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AMS heats up with new racing event

Drivers say cars on the Global Rallycross racing circuit can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 1.8 seconds. The track has a combination of dirt and water elements to add to the racing excitement. (Special Photo)

Drivers say cars on the Global Rallycross racing circuit can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 1.8 seconds. The track has a combination of dirt and water elements to add to the racing excitement. (Special Photo)

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At a recent Global Rallycross race, a track official adds some water to the track. Drivers will bring the sport to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time on Saturday. (Special Photo)

HAMPTON — Global Rallycross driver Steve Arpin has a little advice for those fans attending the race on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway — especially the first-time spectator.

“Don’t be shy about approaching the drivers,” Arpin said Thursday afternoon via cellphone. “It’s a really cool sport, and the drivers are here to entertain the fans.”

This is the first season that Global Rallycross racing has come to NASCAR tracks. AMS is the third of four stops for the series. Drivers have already raced at New Hampshire and Bristol with Atlanta and Charlotte remaining on the circuit. Drivers just left Los Angeles where they drove in the X-Games competition.

A ticket upgrade of $5 will give fans access to the garage area where they can meet the drivers.

“That is a cool element for this sport,” said Arpin, a Canada native now living in Charlotte. “The fans can get up close and personal with the drivers. I just warn them not to be shy.”

AMS president and general manager Ed Clark said the introduction of Global Rallycross racing has received great reviews from longtime NASCAR fans. He said it is a sport that appeals to the younger crowd, which NASCAR has made an emphasis on attracting.

“This is a great new event for us,” Clark said. “New is always exciting. The drivers are full of enthusiasm, and this is an event that you can get up-close with the drivers. You can go in the garage area, and this is something you can’t do with any of the other sports. This is pretty special.”

Arpin has raced on the ARCA Series where he was a two-time most popular driver during the 2009 and ‘10 seasons. He has raced go-karts and snowmobiles before moving up to the stock cars in 2009. In 2010, he raced on the Dale Earnhardt Jr. team in seven events.

This is his first time on the Atlanta track.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Arpin said. “I just saw the layout of the track and its looks fun and exciting. It’s going to be fast.”

Global Rallycross has a combination of track, dirt, water and gravel which offers a challenge to drivers. Cars can go from zero to 60 seconds in 1.8 seconds. Arpin said there is a huge difference between this sport and NASCAR.

Fans of short track racing will be accustomed to the event structure of Global Rallycross Atlanta.

Global Rallycross events employ four heat races, and a last chance-qualifying event to set the field for the final race, which consists of ten cars. To qualify for the final race, which is 10 laps, drivers must either finish in the top two of their six-lap heat or place in the top two in the last chance qualifier.

Drivers say that, regardless of the race, they have little margin for error, making the heat races as much, if not more exciting than the final race.

“These are sprint races. It’s much more up tempo, much quicker reacting,” said Scott Speed, a GRC competitor who has raced in NASCAR and Formula One. “In this form of racing, you have to be on full attack mode all the time.”

Arpin agreed.

“If you’ve never been to a Rallycross race, it is a very exciting form of motorsport,” Arpin said.

Aside from getting used to the AMS track layout, Arpin said he has noticed another thing about Georgia — the heat.

“It’s going to be hot down there,” Arpin said. “I’m a Canadian boy, but I’m getting used to it since moving to Charlotte. It should be a great weekend for the fans.”