By Anthony Rhoads
It was not the kind of homecoming Joey Clanton wanted at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
Clanton, a Jonesboro native and current Tyrone resident, wrecked at lap 87, finishing 31st to end his day in the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200.
"We had high hopes and pressure just to make the race," he said. "We really wanted to run good in front of our hometown crowd."
Clanton started the race in 32nd place and ran most of the 87 laps in the mid-20s.
"We were having an okay day," he said. "We were going to have a good day. We were running with some of the top guys."
At lap 22, Clanton nearly was involved in an accident when he bumped into Bobby Hamilton but both drivers were able to maintain control of their trucks.
At lap 45, Tina Gordon, Rick Crawford and Hank Parker Jr. crashed to put the race into a caution. The race was red-flagged at lap 48 and Clanton moved up to 19th. After the restart at lap 54, he fell back to 23rd. He was running in 24th place when debris had gotten onto the track and he hit it and slammed into the wall at turn 2.
"We ran over something and the tire blew," Clanton said. "NASCAR knew there was some debris on the track. They have to look at it hard and closely. Some guys might say there's debris just to get a caution out but there really was debris out there. We had a flat tire and it took a whole truck out."
Clanton appeared to be uninjured after the wreck but was then taken to the infield care center and from there, was taken to Atlanta Medical Center for precautionary tests. He was later released and it was determined that he suffered a mild concussion.
It was Clanton's second race in the Craftsman Truck Series as he made his debut last month at Daytona. He was involved in a multi-car wreck there and placed 32nd.
"Anytime you run laps you learn things," Clanton said. "Our guys are new to the sport and they're learning the ropes. We only have one other guy who has experience in the Busch Series. We're learning and we've got to be better prepared as a team."
Clanton is in his first year competing in the series, driving the No. 40 Chevrolet for the Virginia-based Key Motorsports team. Last year, he raced in 18 Busch events with one top-five for Brewco Motorsports.
Clanton was the 2002 American Speed Association points champion in 2002 and was the ASA Rookie of the Year in 2001.
Getting help from a Nextel Cup team: The Abingdon, Va.-based Morgan-McClure Nextel Cup team helped out Clanton in the pits during Saturday's race.
"We had Morgan-McClure pitting us," Clanton said. "Those guys did a great job."
Looking for a sponsor: Key Motorsports is looking for a main sponsor for Clanton. Currently, the team has some minor sponsors but the team is running without a main sponsor.
"We definitely need a sponsor," Clanton said. "We've got to have the dollars or we won't be able to run races this summer. We've got the possibility of being a good team. We're not out there just to be out there. We're here to accomplish something."
How the other Georgia guys fared Saturday: Tucker's Shane Sieg (No. 07 Auto Air Color Chevrolet) placed 13th and Mableton's Bill Lester (No. 22 LidRock Toyota) placed 15th.