Built in 1960, Atlanta Motor Speedway has endured hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards in its long illustrious tenure in NASCAR’s top division. The track offers some of the fastest speeds of any oval track in the world, and drivers say it is easily one of the best tracks on the schedule. While it may closely resemble other tracks in North America, the devil is in the details and these details create some of the finest speedway racing in the world.
Turn 3 of Atlanta Motor Speedway — Photo courtesy of Duane Tate
Sitting fifty minutes away from downtown Atlanta via Interstate 75, Atlanta Motor Speedway actually resides in Tara Place, Hampton, Georgia. Many compare the track to Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedway simply because they are all close to a mile and a half in length and have twenty-four degrees of banking in the turns. However, Atlanta is slightly longer than the other two aforementioned venues, and has a much wider racing surface. Whereas at other tracks, drivers can end up bogged down behind other cars, Atlanta is so wide that drivers can almost always find a way to make a pass, even if the pass requires a little bit of daring. Also thanks to its width, the speedway is known for its hectic restarts as drivers dive into the first pair of turns three and four wide.
With constant side-by-side racing, Atlanta provides quite a spectacle for the fans in the stands, and the high banks also make it so there is not a single bad seat in the house. For Atlanta’s first Labor Day race in 2009, I sat on the thirteenth row from the bottom. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to see any of the on-track action, but to my surprise I could clearly see every inch of the racing surface even without the help of binoculars.
Since the track sits in such a rural section of Georgia, camping and parking spaces are plentiful and very close to the track. Other tracks, such as Bristol and Charlotte, have to deal with town layouts that were already in place when the tracks were built, but Atlanta is so isolated that expansion was simple and the campsites are easy to navigate through. Not to say that one can’t find the amenities of civilization nearby however. Just a few minutes north on Tara Boulevard in the town of Bonanza, there are plenty of stores and restaurants to stock up on anything you need for the big event.
Finally, the atmosphere of the racetrack is phenomenal. Visitors to the Labor Day event have said it's "like going to a state fair and a race just so happened to break out in the midst of the fun." With tons of souvenir and sponsor booths, one can easily stay entertained until the race starts at sundown. Be sure to stop by the Speed TV stage in front of the track where the pre-race TV coverage is shot.
This year, Atlanta Motor Speedway is hosting a triple header of its top three divisions on Labor Day weekend. The action starts on Friday night August 31st, and it promises to be one of the highlights of the season.