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AMS employees work to make speedway pristine

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Atlanta Motor Speedway uses about 5,000 gallons of paint every year.

It takes a week to cut the grass at the nearly 900-acre site, and the process begins anew every week.

Maintenance employees at the speedway may work up to 18 hours a day this weekend.

It's race week at the speedway. The Pep Boys Auto 500, part of NASCAR's "Race to the Championship," will be in Hampton on Sunday.

Landscapers, maintenance employees and contractors are spending the week making sure everything looks just right, when the racing world shines its light on Henry County this weekend.

"This is really a year-round operation," said Dennis Shubert, director of operations at the speedway. "We have events like the circus, concerts and driving schools going on at the speedway all the time. If a sponsor is looking at our facility, and they've never been here before, we want to make sure they get a good first impression."

Ed Clark, president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway, likes to see the facility looking race-ready 365 days a year, even though there are only two NASCAR races at the speedway every year.

The details that go into making the speedway look flawless include, cutting the grass every week, checking the painted surfaces, patching and touching-up the race track to eliminate any cracks.

As a major race approaches, 17 full- and part-time maintenance department employees begin painting the logos for the upcoming race, television, sponsors and NASCAR. The job takes about a week and a half to complete. It took a week to paint the Pep Boys Auto 500 logo on the in-field, and the finishing touches were performed on Tuesday. About 500 gallons of paint is used to paint the logos for each race.

Maintenance employees also make sure the walls lining the one- and-a-half-mile race track remain white at all times. After qualifying is completed on Friday, the workers inspect the wall to make sure there are no tire marks, scratches or dust on the white paint.

The workers also check behind the soft walls, used to absorb the impact from crashes, to see if car parts have flown in between the foam blocks. They also check for debris on the track, such as car parts and pieces of tire rubber.

The process will be repeated on Saturday, after the Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 truck series race is finished.

The maintenance department ensures everyone is comfortable during the week leading up to a race.

Beth Ballard, the operations assistant for the speedway, said she handles calls from campers, as well as service providers, during every race week.

"Any given day before a race can be hectic, because there are so many phone calls coming in," Ballard said. "Most times ,the campers are just calling because the noise level is too high, but last year, someone called because they wanted a tree pruned next to their camper. It was blocking the view from their awning."

Maintenance workers normally spend eight hours a day doing upkeep at the race track, but the workday was extended to 12 hours last week. Operations director Shubert said maintenance workers could work up to 18 hours a day over the upcoming weekend.

The speedway's maintenance department owns 12 lawnmowers, but cutting the grass is a continuous process that semingly never stops. Shubert said the speedway's lawnmowers consume "truck loads of fuel" every week.

Landscapers are also spending this week putting pine straw where it's needed, and fresh sod down at the new Children's Charities Winners Wall, along Inner Perimeter Road. The wall contains the images of people who have made contributions to Speedway Children's Charities. The agency provides money to Georgia organizations helping children with terminal illnesses, or disabilities.

"All of these guys spend the entire year [working hard] to make this place look like a nice, corporate place," supervisor Dennis Mills said. "They also make Henry County and Georgia look good, and people do notice it. I get a lot of compliments from campers and race officials, who say this place is really well maintained. When it comes from them, you know you stand out from the other tracks."