Atlanta Wants Indy Racing Back

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Atlanta Motor Speedway would like to play host to another Indy Racing League event. Now, track officials have got to decide if bringing back the open-wheel cars makes financial sense.

Ed Clark, the speedway's president and general manager, is still awaiting attendance figures and other numbers that will help him decide what kind of offer to make to the IRL for a potential race in 2001.

"We've got to structure a deal that works for them and works for us," he said Monday. "That's the challenge. We'll throw the first proposal out, then let them work with it."

Clark had preliminary discussions with IRL founder Tony George on Friday, one day before the Midas 500 Classic. Greg Ray dominated the race, held before a crowd estimated at 35,000 to 45,000.

The turnout was larger than last year but fell short of the surprisingly strong showing for the inaugural event in 1998. Every year, there have been tens of thousands of empty seats at the speedway, which has a permanent capacity of more than 124,000.

"I was very encouraged with the crowd," Clark said. "There were a lot of first-time attendees. It was a pretty good event except for Greg Ray lapping the field. He was a rocket ship."

The track offered half-priced tickets to women and children. Afterward, the paddock was opened to all fans, allowing them to mingle with the drivers shortly after the checkered flag.

"The people I talked to liked going in the garage and liked some other things we did," Clark said. "There were a lot of positives. I was very encouraged."

Atlanta has completed a three-year contract with the IRL and wasn't placed on the tentative 12-race schedule for next season. Clark said he hopes to make a proposal by the end of next week and predicted the negotiations could take at least a month. He likely will be seeking another three-year deal.

This year, the IRL agreed to a lease arrangement with the 1.54-mile quad-oval south of Atlanta, assuming much of the financial risk and combining the promotional efforts. The 5-year-old series probably would be reluctant to come back next year under the same terms.

The speedway, meanwhile, is desperate for more events and seems unlikely to attract another racing series.

"From an emotional standpoint, there's no question we need to do this thing," Clark said. "From a business standpoint, all the numbers have got to work. We'll analyze it and see."

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