Celebrating 75: Thrills, twists and triumphs at Atlanta Motor Speedway

HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — Over the past 75 years, Channel 2 Action News has covered lots of big moments at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In the early days, it was known as Atlanta International Raceway, but when a new owner bought the track in 1990, they renamed the track.

[MORE: WSB-TV marks 75th anniversary with yearlong celebration]

Channel 2 has been there for qualifying rounds and races since the 1960s. We’ve interviewed some of the world’s best drivers like Hall of Famer Richard Petty, who won on this track six times.

“This kind of race track in Atlanta is a weird kind of deal. To set up the track is a mile and a half, but they’ve got two and half miles at home end and half mile at the other and they’re all corners. So it’s hard to get a car set up that will run good all day long and pretty fast that’s what we’re trying to do,” Petty said.

Atlanta International Raceway wasn’t just seen on TV for race days. During the winter months of 1980, it transformed into a movie set.

Channel 2 was there when they were filming several scenes for “Smokey and the Bandit.”

In July 2005, a major weather event also impacted the racetrack in July 2005. A tornado decimated Atlanta Motor Speedway. However, one thing remained unscathed: A mural which was completed hours before the storm hit.

“The day he finished was the day we got hit with the EF-2 tornado, and it did $40 million worth of damage to our facility,” Brandon Hutchison said. “But the mural behind me was one of the very few things that was left untouched. So needless to say, the artists was very pleased that he didn’t have to come back and start over.”


It took about four months to repair all the damage from the tornado and Channel 2 covered every moment.

Then, in 2021, Atlanta Motor Speedway repaved the track for the first time since 1997. It took 163 days and more than 17,000 tons of material to complete the massive project.

In 2022, just the second NASCAR Cup Series race on the newly repaved and configured track, Dawsonville’s own Chase Elliott finally secured his first Atlanta victory on his home track in the Quaker State 400.

Elliott join his dad, Bill Elliott who won five times at Atlanta, as the second father-son duo to win at AMS. And of course, Channel 2 was there in victory lane moments after his win.

“It’s a really big deal to me personally. I’ve watched guys win at their home tracks. I’ve watched from a far and appreciate it but when you feel that connection and that vibe you want to do good and it motivates you. Proud to be from Georgia and hopefully made the folks who have supported us over the years proud too.”