Track history: Fireball Roberts earned just $10,130 for winning the 1960 Dixie 300, the first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). The purse for all the drivers totaled $39,000. Opened in July 1960, AMS was one of the best of the new superspeedways being built all over at the time. This 1.54-mile oval is the fastest track the Cup guys compete on and is the one they fear the most. Since it is not a "restrictor plate" track and speeds top 200 mph at the end of the backstretch, drivers know if they find the wall here, they will definitely remember it. The good thing about not having restrictor plates is the cars will be spread out and wrecks like the "Big One" wrecks at Daytona and Talladega aren’t usually a concern at Atlanta. Bruton Smith purchased the Speedway in 1990 and has spent over $100 million improving the facility, including the nine-story structure that houses the corporate offices of AMS as well as 46 luxury condos. Recent additions also include a road course and over 53,000 more seats giving AMS a total capacity of 124,000 seats. In 1997, at a cost of $30 million, the start/finish line was moved from the south side of the track to the north side, and the configuration of the Hampton, Ga. facility changed from a 1.522- mile oval to a 1.54-mile quad-oval similar to Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways.
In October, 2006 AMS added the Winners Grandstand, offering fans a great view of the frontstretch and pit road. A Trackside Terrace Luxury RV Camping area replaced the aged Weaver Grandstands as well.
Sitting atop the Winners Grandstand is a public suite called Club One. Opened in 2012, it is limited to just 1,000 occupants and offers a climate controlled view of the entire track as well as a rooftop sight and sound observation deck.
Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Jeff Gordon 9/6/11, Tony Stewart 9/5/10, Kurt Busch 3/7/10, Kasey Kahne 9/6/09 and Kurt Busch 3/8/09.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Rodney Combs 11/7/82, Jeff Gordon 11/15/92, Scott Wimmer 11/20/00, Martin Truex Jr. 10/31/04, Mike Garvey 3/20/05, Reed Sorenson 10/30/05 and Erik Darnell 9/6/09.
First Cup pole: Terry Labonte 3/15/81, Robby Gordon 3/9/97 and Kevin Lepage 11/21/99.
First Cup win: Kevin Harvick 3/11/01 and Carl Edwards 3/20/05.
July 31, 1960: Fireball Roberts started on the pole for the 1960 Dixie 300 in the John Hines owned No. 22 car. Roberts led 28 laps in the 1960 Pontiac, including the last one, to win the first Cup race held at Atlanta Motor Speedway. A 22-year old Richard Petty drove the soon-to-be famous No. 43 Petty Plymouth to a 20th place finish in that race as well.
September 6, 2011: Jeff Gordon won the AdvoCare 500 from fifth in the lineup. This was the No. 24 Chevrolet driver's third victory and 13th top-10 finish in 2011. It was his fifth win in 38 races at Atlanta. No. 99 Carl Edwards 14 laps, finished fifth; Pole-sitter, No. 4 Kasey Kahne 15 laps, blew the engine and was credited with 34th; No. 38 J.J. Yeley 15 laps, finished 25th; No. 28 Kyle Busch 19 laps, finished 23rd; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 29 laps, finished second; No. 17 Matt Kenseth 64 laps, finished ninth and winner Gordon led the most laps (146 of 325).
Fantasy games won’t allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. A mid-packer may not win the race but has as good a shot at a top 15 finish as track favorites Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 in Hampton, Georgia.
Juan Pablo Montoya’s last four starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway resulted in finishes of third, third, ninth and 15th (that’s a 7.5 average). In those four races he qualified 12th or better, completed all 1,316 of the laps run and scored more championship points than any other driver. Montoya is ranked No. 1 in NASCAR Media’s ‘Quality Passes’ (passing while running in the top-15) category. In nine Cup career races at AMS, 45% of his passes (406 times) were QP’s. The No. 42 Chevrolet driver seems to have figured out this venue.
We thought Jeff Burton was finally going to make us look smart last week. He was doing really well at Bristol until he got caught up in Ryan Newman’s wreck. We’ll give him another shot this week. Don’t look for Burton near the front in the lineup (a 25.2 average start) but he has a respectable 16.1 average finish for 34 starts. He finished fourth and 13th in the last Cup races at AMS. NASCAR Media data for the last 13 races shows that, of all drivers entering this event, Burton has the seventh-most Green Flag Passes (806) with 368 coming while running in the top 15 and spent 2,624 laps running in the top 15 (10th-best). Give the No. 31 Chevrolet a thought this week.
Okay, one more time. At 16th in the points, Marcos Ambrose may not be available for this column after this weekend. Now, he has a four-straight top-ten finish streak going. He has a 10th at Pocono, the Watkins Glen win and back-to-back fifth place finishes at Michigan and Bristol. In his last three Cup starts at AMS, Ambrose has two top 11 finishes. His thoughts this week sum up what to expect from the No. 9 Ford on Sunday: "I'm trying my hardest to get a wild-card spot in the Chase. It's been great to have two top-fives in two weeks, but we need another win to have a shot.”
Kurt Busch, a three-time Atlanta winner, has an average finish of 17.4 in 21 starts. His most recent win was in March 2010. He followed that up with a sixth and a fourth. NASCAR Media shows Busch has led the most laps (785) of all drivers in the last 13 Atlanta races. This week the No. 51 Chevrolet driver will be doing a ‘warm-up’ race on Friday in another No. 51. He’ll pilot Billy Ballew Motorsports No. 51 Silverado in the Camping World Truck Series race at AMS. Enough has been said about Kurt driving equipment that isn’t as good as what he drove in the past but you can’t take his driving ability away from him. We think a top 15 or better can be expected on Sunday.