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Henry authorities
prepare for race weekend

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Representatives of numerous local and state law-enforcement agencies will be out in full force in Hampton this weekend, preparing for an influx of people attending events at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The track will host its first night race, the Pep Boys Auto 500, on Sunday.

Don Ash, the director of Henry County's Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement that ensuring the well being of race fans and area residents is not an easy task to fulfill.

"As we welcome NASCAR fans for the first nighttime event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, we're excited, but we have to remember it will require special needs from public safety," said Ash. "This is a city in and of itself, so we have to do a lot of coordination for public safety, mainly making sure we get 911 calls responded to in an appropriate time."

According to the statement, the 911 center receives approximately 150 calls from Atlanta Motor Speedway during a typical four-day race weekend. Many of those, according to Henry County Spokesperson Julie Hoover-Ernst, are due to slips and falls, heat exhaustion and allergic reactions.

Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer said in the county's statement that the public safety community in the area keeps in mind the large numbers of people who drive and walk near the speedway during the event.

"A lot of people are going to be leaving the speedway late at night, while others will stay on the facility because it is so late, so we'll have more pedestrian traffic as well," said McBrayer. "To account for this, we're going to have more officers in the parking areas to keep it safe and keep an eye on unattended vehicles."

The Georgia State Patrol is reportedly working with the Georgia Department of Transportation this weekend to employ counter-flow lanes, as well as parking and exit strategies for motorists heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Officials said approximately 125 sheriff's deputies and 90 state troopers are typically on hand at the track to ensure safety during a race weekend.

Authorities "closely examine any traffic, pedestrian, and criminal issues, even vendor and delivery locations, in order to orchestrate a fine-tuned plan of action," Hoover-Ernst said. "Over the years, they've gotten it down to a science."