By Johnny Jackson
Hundreds of the 250,000 expected to visit the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton this race weekend have been camping out all week, braving a mix of cold, stormy, and warm weather to claim their spots, nearest to Speedway activities.
On Monday, Griffin resident, Charles Canady, pulled his recreational vehicle into a lot near the north turn of the Speedway.
For the past four years, the 27-year-old has made a tradition of camping out at the Speedway with his two brothers, their families, and friends.
"It was something to get into, so that me and my brothers could spend time and relax together with friends," said Canady. "It's a fun time." He admits he is not the most avid race fan.
However, Wade Pilcher of Rome, is a long-time fan of the motorsport, and all that surrounds it.
He has attended Atlanta Motor Speedway races for the past 20 years, including each spring and fall.
"There's not really but one driver, and that's Jeff Gordon," Pilcher said.
He is looking for Gordon to increase his points standings with a good finish in the NASCAR Spring Cup Series race on Sunday against would-be front-runners, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart.
"A lot of people don't know about the fun in camping before the race," said Pilcher, as he set up his camp and grill Monday.
"I'm going to fill it up with steaks, barbecue, fish ...," he said.
Food and supplies set Pilcher and his friends back about $500 each race, not including their race event tickets. He and his friends represent thousands of like-minded campers who turn up in increasing numbers heading into race weekend.
Roughly 5,000 camper-lot passes are issued each race at the Speedway, ranching from $60 to $3,500 per pass.
Melvin and Barbara Williams loaded their RV last weekend to get a camper lot earlier Sunday.
"We go to about 10 races a year. We're headed to Bristol [Motor Speedway in Tennessee] from here," said Barbara Williams, an unapologetic Dale Earnhardt, Jr., fan. Her husband, Melvin, is a Jeff Gordon fan.
The retired couple from Decatur, Ala., began their annual road trip to various races and Speedways across the country some ten years ago.
"There is no unpleasant part of the races," Barbara Williams said. "Most people, they don't want to go out to stay in the wide-open spaces, but we like it."
They typically grill chicken on their outings and meet new people, whom they say are particularly friendly in Atlanta.
"When you're retired," interjected her husband, Melvin Williams, "you've got to have something to do."