A History of Atlanta Motor Speedway

A History of Atlanta Motor Speedway

This weekend Clint Bowyer and the 5-hour ENERGY® Racing Team are heading south to Hampton, Georgia’s Atlanta Motor Speedway for the AdvoCare 500. You can always count on an exciting race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) since it’s infamous for high speeds and violent crashes. The Bleacher Report even named AMS as one of the 10 most dangerous race tracks in NASCAR! Before you tune into Sunday’s race, we wanted to give you a little background on this speedy speedway.

AMS has come a long way since its early days. Walker Jackson, Lloyd Smith, Garland Bagley, Ralph Sceiano and Ike Supporter began building in 1958, but the construction was short lived. Before construction could be completed at the proposed speedway, four of the five founders abandoned the project due to insufficient funds. Dr. Warren Gremmel, Jack Black, Bill Boyd and Art Lester jumped on board with Bagley to continue building and spent $1.8 million to complete the Atlanta International Raceway. As a result of financial problems the facility ended up being patched together, with some seats so low that fans couldn’t see over the retaining wall and the only bathrooms being a three-hole outhouse in the infield. The Atlanta International Raceway hosted its first race on July 31, 1960, but the financial struggles didn’t end once the track was completed. In the 1970s the speedway was reorganized under Chapter 10 bankruptcy proceedings and went through many different general managers.

Despite the speedway’s financial struggles, it managed to attract the attention of local figures and celebrities. One of the most prominent people that visited the speedway was former President Jimmy Carter. Did you know that Carter worked as a ticket taker at AMS in the 1960s? Later, during his run for Governor, he told the racing community that he would host a barbecue dinner for them at the Governor’s Mansion if he was elected. In 1971, Carter became the governor of Georgia, kept his promise and hosted that barbecue. Taking it another step further, during his presidency in 1978, Carter even invited some of the racing community back for a cookout, but this time the meal was at the White House!

The track struggled until Bruton Smith, owner of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., purchased the track on October 23, 1990. The change in ownership marked the start of several changes, the first being the track’s name. Smith updated Atlanta International Raceway to its current name, Atlanta Motor Speedway. Other changes included the addition of the East Turn Grandstand which expanded the seating capacity by 25,000 and the track also began hosting the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Drag Racing, and Indy Car Racing. Expansions continued in 1994 with the addition of luxury condos, an office, a clubhouse and additional grandstands.

The biggest change to the track happened in 1997, when the entire track was completely rebuilt. Not only were the front stretch and back stretch swapped, but the track’s configuration was changed from oval to quad-oval, making Atlanta Motor Speedway one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR. To give you a taste, AMS’ fastest one-lap qualifying record was a whopping speed of 197.478 miles per hour by Geoffrey Bodine. The high speeds of AMS promise excitement and to top it off, Sunday’s race is under the lights. We want to wish Clint Bowyer the best of luck as he takes on the Atlanta Motor Speedway!

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