NASCAR Welcomes Hurricane Irma Evacuees With Open Arms
Getting out of the path of the storm? Head to the track!
The entire country is in wait for yet another destructive storm headed toward our shores. Meteorologists are warning that Hurricane Irma could make landfall in the Florida Keys and Miami over the weekend. With the devastation after Harvey fresh on all of our minds, thousands of Floridians are fleeing their homes and heading north. But with hotels booking up as far as Atlanta, many are left wondering where they can go.
NASCAR Nation has the answer. Come to the track! That's right, three NASCAR tracks, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway are opening up their gates and welcoming anyone who wishes to seek refuge with open arms. These are three of NASCAR's biggest tracks with a lot of land usually intended for race fans to set up camp during race weekends. But for those with the means to get there, each track will usher you in, free of charge. The racetracks are all equipped with campgrounds, as well as ample restroom and shower facilities.
Southern Living spoke with Ed Clark, President and General Manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway, and he told us that this is not the first time the track has done this sort of thing. In fact they've opened up the grounds as shelter from storms five or six times before. It all started because of a request from some fans.
"When it looked like a couple of major storms were going to hit Florida in 2006, some fans who came here and camped at our races called and said, hey we're looking for someplace to go. Can we come camp?"
That was all it took. Clark and his team have welcomed folks in need ever since. "We have 843 acres, we are not gonna run out of room to put people," he said.
Clark noted that anyone who needs a place is welcome at AMS, not just NASCAR fans.
"Some of the people who will show up are our fans, some don't know which way the cars run and that's ok too. We are ready to take care of whomever shows up."
The team at AMS is prepared. They are working with county emergency services so that they make sure, as good Southerners do, that they take great care of their guests.
Not only will Irma evacuees have shelter and a shower, they are going to get a bit of a show too, courtesy of the crew at AMS.
"We have Legend Races scheduled for this Saturday. Usually that's not a spectator event, it's just for the families of the racers. But we are going to open up the grandstands, let people in to watch it for free and call it the Irma 300."
Clark added that the folks who choose to shelter with them are welcome to stay as long as they need to do so.
"It's just the thing to do for our neighbors down South," Clark said.
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The concept of taking care of others in need is not a new concept for anyone in the NASCAR community. Jim Cassidy, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for NASCAR, told Southern Living, "When you see certain events unfold throughout the country like natural disasters, the NASCAR community really stops what they are doing and asks, what can we be doing as a community? It's an immediate reaction and a turning to what can be done."
He added, "It's not surprising. It's what our group does and I'm certainly proud of that."
This is a sentiment echoed throughout the NASCAR family. Driver and 2012 NASCAR Champion, Brad Keselowski also spoke with Southern Living and he told us, "NASCAR has always been among the most-charitable and compassionate sports in America so it doesn't surprise me to see these tracks opening up for hurricane evacuees. It's great to see people come together and help those in need. Hopefully a lot of people will use the tracks to get away from what looks to be a nasty storm."