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Speedway officials say improvements included in repairs

By Shannon Jenkins

Although a tornado caused upwards of $40 million in damage to the Atlanta Motor Speedway in early July, there is a silver race-striped lining.

Speedway officials announced on Tuesday that they have taken the opportunity in repairing the damage to make improvements to the Hampton attraction, which will make it more fan-friendly.

"We're absolutely going to have a better facility," said Ed Clark, president and general manager of the speedway.

Clark said considerable progress has been made during the rebuilding process and construction should be completed before the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 race scheduled for Oct. 28-30.

To ease traffic flow around the facility, sidewalks have been installed around the speedway's perimeter, along with shuttle stops. Visitors will also have access to trams and buses from the camping and parking areas.

A new Gate One ticket booth is under construction, and several other gates have been widened for greater accessibility, speedway officials said.

Another improvement is the addition of approximately 50 acres of unreserved camping for the October race weekend.

Wes Harris, executive vice president of development for Speedway Motorsports Inc., said the remodeling will especially help those visitors who don't regularly attend races.

"Everything is a lot more clear to the unfamiliar eye," Harris said.

Officials said one of the major changes is the addition of the Ga. Highway 20 extension, which boasts a four-lane divided highway running from the speedway to Interstate 75. This addition is scheduled to open in early October. Regarding the extension, parking areas have been improved for "better access, drainage and spectator and vehicular flow."

According to speedway representatives, construction crews have been working up to 18 hours a day to complete the projects.