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Posted: September 8, 2009 2:29 p.m.

Successful night bodes well for AMS

Amanda Briggs/

Dual to the end: Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne proved night racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway can be very competitive.

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a success. The stands were full and the racing was better than it has been in quite some time.

Kevin Harvick has suffered through a miserable couple of years. But after making nice with team owner Richard Childress, the No. 29 team miraculously ran well. It’s funny how that works. Had the caution not come out with 14 laps remaining, he’d won the race hands down. Nevertheless it was fun watching Kasey Kahne jump out to such a huge lead only to watch Harvick reel him back in.

Atlanta proved that the sun doesn’t always dictate grip. When the night fell, people wondered if the track would respond like virtually every other track does at night. It didn’t. Grip was still scarce and the guys who found it — like Harvick and Kahne, were by far faster than the rest. It’s good to see some things never change.

Harvick and Kahne weren’t the only stories of the race. Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards both suffered mechanical problem. Edwards was a matter of circumstance but Johnson struggled all night. It was a far cry from last fall when those two battled each other for the win and the points lead.

The stands were full and the infield bustled with activity. It seemed like the fans were more into this race than in the past. We’ve seen similar spikes in interest at tracks like Auto Club Speedway in the past. But sustaining that momentum will be a challenge no doubt.

This race wasn’t in the Chase and frankly it didn’t matter. It’s not like the race is worth more or less points that way. So much has been made of the Labor Day tradition once enjoyed at Darlington Raceway and how its absence has left a void in NASCAR. If AMS is to maintain two race dates, the Labor Day event may be the answer. This weekend’s race affirmed the racing and why drivers enjoy AMS so much. It might have also bought the track some more time and even given it a new lease on life.

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