By Valerie Baldowski
Officials at Atlanta Motor Speedway are calling the Labor Day weekend races a success.
The Degree V12 300 NASCAR Nationwide race was held on Saturday, and the Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on Sunday night.
According to Matthew Simmons, marketing and promotions coordinator for the track, NASCAR estimates put Saturday's attendance at 57,750 fans, and Sunday's attendance at 111,300.
"We had a tremendous fan response for the Pep Boys Auto 500 weekend of night racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway," said Ed Clark, president and general manager of the track. "The holiday, festival-like atmosphere at the speedway was amazing. This weekend was a great success."
Simmons said the crowd Sunday was near capacity for the track.
"We were just shy of a sellout," he said. "It was a tremendous race crowd - one of the largest and most enthusiastic crowds we've had in quite some time."
The attendance figures, he said, only take into account those in their seats, and do not include other fans strolling the grounds and making purchases.
"Over the course of the weekend, we easily had more than 200,000 people," Simmons said.
Studies done in the past have shown the track contributes more that $450 million to the state economy each year, said Simmons.
Laura Luker, director of tourism and communications for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway are a boost to the local service industry, and others.
"A race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway contributes to so many sectors, it is difficult to gauge the exact impact of the Labor Day night race," said Luker. "Many Henry County hotels were full on Saturday and Sunday nights, and several restaurants also reported a jump in sales, compared to this time last year."
The economic impact begins even before any races begin, she said, as fans begin arriving several days early. Purchases made by race fans, Luker said, contribute additional revenue through the county's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
Clark, the speedway president, said the timing of Sunday's race was a contributing factor in the strong turnout.
"The spectacle of NASCAR night racing is a considerable draw for many fans, with sparks flying and special paint schemes shining under the lights," he said. "There is something about night racing that always seems special to fans, and it was great to host our first race under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway."