Special photo: The Henry County Chamber of Commerce will be handing out buttons like these as thousands of racing fans come to the Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Hampton, this weekend.
In Henry County, Labor Day Weekend has become synonymous with racing. That won’t change this weekend.
From retailers offering special sales, to drivers appearing at locations where they can be touched, or at least, sign autographs, it’s racing weekend in one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties.
Traffic won’t be the same, either.
More than 100,000 fans are expected to root for their favorite drivers, who will be legally speeding 195 laps around a 1.54-mile, quad-oval track, while negotiating 24-degree banking turns. The one who gets the checkered flag on Sunday will realize a purse of $942,006, according to racing officials. Last year’s winner was Jamie McMurray.
Racing stars, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt. Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, are expected to appear. Georgia favorites, Reed Sorenson, Ryan Sieg, Chase Miller, Joey Logano, David Reutimann, Martin Truex, Jr., Carl Edwards, and Andy Lally, also are scheduled to make appearances.
Before getting into the rigors of racing, some will take part in driver Reed Sorenson’s Charity Classic, presented by AutoTrade.com, at the Crystal Lake Golf Club, in Hampton, at 10 a.m. Joining Sorenson will be Rickey Stenhouse, Jr., Michael Annett, Brian Scott, Todd Bodine, Boston Reid, T. J. Bell, Justin Lofton, Scott Speed, Hermie Sadler, Justin Allgaier, James Buescher, and former crew chief, Larry McReynolds.
Highway 19/41, or Tara Boulevard, and Highway 20, Bruton Smith Parkway, are expected to be heavily traveled routes to the racetrack. Patrons who know alternate, inbound and outbound routes, should take them.
Police advise that traffic is heaviest during the later afternoon and evening hours.
Once fans reach Atlanta Motor Speedway, there is a free shuttle and tram service provided to help them reach any gate from all parking lots, race officials emphasize.
Once on AMS grounds, there is something for everyone. There is even an opportunity for fans to drive their own cars around the track, or ride with professional racers.
There is a Future Stars of the Future fans autograph session. Drivers at those sessions include: Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Timmy Hill and Blake Koch, of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, along with Austin Dillon, James Buescher, and Joey Coulter, of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Georgians Chase Elliott and Max Gresham, Sergio Pena and Alex Bowman will be there from the K & N Pro Series.
Performers Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cartel, Tim Dugger, Ashley Smith, Running Down Romance, will be among the other entertainers. There also will be a Battle of the Bands competition, from which a winner will be selected to open for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Henry County’s local entry in the competition is the Richard Griffith Band, a country music group, Devan Brown, Josh Findley, Seth Hensel, Ricky Cardell, and Eric Rape. They will face off against the Regulars of Griffin, Void of Reason of Atlanta, and the Kurt Thomas group, out of Marietta, said Ted Austad, special events coordinator at AMS.
Walmart customers, and racing fans, are being offered a Walmart Family Track Pack for the AdvoCare 500 race on Sept. 4. They also are being offered a chance to hob-knob with NASCAR’s Kyle Busch and Eric McClure. The discount ticket package includes four race tickets, four hot dogs, four beverages, and one race program for $99. “We found that nearly nine out of ten NASCAR fans choose to shop at Walmart,” said Larry Leverette, Walmart Market manager.
Two racers are scheduled to appear at two nearby Walmart stores. On Thursday, Sept. 1, M&M Mars Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch is scheduled to appear from 4 p.m., to 6 p.m., at the Walmart Store No. 932, at 1569 North Expressway, in Griffin.
On Friday, Sept. 2, Hefty’s Nationwide driver Eric McClure is scheduled to appear, from 12 p.m., to 1 p.m., at the Walmart store No. 3201, at 135 Willow Lane, in McDonough.
NASCAR night racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2, through Sept. 4. Tickets for the AdvoCare 500 start at $39, and $19 for students. Children 12 and under are admitted free for the Great Clips 300, and the Atlanta 200, with an adult ticket.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 race weekend will conclude on Sunday. The NASCAR U.S. Army Racing team has invited Sgt. First Class Christopher Baetz, of McDonough, to the race track Sunday. He is being honored for his 14-year career in the Army that has included three separate deployments, once to Kosovo, and twice to Iraq. He is now the Recruiting Station Commander of the McDonough Recruiting Station.
Also, there will be a pizza-eating contest Sunday, at 1:45 p.m., sponsored by Papa John’s Pizza. There also will be a hula hoop contest, and, at 2:20 p.m., a performance by Reluctant Saints.
For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office, at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211, or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.