HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta Motor Speedway's slot in NASCAR's schedule is going from Labor Day weekend to late winter. The move, however, does not leave AMS President Ed Clark cold.
The track's final Labor Day weekend Sprint Cup race is Sunday night. Next year, Atlanta racing shifts to the second week in the schedule, right behind the Daytona 500.
It looks like a demotion for the track and a gamble with Atlanta's unpredictable weather in the first week of March. The track was once was home to two NASCAR races. Now it seems to have drawn the short straw in schedule changes that rewarded Bristol and Darlington.
Clark said the move will allow AMS to escape an overcrowded weekend in the Atlanta sports market.
From Thursday through Sunday this week, the Atlanta area hosted four major college football games, an Atlanta Braves series and the Dragon Con popular culture convention.
The Atlanta Falcons played their final preseason game on the road this week, but next year the NFL opens its regular season on Labor Day weekend.
It's one thing to compete with Clemson-Georgia and Alabama-West Virginia college games. Taking on the NFL's opening weekend is a different matter.
"That was kind of the final straw that made us say maybe we need to look at something else," Clark said, adding there is only so much "discretionary money" available for fans.
"We knew we had to do something, not that we didn't think we could compete head to head with these things," he said. "You take it and split it so many ways and sooner or later it's not what you want it to be."
Speedway Motorsports, Inc., owns AMS and eight other tracks, including in Bristol.
Atlanta's Labor Day weekend slot shifts to Darlington Raceway, the former longtime home of the Southern 500 on that weekend. Bristol benefits by having its first race move from mid-March to better weather in mid-April.
Jeff Gordon, who made his NASCAR debut in Atlanta in 1992, is one of many drivers who consistently praise the Atlanta facility as one of their favorite tracks. When asked about Atlanta's schedule move, Gordon said: "It's going to be cold."
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