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AMS, Henry expect boost from weekend races

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Preparations by the Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) for the Labor Day race weekend have Henry County officials seeing economic potential for the area.

Races coming up include the Degree V12 300 NASCAR Nationwide race on Saturday, and the Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday.

According to Matthew Simmons, marketing and promotions coordinator for AMS, on Monday the race track set a single-day ticket sales record for the Pep Boys Auto 500. However, the AMS races are not sold out and officials declined to release details of ticket sales.

"We cannot distribute ticket information due to our structure as a publically owned company," said Simmons. Ed Clark, AMS president and general manager, was enthusiastic about the "strong support" the raceway is seeing from eager fans.

"[Monday] was the best day for ticket sales in my 17 years at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and it really speaks to the anticipation surrounding our first night race," said Clark. "We're building a new NASCAR tradition with the Pep Boys Auto 500 and night racing on Labor Day weekend, and fans are responding with tremendous interest."

Strong ticket sales are a positive trend for the local economy, said Henry County Chamber of Commerce President Kay Pippin. "According to an independent study contracted by the Atlanta Sports Council in 2000, the AMS was projected to bring in $2.275 billion of metro Atlanta's income from sports, between 2001 and 2006," said Pippin. "That's more than double the impact of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Falcons combined."

Pippin said that spells good news for the area's economy. "Upwards of 140,000 visitors to Henry County is a win-win situation for everyone," she said.

What contributed to the strong sales for the Sunday Pep Boys 500 race, said Clark, was the popularity of the annual event and the fact it will be held at night.

"The 2009 Pep Boys Auto 500 has become a marquee event on the NASCAR schedule," he added. "When we announced we would be hosting our first night race on Labor Day weekend, the Pep Boys Auto 500 became a 'can't miss' date for race fans."

As for the far-reaching popularity of the races at the AMS, Clark said fans are drawn from all over. "Historically, we sell tickets to fans in all 50 states, and a number of foreign countries as well," he said.

As an example, Clark said, in March a group traveled to the race track from Alaska, and brought a recreational vehicle (RV) to watch the Kobalt Tools 500 race.

"We have had tremendous ticket interest this week, but we still have great seats available for the race weekend," Clark said. "Our ticket sales are up significantly over last year's Pep Boys Auto 500, and we expect to have a great crowd for our first NASCAR Sprint Cup night race."

The seating capacity of the AMS, said Simmons, is 125,000.

Simmons said, before Saturday's race, country artist SHeDAISY will perform the National Anthem. Before Sunday's race, country artist Diamond Rio will sing the National Anthem.