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The Short-Lived Atlanta Auto Speedway Awakes the South

The Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, was opened in 1960 and is well-known due to the high-speeds that racers are able to run at the oval track. This was not the first speedway built near the city, which experienced the excitement of auto racing on a new track built there way back in 1909. The complete details behind the short-lived venture have yet to be found, but we have been able to piece together some of the story.

The postcard image at the top of the post shows a pair of J.I. Case steam-powered road rollers putting the finishing touches on the new track. Asa Candler Jr. who had originally founded the Coca-Cola Company and was involved in politics in Atlanta built the racing oval. At the beginning of the project, Candler and others formed the Atlanta Automobile Association which worked together to acquire the close to 300-acres of land needed for the facility.

The  Atlanta Auto Speedway 1909

Candler later bought the property from the Association and constructed the new racetrack. Opening day was on November 9, 1909, and the photo (above) shows Louis Strang who set the fastest time in qualifying with his 120-h.p. Fiat, on the right is Asa Candler Jr. Strang went on to finished first in the Free-For-All race ahead of Barney Oldfield. The complete story of the opening event at the track and the racing results in The Automobile, November 18, 1909, issue can be found below.

The new facility did not turn out to be successful and it was only open for two or three years. Candler keep it going during that time by offering a mix of auto and motorcycle racing along with a few air shows. After World War I the site became the location of a new airport for Atlanta and in 1925 it was named Candler Field. More interesting images and a postcard showing the complete track can be found below.

  • The Atlanta Auto Speedway 1909
  • George Eastman House Collection photos – The Library of Congress
  • The Atlanta Auto Speedway 1909
  •          A Marmon racing car at one of the races held at the track.
  • The Atlanta Auto Speedway 1909
  • Postcard image of the track – 1909 – The Old Motor.
  • The Atlanta Auto Speedway 1909
  •                  The story of the track opening “The Automobile” November 18, 1909.




6 responses to “The Short-Lived Atlanta Auto Speedway Awakes the South

  1. The shape of the speedway resembles Darlington, which opened in 1950. And in that one picture showing the cars parked in the pit area, the #42 car looks like it might have had something done to its nose. Even in 1909, they tried to get more aerodynamics and downforce on cars.

  2. Excellent article, thanks and especially the post card of the track. I volunteer with the Atlanta Preservation Center and hope to use it on my walking tours of Downtown Atlanta.

    One additional point of history: In the later 20’s the US Post Office was looking for an airmail stop in the South East. The two cities in contention were Birmingham, AL and Atlanta. A young city alderman, William B. Hartsfield, approached Mr. Candler and struck a deal where the City of Atlanta could use the land, rent-free, for a period of 5 years as long as the City paid the taxes. It became the home of Atlanta Municipal Airport, the first passenger airport in the world with a control tower, and the first passenger airport with a passenger terminal.

    It is, of course, today’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, the busiest airport in the world.

  3. There is some controversy about which Candler, Senior or Junior, was responsible for the track. Certainly it was senior’s money. Spent some time researching the track and it appears in a later chapter of my book on Joan Cuneo, who was not allowed to compete in the race meet, but did run a series of hot laps there in a variety of cars.
    The track was ahead of its time in many ways because of the berm that surrounds it. Although there were some accidents, no one was killed, nor were any spectators injured. When you compare it with what happened at Indy in the same year, it is quite amazing.

  4. Thanks for posting all of this information and pictures! The airport has been a part of my life, in some way, for over 50 years. I love reading and hearing about what has happened in the Atlanta area during bygone days. I often think about all of these things with fondness when I am in the area.

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