In the last 40 years, very little about Atlanta Motor Speedway has stayed the same.
The name has changed, the track configuration has changed and the ownership has changed at least four times. One thing that has remained constant is the presence of ticket manager Frances Goss.
But after 38 years, at the close of business on Friday, Aug. 28, 2003, that too changed. Frances Goss is retiring.
"I¿ve spent the last 38 years having fun, and by retiring I get a chance to expand my horizons for having fun," Goss said. "I¿m sad to be leaving everyone here, but the plan now is to have a little more time to enjoy life and my family."
Goss began at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1965, just five years after the structure was built, when it was a 1.5-mile track known as Atlanta International Raceway. She was a perky young 26-year-old then, starting the second job she¿d ever had, one she found through the unemployment office.
To put it in perspective, when Goss started at Atlanta, Lyndon B. Johnson was president. A new house cost $40,000. A gallon of gas cost 24 cents. A loaf of bread cost 21 cents. A postage stamp was 5 cents.
During her tenure, she has seen floods, blizzards, tornadoes and fires ravage the track. She has helped raise cows in the infield. She saw the track fall into bankruptcy, then be saved by new owners. She watched as Bruton Smith bought the track in 1990, completely renovated it and made it into a showplace of modern motorsports. She saw the boom of racing from the front row, selling tickets to an ever-growing sector of fans.
"When I first came here, women weren¿t even allowed in the pits," Goss said. "That¿s obviously changed, but I¿ve still never been down there. During races, I¿m in the ticket office, helping fans and selling tickets. I¿m a worker bee, I guess."
After almost four decades, Goss is as much a part of Atlanta Motor Speedway as the track¿s high banks or looming grandstands.
"Frances Goss has been a big part of this track¿s transformation over the years," Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark said. "Frances always has the fans¿ best interests in mind. She knows what they need and makes sure they get it."
In her position as ticket manager, Goss - known as Miss Frances to many - has seen cash be replaced by credit cards and, even more recently, credit card machines being phased out and replaced by internet transactions.
When a computer problem all but halted ticket sales earlier this year, Goss was left shaking her head.
She can remember when a power outage wouldn¿t have stopped ticket sales for one minute. In those days, race fans would walk up to the window just hours before the race, paying cash for a spot to lay their blanket along the dirt banks where grandstands now stand.
Back then, the Weaver Grandstand and a wooden bleacher with 10,000 seats were the only seating options for fans, and many were left without a seat, settling on the dirt banks around the track.
"This track¿s gone through too many changes to name since 1965," Goss said. "It¿s gone from a paved circle in the mud to one of the premier racing facilities in the nation. The track has grown up since that time, and racing has, too."
In 1975, Goss and her team of ticket office workers sold more than 47,000 tickets and thought it was a lot. Now Goss is in charge of more than 124,000 seats to two NASCAR weekends a year.
"It¿s amazing how the fans have changed," Goss said. "Television has done wonders for this sport. It¿s not just about men who like cars anymore. The biggest fan base right now seems to be 4 and 5-year-olds. These preschoolers can name every driver, tell you their number and their sponsor."
Times have changed, but Goss has remained steadfast in her dedication to Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In the racing community, many know Goss as a friend of the fans, someone who always takes extra time to make sure patrons have a good experience in Atlanta.
Among those who have learned from Goss along the way in NASCAR President Mike Helton, who was General Manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway in the mid-¿80s.
When Helton learned of Goss¿ retirement, he sent her a letter of thanks for all she had done for the sport and for him personally.
Goss chuckles when she thinks of Helton and her favorite story about him. It seems that back in the 80s, when Helton was GM, Goss and Helton and a few others were raising cows in the infield. At that time, Helton was living in a little apartment in the turn 3 tower.
"I remember that Mike used to like to go jogging, and so he was out doing that one night around 10 p.m.,"Goss said. "All of a sudden from the darkness, one of the cows bellows a real deep ¿Moooooooooo.¿ The noise scared him so much he was about paralyzed."
On her final day at the office, Goss recalled stories like this one, replaying the memories for those who weren¿t lucky enough to experience the early days. She kept her hands busy tearing tickets, keeping her mind off the inevitable mixture of joy and sadness that will greet her at the end of the day.
"I have mixed emotions, but I feel at peace," Goss said, "This is the right time.
"I¿ve had a lot of fun here, and everybody here is like family. I hope you all will miss me just a little when I¿m gone."
You can count on that, Miss Frances.