34, and James W. McMullen, 38, were charged with theft from a Bealls Outlet store in Tallahassee, according to the news release posted on the Police Department’s Facebook page. Both men were charged with petit theft, the Democrat reported. The mother of the toddler was at the scene Police had responded to reports of a theft by an armed suspect at the Bealls shopping outlet around 4:30 p.m. and pulled over a truck. They were surprised when the toddler got out and began to mimic her parents, WCTV reported. 'It's OK, sweetie. You don't have to put your hands up,' one officer can be heard saying in the body camera footage. Footage also showed the police allowing the child’s mother to hold the baby while they found a pellet gun in the back seat of the vehicle near a 1-year-old boy who was still strapped into his car seat, WCTV reported. DeLeo said he was 'proud' of his officers' response, adding he felt they showed compassion for the family. “This video footage captures the compassion demonstrated by our TPD officers during an intense situation. I’m very proud of their actions and appreciative of the work these men and women do each day to keep our community safe,” Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said in a statement. 
  • Two people were injured Sunday night after a police car struck them as they lay in a Florida roadway, apparently to watch the lunar eclipse, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news The incident happened just before midnight Sunday near the Apoxee Trail, a 2.5-mile nature trail in West Palm Beach, according to WPBF and city officials. A police officer was patrolling the trail Sunday in a Ford Explorer when he struck a man and a woman, both 24, while traveling 5 mph, WPEC and WPBF reported. At the time, the area was extremely dark, according to officials. Police told WPBF that investigators believe the pair was lying in the road to photograph and watch the super blood wolf moon lunar eclipse. They were taken to a hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, according to the news station. The officer who struck the pair, who was not identified, was placed on paid administrative leave as police investigate the incident, WPEC reported. Authorities continue to investigate.
  • Speaking at a commemoration of what would have been her father’s 90th birthday, Rev. Dr. Bernice King criticized the Trump administration Monday for misquoting her father’s works “to suit our own purposes.” >> Read more trending news King’s remarks were aimed at Trump’s border wall push and comments by Vice President Mike Pence, who during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, said: “One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” “You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process to become a more perfect union,” Pence said on the show. “That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do. Come to the table in the spirit of good faith. We’ll secure our border, we’ll reopen the government and we’ll move our nation forward.” >> Reflecting on MLK: 'The baddest brother of the 20th century' On Monday, during remarks at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Bernice King said: “If we really want to make real the promises of democracy, now is the time on this King holiday to stop quoting King out of context and misquoting him to suit our own purposes.” The Ebenezer audience applauded warmly. Bernice King also called for action on problems facing the country, ranging from the partial government shutdown affecting federal workers’ livelihood to the resurgence of white supremacist ideologies and voter access problems. “We are in a state emergency because of our humanitarian crises, and it’s not at our southern border,” she said. “The concern for human welfare is being threatened.” “When prejudice and bigotry are emboldened…. when schools continue to be unsafe spaces because of impotent gun control laws…. this is a humanitarian crisis and we are in a state of emergency,” King said. >> Delta contributes grant funding to re-open MLK national park During remarks at the service, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., called for reflection on King’s words, saying: “He often reminded us that what united us is far greater than what divides us.” The service came on the holiday weekend when the Martin Luther Jr. National Historical Park reopened to visitors after a closure due to the partial federal shutdown. The reopening was funded with the help of a $83,500 grant from Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines. Reopened for Martin Luther King Jr. weekend through the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, are the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where King was co-pastor, the home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born, the park’s visitor center and historic Fire Station No. 6. “We ought to be concerned that the cradle of the civil rights movement is also the capital of income inequality in this country today,” said Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.