Atlanta Motor Speeday
- When did you first become interested in racing?
I first became interested in racing when I was about five years old. My favorite uncle was a fan of driver Marvin Panch and my tricycle was the color of his car so my uncle called me “Pancho” which was Marvin’s nickname. I went to my first race when I was eight years old and I knew that day what I wanted to do for a career and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done that for 40 seasons.
- What was your first job in the world of racing?
I had covered NASCAR races as a young journalist during my high school and college years but my first actual job was in public relations for Bristol Motor Speedway and the International Hot Rod Association. I actually began this job about six weeks before graduating from Virginia Tech in 1977.
- Have you ever done any racing yourself?
I have done a bit of racing myself. My very first race was in 1979 on the high banked Rockingham, NC track in a NASCAR Goody’s Dash series companion race which was part of their NASCAR race weekend. I really didn’t race again after that until about 2003 when I began racing in Legends and Thunder Roadster cars which I did for about ten years primarily here at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- What do you like best about the sport?
The passion for NASCAR that I’ve maintained over 50 years shows that there are a great number of things I like about NASCAR. One of my most gratifying moments each race is seeing people attend our events from all over the globe and on that day they are all equals enjoying the color and pageantry and pulling for their favorite drivers. We have a great sport and we are like a traveling circus except we have race cars instead of elephants but we both have great followings from passionate fans.
- Tell us a little about the history of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Atlanta Motor Speedway opened in 1960 and was the fourth NASCAR superspeedway constructed in the early years of our sport. It was named Atlanta International Raceway at that time but the name was changed in late 1990 when our company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., purchased the track. AMS has hosted more 500 mile races than any other track on the NASCAR tour. It is a favorite track among the drives and fans and has a reputation for producing photo finishes.
- When did you become the President and General Manager of AMS? What do you like best about this particular track?
I was named VP and General Manager in the summer of 1992 and was promoted to President several years later. What I like best about AMS is that the short straightaways (1/4 mile) and sweeping turns (1/2 mile) are unlike any other NASCAR track and they produce two and three-wide ultra-competitive racing which the fans love to watch and the drivers love to be a part of.
We have a great sport and we are like a traveling circus except we have race cars instead of elephants but we both have great followings from passionate fans.
- During your tenure, what have been some of the most memorable moments at the track?
Certainly my first race in 1992 stands out because it was Richard Petty’s final race and Jeff Gordon’s first race and has been called the greatest NASCAR race ever by many of the sport’s insiders. I think several of the memorable photo finishes rank right up there as do all of the construction projects which created what we have today.
- In addition to hosting a NASCAR race, what other types of events does AMS host? What makes the track so versatile?
We have 887 acres and the ability to host about anything with the word show on the end of it. We also host the Summit Racing Equipment Atlanta Motorama car show, numerous running and fitness events, music festivals, Legends and drag racing series, television and film production, driving schools and even the occasional wedding. Through the years the number and variety of events produced at AMS has been truly amazing.
- Can you explain a little more about your Thursday Thunder and Friday Night Drags racing series?
Thursday Thunder is our ten race racing summer series for Bandolero and Legends car drivers from the age of 8 on into their 70’s. It has been a great development series for many young drivers in NASCAR including Joey Logano, David Ragan, Chase Elliott and Reed Sorenson.Friday Night Drags has been a highly successful organized street racing program on our pit road dragstrip. It runs on Friday nights from April until late August and has been a great addition to our schedule.
I went to my first race when I was eight years old and I knew that day what I wanted to do for a career and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done that for 40 seasonsHosting a NASCAR race is a huge undertaking.
- What facts about race weekend might surprise people? We work all year long to produce quality NASCAR events for our customers. Most people don’t know it but we essentially become the fourth largest city in Georgia on a NASCAR weekend. All the services big cities need have to be provided to our attendees here.I went to my first race when I was eight years old and I knew that day what I wanted to do for a career and I’ve been fortunate enough to have done that for 40 seasons
- Filming in Georgia has really taken off recently. What film activity has Atlanta Motor Speedway seen during its history?
We have seen a great amount of filming in and around our facility through the years. I recently watch a movie filmed here in 1962. Recent projects in the immediate area include Zombieland, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Identity Thief, Anchorman 2, the new Vacation movie and a project called Logan Lucky which will be released in late 2017.