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Ed Clark Q&A: ‘The pressure is on for some of these guys’

Atlanta Motor Speedway president talks NASCAR standings, Oral-B USA 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway president and general manager Ed Clark says fans should be treated to a great race on Sunday night. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Atlanta Motor Speedway president and general manager Ed Clark says fans should be treated to a great race on Sunday night. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

The Atlanta Motor Speedway officials have been busy the past year getting prepared for their marquee event at the track. With a tight race for berths into the Chase for the Sprint Cup title, Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 should provide a thrilling race for spectators and the national television viewing audience. With the race a day away, the Clayton News Daily sports editor recently talked with AMS president and general manager Ed Clark on a variety of subjects related to the race and NASCAR.

Question: With only two more races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins, it seems Sunday’s race is shaping up to be a great one?

Answer: “The pressure is on some of these guys to get a way and move up in the Chase standings. There are few veteran drivers that don’t have any wins at this point. You are going to see some wacky stuff out there on Sunday. Those in the Chase want to win, but they are not going to risk tearing up a good car. For them, now is the time to start gain momentum.”

Q: Is there a better place for the drama to unfold than Atlanta Motor Speedway?

A: “Racing has always been good here. We are expecting another big weekend of racing. With it getting close to crunch time for a Chase berth, it should be very entertaining for the fans. Each week, the drivers come out to win.”

Q: Obviously having a race in the Chase is big, but how special has it been in having a race that could decide the playoff field?

A: “I love where we are at in the Chase field. It is always exciting, and we have had some very memorable races. One year Kasey Kahne won here to get into the Chase. All this adds to the excitement of our race.”

Q: You have some competition each year putting on a Labor Day Weekend race with the start of college football and Labor Day weekend itself. How have you all been able to put on a success race?

A: “We have our loyal NASCAR fans. We have fans that arrive two weeks out from the race to camp out. NASCAR is a national event with fans from all across the country.”

Q: Joey Logano has done real well this season. He raced in the track’s grassroots racing series. What do you think of the year he is having?

A: “Joey almost won it last year. A pit stop strategy cost him. He had a real tough time figuring out the track in a Cup car. I spoke with him and told him it was mostly mental because he had a good car. I think he has finally figured it out, and we look for him to do well this weekend.”

Q: Chase Elliott is also another local driver doing well. Talk about two former Thursday Thunder alumni doing well this season.

A: “He is driving with a lot of maturity beyond his years. There will be a lot of people from North Georgia down here to see Chase this weekend. It will be like the old days when they used to come to see his day. We have about 60-something drivers in professional racing that have come through our Thursday Thunder program. We are proud of that.”

Q: Give us your thoughts on the Tony Stewart incident and how NASCAR has handled the situation.

A: “It is a very unfortunate situation. Tony has a real deep passion for short track racing. People familiar with the situation in NASCAR know what Tony and the young driver’s family is going through. I haven’t spoken with Tony, but I’m sure he is dealing with a lot right now. We are not sure when he will be back. That is a decision he will make when he is ready.”

Q: Sunday will make the return of the No. 3 car to Atlanta Motor Speedway since the death of Dale Earnhardt. What are your thought on that return?

A: “Austin (Dillon) is doing a good job. He is in a real battle for rookie of the year. He was the natural choice to bring it back. He understands what the No. 3 car has meant to racing.”