The No. 44 race car returned to its NASCAR shop in North Carolina on Saturday after it was recovered along a remote road in suburban Atlanta, apparently abandoned by the thieves who stole it from a hotel parking lot.
While the discovery didn't occur in time for Team XTREME to compete in this weekend's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was a huge boost for the small-budget operation in its bid to make the next event at Las Vegas.
"There was no damage whatsoever," team owner John Cohen said. "Nothing was taken off the car. Even the antennas that went to the radio were still in the seats."
Police in Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta received a suspicious vehicle call at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday, nearly 24 hours after the race car was stolen, public information officer Jeffery Richter said. A motorist spotted the No. 44 machine along a dark road and realized it must be the stolen race car.
Cohen was called to the scene, confirmed it was his $250,000 race car and called a tow truck to take it to their shop in suburban Charlotte.
"It was backwoods," Cohen said. "There were no lights around. (The thieves) made sure no one could see them while they were getting rid of the car."
While the truck and trailer that were hauling the race car weren't found at the scene, the truck was spotted a few hours later in Stockbridge, Ga., not far from the hotel where the theft took place, said Morrow police Detective Sgt. Larry Oglesby.
There was still no sign of the trailer and its other contents, which included a spare engine valued at $100,000 and racing equipment valued at $17,500.
XFINITY: Kevin Harvick turned in another dominating performance Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, holding off Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano in the Xfinity Series race.
Harvick has won the Atlanta race in the second-tier series three years in a row and four times overall.
Harvick won a race off pit road under yellow with 27 laps to go, which proved crucial. On the restart, Harvick had the inside position, and Logano's bid to pass from the outside was thwarted when Chase Elliott gave Harvick a nudge.
SAFETY: Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith told The Charlotte Observer that he expects more safety enhancements will be made to SMI's tracks, including the possibility of changes to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of next weekend's Sprint Cup and Xfinity series races.
Before Kyle Busch's wreck at Daytona last weekend, SMI had already planned additions to energy-absorbing SAFER barriers at three of its tracks — Charlotte, New Hampshire and Kentucky.