By Derrick Mahone
Atlanta Motor Speedway's showcase race - Labor Day Classic 500 - is still three months away, but the NASCAR track will be busy the majority of the summer.
As the AMS staff begin putting the final touches on hosting the Sept. 5 Sprint Cup Series race, the track will be in full use with its Thursday Thunder and Friday Night Drags racing series. Tonight begins the first of its nine-week racing series.
This marks the 13th season of Thursday Thunder.
"We are going to be busy, but we feel this is something special for the racing community," said AMS president Ed Clark, who will again race in the master's division.
Each week Adam Gay will make the trip from Dublin to race in the roadsters division. He finished second last season in the points standing and is looking forward to put his revamped car on the track.
Gay's sponsor, Hunt Brothers Pizza, wanted him to make his car more in line with its veteran NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler this season.
"They want it to be more recognizable," Gay said.
"I'm looking forward to the next season.
I'm hoping it will be a good season."
Clark says that the future of racing is bright with several youngsters putting their skills to the test in several racing division.
On the track, Clark often finds himself racing against younger drivers each year.
"We have an impressive list of people that have raced here," Clark said.
"This is one route to getting to NASCAR. For me, this is stress release, but I'm very competitive. Anything I do, I want to do well. The future of the sport is with the younger kids."
Last season, over 60,000 fans came through the gates at AMS for the series of racing with over 3,000 dragsters and 1,200 show and shine participants.
Drivers as young as 8 make the trek to AMS from across the state and nation to battle in eight race classes weekly for the title of champion.
"It surprises us every time we open the gates," said Ted Austad, Special Events Coordinator at AMS.
"We offer some good family fun at a very affordable price. You can bring your family out without worrying about breaking the bank."
Phenix City native Zach Weaver, a 21-year-old Auburn University junior, is looking forward to getting back on the track after an eight-month hiatus.
The former Alabama state champion has been busy with school and trying to secure some sponsors to put his car back on the track.
"I'm definitely excited about racing here," Weaver said.
"This is definitely a fast track."
Weaver is in his fourth season of coming to AMS. He has been racing since he was 10 years old when he started with go-carts.
The business major is currently in his third year of Legends semi-pro racing at AMS.