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Three memorable moments at Atlanta

By Jessica Ruffin

CONCORD, N.C.—This weekend, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will head down south to Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track where the race's results may secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for one driver – and kick another out of the running. With its high stakes, promise of excitement and reputation for speed, Atlanta’s catchphrase – “Real Racing, Real Fast” – never rang so true.

Before the excitement kicks off this Labor Day weekend, let’s take a look back at three memorable Hendrick Motorsports moments at Atlanta.

March 18, 1991: After coming off a runner-up finish at Rockingham the weekend before, Ken Schrader was ready to take the checkered flag at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And 328 laps later, he did just that, giving Hendrick Motorsports its 29th Cup win. Schrader jumped to fourth in the point standings and went on to win another race later on that season.

Nov. 8, 1998: The 1998 Cup season was one for the record books for Jeff Gordon. The young driver had won 12 races, finished in the top five for 26 of 32 races and had been ranked highest in the point standings for 17 straight races.  Needless to say, the final 1998 Cup race at Atlanta was a huge moment for Gordon; a victory there would tie him with Richard Petty for the most wins in one season and crown him the 1998 Winston Cup champion. Gordon’s fans were not disappointed in the 26-year-old driver and his Rainbow Warriors. After starting 21st, Gordon paced the field for 113 laps before seizing the checkered flag – and his third Cup championship.

Oct. 28, 2007: Jimmie Johnson was having quite the year. The 31-year-old driver already had seven wins under his belt – including one the week prior – when he arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 500-mile race. With plenty of momentum and a championship in his sight, Johnson cruised his No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS to a first-place finish, sweeping the track that season. He went on to win the next two consecutive races before he was ultimately crowned the 2007 Sprint Cup champion at the season’s close.

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