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NASCAR traditions crumble

By Herb Emory

The email proclaimed it's meaning right off the bat. "Dump the road course races!!!!!" The electronic opinion for a listener to our weekly racing program probably expresses the sentiments of many NASCAR fans living in the South after last week's announcement that the Southern 500 would be moved from Labor Day weekend to November next year.

The Darlington Labor Day date has been awarded to California Speedway for the 2004 season and the Winston Cup teams can now plan on two trips to the NASCAR-owned track each year.

There is no question at all about how older fans raised in our region feel about the change. The tradition of Darlington racing mixed with Labor Day vacations has been a part of history for many families and there probably won't be many of the Darlington regulars on the phone ordering up tickets to the California event.

We better get ready to see more traditions bite the dust. NASCAR is expected to trim more events away from the Southeast as it seeks more financially fertile ground in the Northern and Central sections of the country.

If I had a vote it would probably favor the listener's opinion. Leave Darlington alone and reduce the road course races to one each year. My personal opinion would be to run that yearly event at Road Atlanta, but we know that kite won't fly because the NASCAR brass have already hinted they think Atlanta has too many races.

Another tradition fell this week when it was announced Nextel becoming the new sponsor for NASCAR's top division. Calling an old dog by a new name will be difficult for me. I was just getting accustomed to calling it Winston Cup.

Awesome Bill Update: Bill Elliott made it out of Motor City in pretty good shape. Elliott started 16th and finished 24th at Michigan International Speedway. He spent most of the day in the top-15, but fell a lap behind when a caution flag flew just after he had made a green-flag pit stop.

Bill was able to advance two positions in the point standings. He is now ranked 20th and trails leader Matt Kenseth by 788.

Bill's Sonoma scorecard credits him with two top-five and four top-ten finishes in the 13 events he has run there. His best run there was the first event in 1989 where he finished third. He finished eighth in the 2002 Infineon run.

While you don't think of Elliott as a road racer, it's important to point out that his first Winston Cup win came at the old Riverside track in 1983. He also had four top-five finishes at Riverside in the races he ran there between 1982 and 1988.

Jawga Boys: Both of the Georgia racers in the Busch Series race at Kentucky came home with impressive reports. Joey Clanton, of Stockbridge, collected 16th-place pay in the event. He had started the race from the 37th spot on the grid.

Rockdale County's Ron Young finished 20th. Young had started the race from the back of the field. Young is ranked 34th in Busch Series points and Clanton advanced to 36th on the rating chart. The Busch drivers have this weekend off.

Atlantan Mike Garvey continues to be hot in the ASA Series. Garvey collected his third win of the season in a Saturday night special in Missouri. Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson had started on the pole for the 250-lap run. Sorenson led 63 laps and finished seventh. Garvey holds down third place in

Herb Emory, a traffic reporter and host of the Allan Vigil 120 racing show on WSB AM-750, is a guest columnist for The Daily.