Originally created 03/09/06

Atlanta unhappy with hall location



ATLANTA - While Charlotte celebrated, Atlanta fumed after NASCAR announced that Charlotte won the right to build the sport's hall of fame.

What had Atlanta organizers upset were comments by NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates, who said the downtown area near Centennial Park wasn't safe.

Although statistics show the downtown Charlotte area is no safer than downtown Atlanta, some still questioned NASCAR's decision.

Charlotte is home to about 90 percent of the sport's teams, but that wasn't a good reason to build the $154.5 million facility in North Carolina, Atlanta organizers said, especially when Charlotte only promised about 400,000 visitors.

Atlanta guaranteed one million. And given the success of the Georgia Aquarium, which has drawn one million visitors in its first three months, that number probably isn't a reach.

If Charlotte delivers everything it promises, there will be a rail system that connects the downtown hall of fame with Lowe's Motor Speedway and many of the race shops in the area.

"There is no doubt that Atlanta brought many attributes to the table that many other cities could not offer, and the hall of fame would have been an overwhelming success here," Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark said.

ROUSH IN DRAG: Jack Roush will return to his racing roots by fielding several cars in the Mustang Racer's Association Denso Ford Drag Racing Series.

Roush, who owns five teams in the Nextel Cup Series, started his racing career in 1966 in drag racing.

"I have never lost my love for the sport of drag racing," Roush said. "It is where I first began my career in motorsports and now drag racing has become a way for me to spend some fun time with my son, daughter and her husband."

WHERE'S THE BEEF? The 30,000 empty seats two weeks ago at California Speedway spawned new criticism over NASCAR dropping North Carolina Speedway from the schedule.

The racetrack at Rockingham used to boast the second race of the season, but California took its slot in the lineup.

The same fans who complained of empty seats at California, however, apparently forgot the 20,000 empty seats every year at Rockingham.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.