Long-time track president retiring after 40 years in NASCAR

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Annika Pepper

Atlanta Motor Speedway track president Ed Clark is set to retire after working in NASCAR for 40 years. Clark has worked at the track for the past 25 years and resides in Peachtree City.

After 25 years as track president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, Speedway Motorsports Incorporated’s longest tenured employee, Ed Clark, has decided it’s time to retire. Among many changes the track has gone through, Clark’s retirement will be one of the biggests in the past two decades.

Annika Pepper
The front stretch of Atlanta Motor Speedway pictured from pit road. Over the years, Clark has witnessed unforgettable finishes at this track, including iconic moments in NASCAR history. One event that stands out to Clark was seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty’s last career race here.

“We’ve got a great group of young people here that are very smart, very intelligent, and already doing a great job,” Clark said. “It’s time to let them have some of the fun I’ve had here all these years, and my job now will be to sit back and watch them and encourage them and cheer them on. [I get to]come to a race and actually enjoy watching a race instead of working the whole time.”

Clark was introduced to the sport  when he attended his first race at just eight years old. Since then he has had a deeply rooted passion for the sport.

“After the race, my dad and my uncle took me down and I got autographs from drivers,” Clark said. “I still have the souvenir notebook with autographs, some of who are in the Hall of Fame now. It just reached out and grabbed me. It’s something I knew I loved and wanted to do and be more a part of.”

In high school, Clark wrote for his local newspaper in Virginia and convinced his boss to let him cover nearby races. Clark continued writing racing columns in college while at Virginia Tech and through networking got an opportunity to work for Bristol Motor Speedway after he graduated. From there, Clark went on to work for Speedway Motorsports at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and then moved to Atlanta in 1992 after the company bought the track.

We love where we are and we got a lot of friends there and it has been truly a wonderful thing to live in Peachtree City.”

— Ed Clark

“They asked me to come down and be the general manager here so I moved to Atlanta and have been here ever since,” Clark said. “Twenty-eight seasons of fun and a lot of stories and a lot of adventures through those years.”

Although the track is located in Hampton, Clark decided to move his family to Peachtree City where he still resides. Clark’s kids graduated from McIntosh High School and his family has felt at home in the Peachtree City community.

“Once we came here and started looking for a place to live and saw Peachtree City that was just it for us,” Clark said. “We’ve lived in the same home for 28 years. We’re right on Lake Peachtree there. We love where we are and we got a lot of friends there and it has been truly a wonderful thing to live in Peachtree City. We’ve seen it change quite a bit. It’s still a great community and it has a lot more amenities than when we first moved there.”

Annika Pepper
Tire marks scuff the side of the wall near the finish line at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Those wanting to catch the action of NASCAR race weekend March 13-15 can visit atlantamotorspeedway.com for information and tickets.

While Clark’s family adjusted to Peachtree City, Clark had little time to adapt to his position as track president. His first race weekend as president so happened to be, NASCAR Hall of Famer, Richard Petty’s last race. The historic weekend bragged a sold out race that ended with the celebration of Petty’s career as well as the crowning of the season’s champion.

“We had to figure out how we were gonna handle many things we didn’t have to handle before, because by far it was the largest crowd we ever had,” Clark said. “It wasn’t one thing but it was all related to the fact that we had such a successful event that we had to plan accordingly when we never had that many people attend before here at Atlanta Motor Speedway.”

Clark’s first race weekend was also four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jeff Gordon’s first race adding further to the prestige of the event. Gordon would go on to be a four-time champion prior to retiring in 2015.

Clark was a part of many historic and unforgettable races at AMS including Kevin Harvick’s win with NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt’s team after his death just weeks before.

To make it even more special, Kevin Harvick, who replaced Dale in that car that Dale had won with a year prior to that, came out and won the race in a photo finish with Jeff Gordon. Just an iconic moment.”

— Ed Clark

“That was a day that everyone that was here will remember,” Clark said. “We wanted to do something to honor Dale, so we came up with the idea on lap 3 that all the fans would raise three fingers and we didn’t know how well it would be accepted. Every person in the grandstands stood and held three fingers up. To make it even more special, Kevin Harvick, who replaced Dale in that car that Dale had won with a year prior to that, came out and won the race in a photo finish with Jeff Gordon. Just an iconic moment. The fans cheered and cheered and cheered. I’d never heard them cheer so loud — probably for six or seven minutes. Harvick drove up and down the front straightaway. The crew was crying. I think it was just a big emotional release.”

As Clark moves on to retirement, he takes many great memories of the sport and the track with him. When asked about his legacy, Clark simply wants to be remembered as someone who loved the sport as much as the fans do.

“I want everyone that comes to Atlanta Motor Speedway to genuinely have a fantastic time and to leave with enjoyable memories that they’ll go home and tell other people about. If we don’t do that we haven’t done our job,” Clark said. “Just that I’ve been a part of giving them a great experience and the side on that for me is I’ve enjoyed those things as much as they have.”

For those wanting to experience the thrills of race weekend for themselves and be part of Clark’s last races as track president, NASCAR events at Atlanta Motor Speedway will take place March 13-15. The main event of the weekend,the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500, begins at 2 p.m. March 15. For tickets and information visit atlantamotorspeedway.com.