By Kathy Jefcoats
Several thousand race fans are expected to attend the Atlanta Motor Speedway's open house Saturday, held in conjunction with the first Pacemaker 5000, a fun run to benefit heart services at Henry Medical Center.
"This is the one day every year that we open up the track and let people wander around," said AMS spokeswoman Angela Revell.
For a price, they can even drive a car around the same track that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jeremy Mayfield and Dale Jarrett tear through during race season. To get the privilege of doing so, race fans need to either make a $30 donation to Speedway Children's Charities or buy a ticket to next month's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, a Nextel cup series race.
Tickets to the Oct. 31 event are $30-$110 for adults and $10 for children. The two-lap track rides begin at 6 p.m.
Fans at the open house will get the chance to meet winners from last year's Legend series.
"We'll have Legends cars out there for people to ride in and drive and to try out," Revell said.
The open house will run from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. and will feature ticket and autographed NASCAR merchandise giveaways, infield and garage access and plenty of show cars to see, she said.
New this year will be the Pacemaker 5000, a 5K foot race presented by Henry Medical Center to benefit the hospital's cardiology services. The race will be held at 5 p.m. and will include two laps around the speedway.
Runners will be able to register at www.pacemaker5k.org for $15 prior to Sept. 20. On-site registration will be available for $20. All runners will receive a complimentary race T-shirt.
"The Pacemaker 5000 is an integral part of our open house," said Revell. "We've been wanting to do this for years. We're very happy to have them here."
Fans can enjoy unprecedented access to the garage and infield areas of the track during the open house, giving them a chance to see the areas where their favorite drivers will set up to run the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, said Revell. The garage area will be lined with show cars, games, food and other activities.
"The open house will also give fans a chance to scope out their seats for the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500, as well as win pit passes and NASCAR merchandise," she said. "Hundreds of souvenirs will be sold at the lowest prices of the year, and fans can even take photographs in Victory Lane with the pace car."
The AMS mascot Monkey Wrench will also make appearances in his banana yellow Legends car convertible.
Speed Tech Driving School will be teaching a class that same day, 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
"The school teaches drivers how to handle real race cars at nearly the same speeds as the NASCAR drivers do," said Revell. "I think the class is sold out but fans can still watch the cars go around at pretty fast speeds."
For more information, call 770-946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.