By Johnny Jackson
Race weekend traffic in Hampton has improved greatly in recent years, according to Hampton Mayor R.W. Coley.
"It's not near as bad as it used to be," he said. "But since Ga. [Highway] 20 opened, we can move around at will now."
Hwy. 20 once was a two lane road - from Exit 218 in McDonough into Hampton - that spilled into Hampton's downtown, sending race-bound car, after race-bound car, into the downtown area for hours on race weekends at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The highway, now known as Bruton Smith Parkway, re-opened about three years ago as a four-lane, divided highway with turn lanes. The new roadway has decreased traffic congestion, flowing in and out of the speedway. But officials warn that residents and out-of-town race goers alike should be prepared for the heavy traffic this weekend, leading up to the Pep Boys Auto 500 on Sunday.
"People should be well aware that on Saturday and Sunday morning, and Sunday after the race, it's going to be heavy," said Mayor Coley. "People should try to avoid Hwy. 19/41 and Hwy. 20 on Saturday and Sunday."
This weekend's Pep Boys Auto 500 at the speedway, promises especially heavy traffic flows. More than 120,000 fans are expected for this weekend's activities at the speedway, said Marcy Scott with the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
All racetrack-bound roads, especially Hwy. 19/41 and Hwy. 20, are expected to be filled with race fans. Traffic is expected to be its heaviest during the Friday evening rush hour.
Race fans will have a choice of which major route to take, either Hwy. 19/41 or Hwy. 20 from Interstate 75 southbound. I-75 northbound race fans can exit at either Exit 212 Hampton-Locust Grove Road, or Exit 218 at Hwy. 20 in McDonough.
Fans should choose which route to take based on where they want to park in the speedway's parking lots, because people will be directed to certain lots based on where they enter the speedway. The direction fans enter speedway property will be the same direction they must exit.
Free trams, shuttle buses and sidewalks will be available to help fans to get to their seats at the speedway.
On Friday night, the race track will host its Hot Shot Qualifying Night. The Atlanta 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race will get underway on Saturday afternoon. The weekend's events will culminate in Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500; traffic to the race is expected to peak sometime after 9 a.m.
Speedway officials are urging fans and residents alike to stay current with traffic updates.