A Monroe man has found the NASCAR race car that was stolen from a hotel parking lot near the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
While the discovery didn’t occur in nearly enough time for Team XTREME to compete in the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, 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 told The Associated Press. “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. on Saturday, nearly 24 hours after the race car was stolen, said Jeffery Richter, the public information officer. A motorist spotted the No. 44 machine along a darkened road.
Cohen was called to the scene, confirmed it was his $250,000 race car, and called a tow truck to take it back 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, not far from the hotel where the theft took place, said Morrow police Detective Sgt. Larry Oglesby, who led the investigation in the south Atlanta suburb.
Oglesby said the handle on the driver side door was busted, as well as the ignition switch. While no arrests had been made, Oglesby said his department had a “person of interest.” He also identified a vehicle used by the thieves, which was spotted on a surveillance video.
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.
“We’ve got two out of three,” Oglesby said.
The car was found about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the hotel south of Atlanta where it was stolen early Friday. Since the truck and trailer had no markings to indicate they were part of a race team, police speculated the thieves likely didn’t realize what they had stolen and might abandon the high-powered car.
The team didn’t bring a backup car to Atlanta, so it had to withdraw from Sunday’s NASCAR race after missing Friday qualifying.
Since the No. 44 car wasn’t damaged, Cohen said it should be able to run at Las Vegas with Travis Kvapil behind the wheel. The team also plans to send a backup car.