Team XTREME Racing has been reunited with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car that was stolen on Thursday night.
The team announced the news on Twitter with a picture of team owner John Cohen standing in front of the recovered #44 and a message saying "so happy to have 'old faithful' back. Favorite race car."
In fact it's the team's only current working Cup race car. With no backup available, driver Travis Kvapil had been forced to withdraw from this weekend's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway after the #44 entry was stolen from the parking lot of the Drury Inn in Morrow, Georgia.
Hotel surveillance footage had showed the trailer containing the car, a backup Chevrolet engine and some $17,500 of related equipment being removed form the parking lot at around 5.30am by thieves driving a silver or gray Jeep Cherokee.
The local authorities said at the time that it was likely that the criminals did not know what they had actually stolen, and expressed hope that once the thieves opened the trailer and realised that it contained a highly distinctive Cup car that they would abandon it as quickly as possible, which appears to be what happened.
The car was discovered by the roadside in nearby Gwinnett County in the early hours of Saturday morning. Local residents called the police who in turn alerted the team. Morrow police Detective Sgt. Larry Oglesby who had been in charge of the investigation subsequently confirmed to The Associated Press
the reports that the car had been recovered.
In photos of the car posted on twitter, the #44 - valued in police reports at $250,000 - appears undamaged, and a team official later reported that the car was "on its way back to NC without a scratch on it!" However there didn't appear to be any sign of the stolen trailer, backup engine or other equipment in the pictures.
The team had been on their way to Atlanta for this weekend's race when the car was stolen from the hotel where the team stayed overnight. The main transporter and hauler was already at AMS having left a day earlier to avoid incoming wintery weather, but the car hadn't been ready to leave at the same time and had to follow on 24 hours later in an unmarked white Sunbeam trailer.
It was unlikely that those who stole the trailer had any idea what it contained. The news of the theft soon made US national and international headlines, making the #44 far too hot to handle.
Unfortunately the recovery comes too late for the Kvapil to participate in this weekend's Sprint Cup race, the second of the season following last weekend's Daytona 500. The grid was set by qualifying on Friday night, with four cars missing out on the race after problems with the technical inspection process left too little time for them to complete a timed lap.
Full qualifying report
Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday afternoon. Before then, Atlanta will host a doubleheader on Saturday with action from both the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series championships.
Police have also now recovered the pickup truck that towed the trailer containing Team Xtreme's stolen race car. According to NBCSports
the truck was found on a main road in Stockbridge, Ga. just a few miles southeast of where the car was originally stolen. The doors were locked but the driver's window was broken as was the ignition. Police were alerted to the truck by a passer-by who recognised it from news reports.
The white Sunbeam trailer that originally contained the Cup car is still missing, but police said that they now have a person of interest that they are attempting to track down to talk to. "I think I know who I'm looking for," said lead detective Larry Oglesby.