Walsh: NASCAR’s 2005 Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Is My Most Memorable Sporting Event
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Roush Racing Ford, performs a backflip as crew members look on after winning the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 on October 30, 2005 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It’s the 15th anniversary of one of the great NASCAR Cup Series finishes — one I had the privilege of witnessing in person.
Along with a group of friends, led by a college fraternity brother from Appalachian State University who grew up just outside Atlanta, I attended the 2005 Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
At this point of my life, I was already an avid NASCAR fan and excited to visit a new racetrack.
As many in their 20s do, we spent the entire weekend camping at the racetrack, attending both the XFINITY Series (then Busch Series) and Cup Series races.
In Saturday’s XFINITY race, Carl Edwards, then just a rookie for Roush Racing, won his first event of the series from the pole, beating Cup Series stars Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth.
Edwards went two-for-two on the weekend, scoring his first Cup Series just one day after nailing down his first XFINITY Series victory with one of the most spectacular last lap passes in NASCAR history:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 18, 2020
And Edwards didn’t pass any old car, that’s the now seven-time champion Johnson in the No. 48.
Obviously, this finish was certainly a memorable one, but it was the phone call I received after the race that makes this race one I’ll never forget.
My mom, who was traveling from North Carolina to New Jersey to visit an old family friend, was aboard a flight that was forced to return and land back at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after crew members smelled smoke shortly after takeoff.
Mom, 56-years old at the time, was forced to jump out of the airplane’s open door without the help of a slide, official, etc. and immediately broke her leg upon hitting the tarmac.
The injury required too many surgeries to count over many years, with amputation always a possible result.
Thanks to the talented doctors at Duke University Medical Center, my mom is still able to walk — albeit slowly — and play with her grandkids.
And because the exciting ending to this race is always resurfaced when NASCAR returns to Atlanta, this finish also serves as an annual reminder of the highs and lows of that weekend for my family as well.