Monday, August 27, 2012

Why I Love NASCAR: Atlanta Motor Speedway by Chief 187™

Frontstretch view of Atlanta Motor Speedway
Credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images
If there is a famous track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit that isn’t Daytona, Indy, Talladega, Darlington, Charlotte, or Bristol, it would have to be Atlanta Motor Speedway. Well, I guess they are all famous for one reason or another, but Atlanta has a pedigree when it comes to fame.

Atlanta Motor Speedway opened in 1960 and its first NASCAR event in July of that year was won by Fireball Roberts.

The track is 1.5-miles, known as a quad-oval. On the current Cup schedule, Atlanta has one date during the coveted Labor Day weekend slot that Darlington occupied for many years.

The speedway in Atlanta is fast. Dale Earnhardt posted the most wins at the track with nine. And in more recent years drivers like Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson have scored impressive wins at the facility.

Last year Jeff Gordon won the Labor Day event at Atlanta. A win this week would propel Gordon ahead of Kyle Busch for the wild card slot. Edwards and Kahne, desperately looking for a win for their chance to enter the Chase, will be racing hard as well.

But Atlanta Motor Speedway’s penultimate race before the Chase is not its only claim to fame. It has also been used as a setting in several Hollywood movies and was a place of employment for one of this country’s presidents.

Jimmy Carter, the Georgian peanut farmer who was elected President of the United States in 1976, once worked as a ticket taker at the track. Once in political office, as governor of Georgia and then again as President, Carter attended several races, drawing a national audience to NASCAR at a time when it was still a predominantly Southern sport.

Atlanta Motor Speedway also claims former track General Manager and current NASCAR president Mike Helton in its storied history.

The track has been featured in several Hollywood movies. Burt Reynolds clearly adored the place as two movies he starred featured Atlanta – Smokey and the Bandit II and Stroker Ace. The movie Six Pack starring Kenny Rogers was also filmed at the facility.

These movies, while critical failures, were entertaining. They appeal to those who enjoyed the silly premises, racing backdrops and cameos by professional NASCAR drivers and announcers.

Atlanta Motor Speedway has a deep history in NASCAR and all eyes will be on it this week to see who clinches their wild card berth in the Chase.

Having Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit is a connection to NASCAR’s Southern roots, a fascinating Labor Day race that helps determine the line-up in the Chase, and another reason why I love NASCAR.

Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit