Spectator Vs. Spotter: Atlanta Edition

Rebecca SpenceCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2009

ATLANTA - MARCH 08:  A general view of cars on track during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 8, 2009 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Not only do drivers love high speeds, spectators love high speeds and Atlanta Motor Speedway provides just that with its multi-grooved track that allows for side-by-side racing and fantastic finishes. It may be labeled as an intermediate track but it races like a superspeedway.

As the second to last race before the Chase, excitement for spectators and teams alike will be running wide open (much like the cars on the track this weekend). But, going full throttle seems to be a standing tradition for Atlanta.

Known as the fastest track on the circuit—yes, beating Daytona and Talladega—“Hot-lanta” provides fans with racing that will never be seen as follow the leader. Cars can go high while racing someone in the middle lane or someone who’s all the way at the bottom of the track.

This year the excitement will come from seeing the best drivers throw their cars around the track under the lights for the first time ever. And after a breathtaking 500 miles of racing, they’ll be holding their breath when it comes down to the finish. Atlanta is infamous for providing a photo finish or a chase to the checkered between two of the best in the business.

Carl Edwards beat Jimmie Johnson by half a car length in 2005 for his first career win. Kevin Harvick beat Jeff Gordon by a hair in 2001 for his first win and Dale Earnhardt beat Bobby Labonte by a nose in 2000. Atlanta has it all: speed, action, and fantastic finishes!

To give us a unique look at the track we turn high above the fans to the spotter’s stand, to Chris Lambert, spotter for the No. 83 team of Brian Vickers and Red Bull Racing.

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Lambert, as well as many other spotters, loves the excitement Atlanta has to offer.

“Atlanta is one of the coolest places we go. The track is so fast but it also has many different grooves that allow you to move around a lot. Typically you can find a line that will work for you no matter what your car is doing. As a spotter, the different lines are great, especially if you're one of the lucky ones who your driver likes to run the top. It's so much easier on you to clear him while working the top verses the bottom. Trying to clear him from the bottom, while passing a guy running the top, is a very touchy deal.”

When it comes to side-by-side racing, a spotter needs to let his driver know where the fast lane is.

“You pretty much try to judge your driver’s momentum versus the other. You'll clear him but then the guy on the top will get such a big run and will be back outside your guy in a split second. It's always back and forth,” Lambert said.

“The speed and the raciness of the track are what I like best about Atlanta. It's one of the fastest tracks we go to, but also the pace falls off just enough that it allows the drivers to really race each other. You can run side by side all the way around and usually can do it lap after lap. Also it's been one of BV's (Brian Vickers) best tracks since I started with him in 2007. He's averaged like a ninth-place finish there the last four races,” he added.

But it’s the weather, not the racing that is cause for Lambert’s complaints in Atlanta.

“The cold weather is what I'd say I least like about the track. It's normally very windy and cold there for both races, and has even snowed on several occasions.”

When asked what challenges face him and the Red Bull team this weekend, Lambert was very forthcoming.

“The biggest challenge I see facing us this race will be it's going to be a night race, and that will be a different element to get a hold of. The races there are always day races, but now you've got to figure out what setup will work best,” Lambert said.

He continued saying, “It's also moved to Labor Day weekend instead of the October weekend so it'll be a little warmer also. The track will have more grip at night than it usually does during the day, but also being warmer it may still get slick and the cars will probably be sliding around too. As for me spotting, the night race will make it different. You have to get used to the shadows that the lights create. It all looks so much different than it does during the daylight.”

Coming off Vickers' win at Michigan, this team looks to back up that and perform here as it did in March, a fifth place finish, making Atlanta hold high hopes for this team. Keep one eye on the scoring pylon and the other on the No. 83 this weekend.

Featured Spotter Bio

Name: Chris Lambert 

Hometown:  Kannapolis, NC

Team Spotter Since: August '07 

Favorite Sport (other than racing):  Duke Basketball

Favorite Food: Mexican

Favorite Music/Song:  80's Rock

Favorite Movie:  Top Gun

Favorite off Track Activity:  Hanging out with my family. (Wife Angela and sons Hunter & Cameron)

Follow Him on Twitter: @3widemiddle

Be sure to check back in next week as the Race to the Chase finale roars into Richmond. SVS guest spotter T.J. Majors of the No. 88 of Dale Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports weighs in with his views of the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.

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