'NASCAR in Primetime' Heads to Atlanta

ABC News' new series starts by tracking drivers at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

ByABC News
August 7, 2007, 11:34 AM

Aug. 7, 2007 — -- As the sun rises over Hampton, Ga., thousands of cars line up outside the gates of the Atlanta Motor Speedway. One by one, fans begin to fill the 124,000 seats in the grandstands.

NASCAR isn't just a race, it's a lifestyle. Each weekend, thousands of people travel hundreds of miles to eat, sleep and breathe NASCAR and watch their favorite drivers battle it out on the track.

Every speedway poses unique challenges and demands a different set of skills. Atlanta is known as one of the fastest and most dangerous tracks in the circuit. With steeply banked turns and extra long straightaways for drivers to build up speed, the Atlanta Kobalt Tools 500 is an unbridled beast of a race.

Hour one of ABC News' "NASCAR in Primetime" steers viewers through this unpredictable race, taking them deep inside the world of fast tracks and high stakes. Interwoven through the tense moments and twists and turns are the lives of three Nextel Cup drivers – Johnny Sauter, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Johnny Sauter is one of NASCAR's loose cannons. Plagued with his fair share of problems -- his car, his team and his attitude – he has a well-deserved reputation as a renegade and a tendency to get reckless on the track. Sauter said he likes being the underdog but viewers can see in his eyes that he hopes for bigger things.

With a family legacy of broken racing dreams, Sauter has a lot of NASCAR baggage weighing him down. He wants to redeem the Sauter name, but he's got a chip on his shoulder that threatens to get in the way of his dreams.

Sauter knows it will take time to launch himself into the stratosphere of the top drivers. But patience is not his greatest virtue – he's got a short fuse and only a season to prove himself. In Atlanta, he faces some unexpected hurdles that push him to the limit. Can Sauter get a grip on his temper and funnel his energy into becoming a first-class racer?

Juan Pablo Montoya walked away from a world championship career in Formula One racing to cut his teeth on stock car racing. In his rookie season with NASCAR, he's already stirred up his fair share of controversy. He'll do anything for a win, but NASCAR fans aren't sure if they like that –yet. Reluctant to embrace a newcomer from a different series and a different nation, some are skeptical that Montoya has what it takes to be a NASCAR legend.