A cool mist sprayed the track that day, a dreary overcast Tuesday in rural Hampton, Ga.
Atlanta Motor Speedway General Manager Ed Clark recalled standing in victory lane, and speaking with the victor in the latest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race — Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet.
Gordon took home top prize at the AdvoCare 500, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, just a day and a half after the race should have ended. Delayed by rain on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 4, the race turned out to be a memorable one for the veteran driver, according to Clark.
“It is the 85th win for Jeff Gordon,” Clark said. “He told me in victory lane how much it meant to him to do it here.”
Clark acknowledged the racer not only started his NASCAR racing career at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he was discovered there as well. Gordon was competing in a Nationwide Series race in 1991, when he was discovered at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Clark added the driver made his NASCAR debut the next year, in November 1992.
“He’s one of the nicest and most professional drivers out there,” said Clark. “He’s had a wonderful career.”
Tuesday’s win solidified Gordon’s place in NASCAR history, as he earned the association’s third most career wins.
“We’re disappointed that everyone didn’t get to see the race on Tuesday, but those that did get to stay saw a great race,” said Clark. “Everything went well except for the weather that post-poned the race for Tuesday.”
Clark noted some 31,000 race fans watched the postponed race from stadium seats, fewer than were expected for the Sunday start, but comparable attendance from past racing events.
“I think we built this Labor Day Weekend into something special for folks all across the country,” said the speedway general manager of the annual racing event. “I know a number of people did stay around, and that probably filled a few hotels and restaurants. The race was one of the better races of the season.”
Crews were able to have clean-up at the raceway and its campgrounds done in one day, following Tuesday’s race.
“I think we executed that well,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for 50-some years now. We’ll start next Wednesday working on next year.”
Clark said this past year has been a challenge for the speedway, because the other major NASCAR race was eliminated from its spring schedule last year.
“It’s been a real adjustment for us [without the spring race],” he continued. “We’re still striving to try to get something done to get a second race here. The Labor Day race was a great show. We’re going to do it bigger and better.”