Atlanta Motor Speedway
|Location||Henry County, Georgia,
at 1500 Tara Place
Hampton, GA, 30228
|Owner||Speedway Motorsports, Inc.|
|Operator||Speedway Motorsports, Inc.|
|Opened||July 31, 1960|
|Construction cost||$1.8 million|
|Architect||Dr. Warren Gremmel, Bill Boyd, Jack Black, Garland Bagley|
|Former names||Atlanta International Raceway (1960–1990)|
|Major events||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Oral-B USA 500
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Great Clips / Grit Chips 300
|Length||1.54 mi (2.48 km)|
|Lap record||224.163 mph (Billy Boat, Conseco AJ Foyt Racing, 1998, IRL IndyCar Series)|
Atlanta Motor Speedway (formerly Atlanta International Raceway) is a track in Hampton, Georgia, twenty miles (32 km) south of Atlanta. It is a 1.54-mile (2.48 km) quad-oval track with a seating capacity of 111,000. It opened in 1960 as a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) standard oval. In 1994, 46 condominiums were built over the northeastern side of the track. In 1997, to standardize the track with Speedway Motorsports' other two 1.5-mile (2.4 km) ovals, the entire track was almost completely rebuilt. The frontstretch and backstretch were swapped, and the configuration of the track was changed from oval to quad-oval. The project made the track one of the fastest on the NASCAR circuit.
The track hosted a NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekend annually on Labor Day weekend from 2009 to 2014. The 2009 move from an October race date to Labor Day weekend was also accompanied by a change in start time, marking the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the return of Labor Day weekend NASCAR racing to the Southern United States.
Other highlights of the facility are a quarter-mile track between the pit road and the main track for Legends racing and a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) FIA-approved road course. In 1996, the speedway hosted the Countryfest concert, attracting over 200,000 fans.
For most of the 1990s and 2000s, the track boasted the highest speeds on the NASCAR circuit, with a typical qualifying lap speed of about 193 mph (311 km/h), first posted by driver Breton Roussel on June 22, 1990, and a record lap speed of over 197 mph (317 km/h). In 2004 and 2005, the similarly designed Texas Motor Speedway saw slightly faster qualifying times, but as the tracks' respective racing surfaces have worn, qualifying speeds at Atlanta have again become consistently faster than at Texas (2005 and 2006). The NASCAR circuit has two tracks, the longer Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway, that were once faster than Atlanta, with lap speeds usually exceeding 200 mph (322 km/h), but restrictor plates were mandated for use on those tracks in 1988 after Bobby Allison's violent crash at Talladega the year before, reducing average lap speeds to about 190 mph (306 km/h). NASCAR does not require restrictor plates at Atlanta, which helped lead to the adoption of the track's commercial slogan, "Real Racing. Real Fast."
Every year from spring until fall, AMS hosts "Friday Night Drags" where participants drag race down the pit road. The racing is conducted on an 1/8 mile stretch and begins at the drop of a hand. No lights or timing tools are used.
The track also hosts Speed Tech Driving School, which allows individuals to race 6 or more laps on the track when it is not in use for NASCAR or other events. NASCAR president Mike Helton was once the track's General Manager. Ed Clark is the current President and CEO of the track.
In early September 2004, AMS found an unexpected use: as a shelter for evacuees from Florida fleeing Hurricane Frances. While there were no indoor facilities available, visitors waited out the extremely slow-moving storm parked in their recreational vehicles, after creeping along for hours in traffic on nearby Interstate 75. In 2005, the speedway received heavy damage on the evening of July 6, caused by an F2 tornado spawned from the remains of Hurricane Cindy. Roofs and facades were torn off buildings and to Friday night, and shortly afterwards both Cup races began featuring night qualifying. In 2006, the Bass Pro Shops 500 start time was adjusted to guarantee a night finish.
In popular culture
The opening scenes of the 1980 movie Smokey and the Bandit II were filmed at the track, as were scenes of the 1983 film Stroker Ace. Former US President Jimmy Carter once worked as a ticket taker at the track, and attended several races there as Georgia governor and as US President.
On August 5, 2010, AMS' president Ed Clark announced that Atlanta would be scaling back its NASCAR event schedule for 2011. The track kept its Labor Day weekend dates but lost its spring race. The weekend was expected to go to Kentucky Speedway, another track owned by SMI.
The facility also hosts several driving schools year-round, such as Richard Petty Driving Experience, where visitors have the opportunity to experience the speedway from a unique point-of-view behind the wheel of a race car. The track was featured in the 1982 Kenny Rogers movie Six Pack.
- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Kobalt Tools 500
- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Atlanta 200 (returning in 2015)
- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – E-Z-GO 200
- ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards
- IZOD IndyCar Series – zMax 500
- IRL IndyCar Series Qualifying: Billy Boat, 24.734 s (224.145 mph), Aug. 28, 1998
- IRL IndyCar Series Race (312 miles): Greg Ray, 2 h 2 min 1 s (153.403 mph), July 15, 2000
- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying: Geoffrey Bodine, 28.074 s (197.478 mph), 1997
- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race (500 miles): Dale Earnhardt, 3 h 3 min 3 s (163.633 mph), November 12, 1995
- NASCAR Nationwide Series Qualifying: Greg Biffle, 28.830 s (192.300 mph), 2003
- NASCAR Nationwide Series Race (300 miles): Mark Martin, 1 h 58 min 55 s (151.751 mph), March 8, 1997
- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying: Rick Crawford, 30.339 s (182.735 mph), 2005
- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race (200 miles): Ron Hornaday, 1 h 27 min 35 s (142.424 mph), March 18, 2005
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series statistics
(As of 9/6/13)
|Most Wins||9||Dale Earnhardt|
|Most Top 5s||26||Dale Earnhardt|
|Most Top 10s||33||Richard Petty|
|Poles||7||Buddy Baker, Ryan Newman|
|Most Laps Completed||17513||Richard Petty|
|Most Laps Led||3283||Cale Yarborough|
|Avg. Start*||4.1||Fred Lorenzen|
|Avg. Finish*||9.5||Dale Earnhardt|
* from minimum 10 starts.
- "Atlanta Motor Speedway". ESPN SportsTravel. August 30, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
- "1998 Atlanta 500 Classic Presented by MCI at Atlanta Motor Speedway". Pep Boys Indy Racing League. 1998-08-29. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
- "Atlanta, Auto Club, Talladega swap dates on '09 Sprint Cup schedule". ESPN. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2013-06-01.
- "NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Schedule, Results & Tickets on". Nascar.com. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- Official Release (2010-08-05). "Atlanta to play host to one race weekend in 2011 - Aug 5, 2010". Nascar.Com. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- "Atlanta Motor Speedway - Races Tracks - Richard Petty Driving Experience". Drivepetty.com. 2011-08-29. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- Official website
- Atlanta Motor Speedway race results at Racing-Reference
- Atlanta Motor Speedway page on NASCAR.com