Pep Boys Auto 500

Pep Boys Auto 500

The Pep Boys Auto 500 is a NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car race held at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia.

Overview

From 1987 until 2001, the race was scheduled as the final race of the NASCAR season, and typically the event in which the champion was decided. Several times, however, the championship was decided prior to this race, or was decided when the points leader simply started the race, clinching enough points simply by finishing last or better.

The 1992 event marked the final race for Richard Petty, and coincidentally, the debut for Jeff Gordon. With six drivers eligible for the Winston Cup Championship, the race is widely regarded as one of the greatest NASCAR races of all time. Alan Kulwicki, who finished second in the race, edged out Bill Elliott, the race winner, by leading one more lap in the race. Kulwicki won the NASCAR Winston Cup title by a then-record margin of only 10 points.

In 2001, the race was scheduled as the season finale, however, it ended up being the second-to-last race. The New Hampshire 300 was postponed from September 16 to the Friday after Thanksgiving, due to 9/11. For 2002, the race was moved to late October in 2002, with the 2003 race being the first with night qualifying, a procedure now standard for both of the circuit's races.

The 1998 race was run mostly at night after a long rain delay; despite the inexperience with the lights, newly installed for an Indy Racing League race, NASCAR and the teams agreed to attempt finishing the race at night. It was shortend to 221 laps because it was after 11:00 PM and NASCAR wanted to "get the fans out at a decent hour". The 1999 Cracker Barrel 500 also ended at night.

In 2006, the race start time was changed from 12:40 PM to 2:55 PM in order to finish the race at night. Driver complaints erupted because of the track's troublesome situation where the sun can get into the driver's eyes in Turn 1, including leading to a crash during the time the sun sets in that area of the track between Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray, led to the abandonment of the 3 PM start after this race.

Beginning in 2009 the Pep Boys Auto 500 will be run Labor Day weekend as part of a realignment agreement with Auto Club Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, where Talladega's fall race will move to the Atlanta race weekend and Fontana will get a race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Past winners

Pep Boys Auto 500

Bass Pro Shop MBNA 500

NAPA 500

  • 2002 Kurt Busch (251 laps because of rain)
    • Moved from November to October, such that the race will no longer be the final race of the NASCAR season.
  • 2001 Bobby Labonte
    • Was scheduled to be the final race of the 2001 season, but Loudon was moved to the weekend after due to 9/11. That instead made this the second-to-last race of the season.
  • 2000 Jerry Nadeau
    • Moved from Sunday to Monday due to rain. Final career start for Darrell Waltrip. It would be the final time the event would be the last race of the NASCAR season.
  • 1999 Bobby Labonte
  • 1998 Jeff Gordon (221 laps because of rain; first night Cup race)
  • 1997 Bobby Labonte (325 laps with new configuration)
  • 1996 Bobby Labonte
    • Labonte's older brother Terry clinched the 1996 Winston Cup Championship driving for Hendrick Motorsports. The two made a victory lap together and celebrated together in victory lane.
  • 1995 Dale Earnhardt

Hooters 500

Hardee's 500

Atlanta Journal 500

Dixie 500

Dixie 400

Dixie 300

Possible realignment

This race, Atlanta's second of the season, has been rumored to be either eliminated or moved several times in recent years. Most recently, track owner Bruton Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., has been talking with International Speedway Corporation about a possible date switch with one of its tracks. On February 29, 2008, Smith proposed a move that would involve the fall Atlanta race and the now-Pepsi 500, the Labor Day weekend race held at Auto Club Speedway. Doing so would give the Fontana, California track a race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup as well as return the Labor Day weekend race to the southern U.S. for the first time since the second-to-last Southern 500 was run. It would also make the three races that precede the beginning of the Chase closer to each other geographically- as it stands now, the teams race in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol the week before Labor Day, travel cross country for the Pepsi 500, then come back across the country to run the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond the following Saturday.

References

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