One of NASCAR's biggest mistakes was yanking the Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway.
A staple of the sport since the sport's beginning, NASCAR decided to take the Labor Day weekend race from the storied Darlington Raceway to the bright lights of the Los Angeles area and the California Speedway.
It was a move referred to as "modernizing tradition," a ridiculous way to explain why one of the most loved and important races on the schedule was being ripped away.
In short the experiment was a disaster.
Although there was an initial decent turnout attendance-wise, the crowds eventually began to fall off no doubt in response to the less than thrilling racing the two-mile Fontana track has built a reputation for providing.
Along came the 2009 schedule and the end-of-summer weekend date was no longer on the west coast. Labor Day weekend rightfully returns to the Southeast and although it wasn't back at Darlington, the decision to come to Atlanta Motor Speedway was probably the next best thing.
The move accomplished two things. One, it brought Labor Day back home to the fans of the south. And two it just may save Atlanta's place on the Sprint Cup schedule.
Attendance at the Georgia track has also been on the wane in recent years. Last October's race, which was part of the Chase, attracted a turnout of maybe 70,000 - half the capacity of AMS.
Atlanta has been the subject of rumors involving parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. for many years as a perfect spot to harvest one of the track's two NASCAR weekends for the greener pastures of a second Las Vegas date or possibly newly-acquired Kentucky Speedway.
Sunday night's Labor Day weekend crowd showed the fans in and around Atlanta, despite competition from college football, Braves baseball and the plethora of other entertainment opportunities a major market boasts every weekend, will support NASCAR racing.
Next year's schedule will again have two dates in Atlanta. Labor Day is a hit and will remain on the slate for the near future. The spring race, which usually battles cold and sometimes brutal weather, is still on the bubble.
But I'm glad to know my pre-Jerry Lewis telethon viewing will include NASCAR racing in the ATL for what I hope is many years to come.
o Take a little bit of Darlington and toss in a touch of Rockingham and there you had Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Wide open racing, tire wear and a flavor that something special was happening all made the return to the Southeast on Labor Day weekend a big hit. Here's hoping there are no plans to put a new surface down on the AMS oval because a rough surface proved to add a little spice to the proceedings.
o Seeing Richard Petty in victory lane when Kasey Kahne won back in June at Sonoma was a great sight to be sure. But to see "The King" winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway might have been even more special. It was the first time Petty had taken a checkered flag at Atlanta as a car owner in 32 years and RPM has really been an interesting little surprise story in 2009 to be sure.
o Kevin Harvick looked like he was well on his way out of Richard Childress Racing about two months ago. RC solidified things this week when he announced there would be no changes to the driver of the 29 car in 2010 and Harvick responded with his best performance on the year. Harvick came an eyelash away from winning for the first time since his Daytona 500 victory in 2007 and Sunday should be a big shot in the arm to the entire RCR squad.
o Brian Vickers is only 20 points out of a Chase spot and his team changing an axle on pit road without losing a lap could very well turn out to be one of the biggest moves of this season if he indeed does make the post-season. The Team Red Bull racing group deserves tremendous credit for pulling off something I don't remember seeing before.
o Kyle Busch was one of the many drivers Sunday night who looked good one minute and terrible the next, fighting an ill-handing car. Busch dropped back a spot and lost ground in his battle to make the Chase and he'll need a lot of things to go right next Saturday night in Richmond to find his way into the post-season.
o Juan Pablo Montoya may just be the biggest surprise once the Chase starts. JPM has been calculating what he's needed to do in order to secure Chase spot for the last two months. His run Sunday night showed what the 42 car is capable of doing and when all goes on the line at the drop of the Chase green flag in two weeks, Montoya will certainly be a factor in this year's title story.