Over the years, Atlanta Motor Speedway has produced some thrilling finishes. Three of the most memorable occurred in the early 2000s when Dale Earnhardt edged Bobby Labonte by a nose at the checkered flag in 2000, Kevin Harvick did the same to Jeff Gordon the next year, and Carl Edwards followed suit with Jimmie Johnson in 2005. Although races at AMS haven’t featured these kinds of nailbiters in more recent times, it’s possible we could see the return of them this weekend. Harvick, who has added two more wins at this fast, high-banked track since that unforgettable victory 20 years ago, reflects back on that first win each time he returns here. It was significant not only because it came in such dramatic fashion but also because it came in this third race after taking over the car that had previously been driven by Dale Earnhardt, who died in a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500 three weeks prior.
“There are a few things that I vividly remember about everything that happened on that particular day,” Harvick said of his Atlanta triumph. “The first thing I remember was there were five of us racing there at the end, and then it kind of dwindled down. I remember some random things. I think as I look back at that race, I kind of caught myself wandering with a couple laps to go, because it was hard not to notice the people hanging on the fence on the back straightaway. I mean, they were right next to the fence on the back straightaway. I remember how loud the crowd was after I did my burnout and driving around the racetrack backwards. The rest of it is a little bit confusing as to what you remember, what you don’t remember.”