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Doug Turnbull's Race Blog

    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

  • A Houston-area father is charged with child abandonment after police said he left his children alone in a car for more than an hour as he shopped. Police said Adrian Dreshuan Middleton was in the store for an hour and a half before he came out to the car. His daughter was crying in the back seat. She told police that she and her brother were playing, but she was angry that he didn’t stop crying so she wrapped the seatbelt around the baby, The Associated Press reported. She thought he had fallen asleep. But the baby was strangled by the belt, police said. Middleton said he saw his son unconscious with the belt wrapped around him. He called 911 and performed CPR on his son until first responders arrived, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  The baby was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.  Middleton first told police that the children were in their car seats but then said in a different statement to law enforcement that there were no car seats in the car when the incident took place, KHOU reported. Police charged Middleton Friday in the case that happened in May.  According to police records, Middleton told police he left his 6-year-old daughter and 1-year -old son in the car, parked outside a thrift store. He said he left the air conditioner running, a movie playing and gave them water and a snack when he went in to shop for clothes, The AP reported. Middleton turned himself in to police on Monday, KHOU reported.
  • A Tennessee woman was attacked by her husband because she “took too long” getting ready for church, according to a police affidavit. Kevin Pugues, 25, is accused of hitting and strangling his wife at their home on Durango Road in Memphis on Saturday afternoon, the affidavit said. The victim reportedly told police that the pair got into a verbal argument around 2 p.m. Saturday because she was taking “too long dressing herself for church.” >> Read more trending news  Police said the victim blocked her husband’s path to speak with him as he was gathering his items to leave the home. At that point, Pugues shoved her onto the couch and started slapping her on the face, the affidavit said. As she tried to call police, she said Pugues grabbed her neck with both hands and strangled her.  Pugues admitted to police that he struck his wife on the face and strangled her, the affidavit said. He is being charged with aggravated assault.
  • Handcuffs couldn’t stop Jesse Thedford. From the back of a patrol car, the 32-year-old was able to slide behind the wheel of a Carroll County deputy’s car, according to police.  Ignoring commands to stop, Thedford instead drove toward deputies — the same ones who had arrested him after finding methamphetamine in his pocket. One deputy fired a shot, striking and killing Thedford in one of Georgia’s 79 officer-involved shootings through Nov. 15 this year.  The number of shootings involving Georgia law enforcement officers this year will likely pass the number in 2017, and it has also been a deadlier year, according to the GBI. Law officials say drug use is one reason for the increase. One drug in particular has been a factor in nearly 20 percent of the fatal shootings involving officers since 2012: methamphetamine.  “I believe that many of the bizarre and very violent crimes that occur, the perpetrator is a meth user, and that’s from my experience,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It is a very destructive drug, and it causes violent behavior.”  Previously, investigators only had anecdotal evidence of the amount of meth on the streets and the violence it causes, Keenan said. But the GBI recently analyzed its records to get a more factual estimate of the problem. The agency’s autopsy reports, including toxicology results, for people killed by cops, show that meth is involved in about 1 in 5 officer-involved shootings.  The majority of those killed by Georgia police officers from 2012 until mid-November had drugs in their system, including cocaine, meth and marijuana, according to the GBI. Over that period, 188 people were killed by law enforcement and toxicology tests were performed in 173 of those cases. The tests found 124 were positive for a variety of drugs, and 35 — about 19 percent — were positive for meth. Results are still pending on 5 additional cases, including Thedford’s.  Marijuana was the most common drug used by those in deadly altercations with police, followed by methamphetamine, GBI data showed.  And though illegal drugs are just one factor in officer-involved shootings, the data can be used by law enforcement agencies that train officers to de-escalate situations before the use of force is necessary.  “They could be high on methamphetamine,” Keenan said. “And that alone is not going to justify the officer using force, but it is a factor to be considered.”  Meth in Metro Atlanta  The GBI crime lab, which handles drug testing for most of the state’s police departments, sees more than twice as much meth as other drugs. In 2016 and 2017, meth was the leading cause of drug deaths, passing cocaine from previous years, the GBI said.  In Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods, meth isn’t the typical drug of choice, according to police. But travel a few miles into metro suburbs, and it can be found everywhere.  Methamphetamine isn’t new: it has been around nearly 100 years since it was first developed in Japan. During World War II, it was used to keep troops awake and ready for battle, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Experts now believe it is more common than ever.  Sgt. Josh Liedke, who runs the Marietta police department’s Crime Interdiction Unit, said heroin previously was among the top illegal drugs seized during investigations, but that has changed.  “We’re seeing less seizures of heroin and we’re seeing more seizures of meth,” he said. “We seem to see heroin trickling off a tad. But as soon as we attack one, the other starts creeping up.”  In 2016, the Gwinnett County police department’s special investigations unit seized approximately 262 pounds of meth, worth an estimated $14 million, and arrested 78 people, according to Lt. Eric Wilkerson. The following year, the unit recovered 344 pounds of meth, leading to 68 arrests, he said. The numbers for 2018 are expected to be similar.  It’s not just suburban areas where meth is widespread. It’s also a problem in rural areas, according to law enforcement agencies.  RELATED: Meth is back and killing more people than ever “Meth is the predominant drug right now in north Georgia,” Phil Price, commander of the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, said. “It’s readily available and it’s commonly used by those in the drug community.”  The active ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine, found in many over-the-counter cold medications. When combined and heated with other easy-to-find chemicals — which weren’t intended for human consumption — it doesn’t take a scientist to make meth, according to experts.  But chemicals used to make meth are volatile and toxic, leading to explosions for those without chemistry knowledge, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, the fumes are dangerous for others in the area. Meth can be found in a variety of forms, which can be ingested by swallowing, snorting, smoking, or injecting it.  “There’s so many different ways to make meth, you just don’t know what you’re getting,” Liedke says.  In recent years, meth labs operating in homes and even rolling meth labs in cars frequently made headlines in metro Atlanta.  But more recently, there isn’t a need for users to make their own meth, Keenan said. It’s now being manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S., and investigators believe that drug cartels are supplying Georgia with meth that’s purer than what is made here — and it’s cheaper.  “It’s like liquor. It’s cheaper to buy it from a Mexican source,” Price said. “At the end of the day, you really don’t have people going out and getting the ingredients to make meth.”    Can officers train for meth?  Keenan, the GBI’s director, said many bizarre and violent crimes that occur involve a meth user. But tracking data, including officer-involved shooting deaths, can help law enforcement agencies better prepare to avoid future violence.  “I think the officer is better prepared to respond when they have an understanding of what they’re up against,” Keenan said.  Like others in the metro area, Marietta officers attend a week of crisis intervention training as part of their ongoing education. The crisis training focuses on both mental health and drugs, including how to identify warning signs that someone is under the influence of drugs. Officers learn de-escalation techniques to calm people: ways to hopefully stop a situation without violence. Whether someone is having a mental health breakdown or has been using alcohol or drugs, the tactics are similar, officers said.  “It may be a different substance, but the way you deal with it is the same across the board,” Price said.  But the effects of a meth on a person’s demeanor is completely unpredictable and creates a particular challenge for officers. Violence and paranoia are common among users.  “These people are physically aggressive and paranoid, and they’ll perceive things that aren’t reality,” Price said.  Meth users also may be desensitized to pain, Price said, so using a Taser may not affect them. If other tactics don’t work, officers may have to use their weapons.  Despite the emphasis of the Trump administration on the opioid crisis, Keenan calls meth an “international assault on the U.S.” And he sees no signs that meth use is slowing down.  “We traded one evil for another,” he said. “Fire and explosions and toxic chemicals for ultra-pure methamphetamine.”  Investigators may not be able to keep the dangerous drug out of their communities. But local, state and federal law enforcement officers aren’t giving up. Every drug bust gets the dangerous drug out of more people’s hands.  In August, after a nearly year-long investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — along with metro Atlanta agencies and the Georgia State Patrol — busted up a major drug ring. More than $5 million worth of cocaine, and 250 pounds of methamphetamine along with $850,000 in cash was recovered and 15 people were arrested.  DEA Atlanta agent Robert J. Murphy said the drug bust involved one of several Mexican cartels operating in Atlanta.  “Another successful law enforcement success targeting the Mexican organizations targeting this poison in our community,” Murphy said. MORE ON METH  • Methamphetamine is usually a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks  • Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy  • People can take methamphetamine by smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting it  • Short-term health effects include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure and body temperature  • Long-term health effects include risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis; severe dental problems; intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching; violent behavior; and paranoia.  • Methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop using it, withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, psychosis, and intense drug cravings.  • The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies. There are currently no government-approved medications to treat meth addiction.  Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • It's that time again. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host the annual presidential turkey pardoning ceremony Tuesday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, where one lucky bird will be named the National Thanksgiving Turkey.  >> Which restaurants are open on Thanksgiving? Here’s a list The pardoning, set for 1:05 p.m. EST, has been an annual tradition since 1989, but Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented to presidents for seven decades, The Associated Press reported. >> Read more trending news  This year, Peas and Carrots, two turkeys from South Dakota, are vying for the honor. Peas, a 39-pounder with a 36-inch wing span, loves Brad Paisley and popcorn, while the 41-pound Carrots enjoys yoga and boasts a 'strong and confident' gobble, the White House joked on its website. >> See their stats here In true reality show fashion, you can vote for your favorite gobbler on the White House website or on Twitter. >> See the poll here After the ceremony, Peas and Carrots will live at Gobbler's Rest at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Read more here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A DeKalb County woman said her mega bank made a mega mistake and now nearly $9,000 of her money is missing. Roslyn Baitney said her money went through the tube at Wells Fargo and then disappeared. She blames the bank for what happened next. Baitney said 10 days ago she put $8,754 into the drive-thru tube to deposit with a teller at the bank on Flat Shoals Parkway.  Baitney said the teller told her that the deposit was too large and that she would need to go inside. Baitney said the teller never told her that she was going to send the tube back. >> Read more trending news  The incident report which said the teller alerted Baitney she was sending her money back through the tube. There was no money when she got inside. “I tapped on the window and said, ‘Hey, where's my money?’” Baitney said. A car had been in line behind her at the drive-thru.  “And then the teller said, ‘I wondered why the car behind you never did a transaction. They just pulled off.’ ‘Yeah, because you gave them my money,’” Baitney said. The police report also indicates security video was recorded off site, the bank won't talk about the video. The money is not the only worry for Baitney. “But I'm an open book because my identity is out there. My drivers license, my bank card, my bank info. It was all inside of that tube,” Baitney said. Baitney fears a thief now knows where she lives. She's been staying with her fiancé. “I don't like throwing people under the bus but there was a mistake made and the bank made the mistake,” Baitney said. A Wells Fargo spokesman emailed: We are aware of the issue at the Chapel Square branch and are working to resolve it.” The spokesman refused further comment due to an on-going criminal investigation “That's my house note, my car note, my car insurance. What are you all going to do?” Baitney said. A Wells Fargo official in Birmingham has called Baitney to say she'd have her money in full by midday Tuesday.
  • A kindergarten student was burned so badly by food at a Tennessee school that she had to be treated at a local hospital, according to a lawsuit filed in Shelby County. >> Watch the news report here The lawsuit, which is filed on behalf of the girl by her mother, names Shelby County Schools as the defendant. The alleged incident happened on Oct. 23 at Double Tree Elementary School in Memphis. The child was getting lunch – mashed potatoes – at the on-site cafeteria. >> Read more trending news  After getting her food, she was walking toward a table when she slipped on a wet spot on the cafeteria floor. The hot food landed on her arm and “resulted in severe burns … that required medical treatment,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the kindergartner did not know the mashed potatoes were that hot – and she did not see the wet spot on the floor. It claims Shelby County Schools is liable for the incident and that every aspect could have been prevented. The family is seeking compensation for damages that include: Physical pain and suffering Emotional pain and suffering Medical bills and expenses Permanent disfigurement Loss of enjoyment of life Post-judgement interest Statutory and discretionary costs And all such further relief to which she may be entitled WHBQ reached out to SCS regarding the lawsuit, and officials said they cannot comment on 'pending lawsuits.' WHBQ’s Greg Coy spoke with the family’s attorney. 'A child should not suffer second-degree burns at a school,' said attorney Thomas Greer of Bailey and Greer Law Firm. 'I don't think anybody would expect a burn like to happen. It’s just something that should not happen. 'Our kids should not be burned with the food that has been served.' Greer told WHBQ that the girl has returned to school, but she brings her lunch now and avoids the cafeteria line.