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February 23, 2024

NASCAR Classics: Races to watch before the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta

atlanta motor speedway entrance

Throughout the 2024 NASCAR season, Ken Martin, director of historical content for the sanctioning body, will offer his suggestions on which historical races fans should watch from the NASCAR Classics library in preparation for each upcoming race weekend.

Martin has worked for NASCAR exclusively since 2008 but has been involved with the sport since 1982, overseeing various projects. He worked in the broadcast booth for hundreds of races, assisting the broadcast team with different tasks. This includes calculating the “points as they run” for the historic 1992 finale – the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The following suggestions are Ken’s picks to watch before the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

1964 Atlanta 500

The 13th stop on the 1964 NASCAR Cup Series schedule saw 39 drivers battle the attrition during a tough day in Hampton, Georgia.

Only 10 drivers were running at the finish of the 334-lap event, with 10th-place finisher Ken Spikes coming home 65 laps behind race-winner Fred Lorenzen. It was the series debut for the 29-year-old Spikes, who hailed from Cordele, Georgia.

It was the fourth time that Lorenzen had visited Victory Lane at Atlanta over his previous seven starts at the track. He led a race-high 206 laps, holding off the likes of Bobby Isaac, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker and a handful of other legendary drivers who finished inside the top 10.

Many other drivers weren’t as lucky, as Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Dan Gurney, and Parnelli Jones were just some of the 29 drivers who saw their days end early.

cale yarborough races at atlanta
Getty Images

1981 Coca-Cola 500

Cale Yarborough joined Richard Petty and David Pearson as the only drivers with at least 70 NASCAR Cup Series victories after his victory in Atlanta.

Yarborough exchanged the lead multiple times with rising star Harry Gant, before holding onto the lead for the final 47 laps en route to Victory Lane.

Gant, who started the race on the outside of the front row, was driving the No. 47 Race Hill Farm car for Jack Beebe. His strong run at Atlanta, one in which he led a race-high 94 laps, caught the attention of Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds. This was the final start for Gant in the No. 47 car for Beebe, with the North Carolina native making two one-off appearances the following two weeks at Bristol and North Wilkesboro before joining forces with Needham and Reynolds.

Reigning Cup Series Champion Dale Earnhardt finished third, while Bobby Allison and Benny Parsons rounded out the top five.

A.J. Foyt, driving his first race outside of Daytona since 1978, came home seventh. It was also his first appearance at Atlanta since he finished 34th in 1977.

You can watch these three races and hundreds more by visiting NASCAR Classics.