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Area hotels, campsites full of race fans

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Travelers with a need for speed are continuing to arrive in the Southern Crescent and metro Atlanta, gearing up to see their favorite NASCAR racers compete this weekend.

Several area hotel managers reported their facilities are at capacity, full of guests anticipating Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton.

Sid Roach is the general manager of the Hampton Inn at 855 Industrial Blvd., in McDonough, where all 74 rooms are filled. According to Roach, 55 of the units were reserved for various racing teams who will appear at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, and the remaining 19 rooms are being taken up by fans, including many who made reservations months ahead of time.

"We sold the last few rooms earlier this week," said Roach. "We're only seven miles from the track, so the teams like to be able to get there quickly. We have elevated rates, because of the influx of teams and fans wanting rooms near the track."

Staff members at the hotel will offer a breakfast for the teams on race day, before they head to the track to prepare for the competition, though Smith expects many will opt out in order to get to the speedway as early as possible.

"They're very professional people, who are serious about competing," he said. "It's not like it was in the old days, when race weekend was party time."

The Country Inn & Suites at 2192 Mount Zion Parkway in Morrow was also booked solid as of Friday afternoon, with approximately 80 percent of its guests attending the race. General Manager Sam Patel said such volume is typical for race weekends.

"As we get busier, the rates do increase," he said.

The Renaissance Concourse Hotel, at One Hartsfield Centre Parkway in Atlanta, is the official hotel for the event. According to Franklin Smith, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, each of the facility's 387 rooms are fully booked with fans, media personnel and other notable figures associated with the sport.

"Some of the bookings for each race are made several years in advance," said Smith. "We've also had bookings in the last couple of weeks."

Each room is rented out at a cost of $200 or more per night.

Smith describes the people who come to the hotel for a race as "a reflection of the varied demographics of NASCAR fans." He said race enthusiasts bring at a unique atmosphere to the hotel.

"While the race is going on, it can be very quiet here," said Smith. "When the fans return, there can be a lot of activity in the building."

Some race fans will not be staying in a hotel this weekend, choosing instead to bring their own tents or mobile homes to the speedway grounds.

Matthew Simmons, marketing and promotions coordinator for Atlanta Motor Speedway, said the number of campers is "steadily increasing" at the track.

"We've always had great campers, many of whom have known each other for years, and met here," said Simmons. "With the great weather we're expecting, we should have a large turnout for camping, and a lot of first-time campers."