After the winter hiatus, the first week of Friday Night Drags & Show-N-Shine at Atlanta Motor Speedway has kicked off in rousing fashion, delivering the heated racing action fans and competitors anticipated.

Opening night is always an exciting time, and for a couple of reasons. Aside from it being the first opportunity to quench the thirst for racing, it’s the first time that many competitors have had their racing machines out on the track following the winter break. The element of not exactly knowing what your call will do following off-season changes adds an angle of intrigue to an already thrilling evening.

Defending Super Pro champion Mark White spent his off-season elbows deep in his car, the popular 1967 Shelby Mustang, getting it tuned up for another season. There’s no room for complacency, sending White and other Super Pro drivers searching for more power and speed each off-season.

“Everyone who owns a car, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Super Pro or in the Domestic division, it’s a race car,” said White. “It’s up to you to give it a once over before the season starts each year. Nobody is expecting to go out there with the same setup as the previous year. We all want to win and be the center focus. We are all going to the drawing board every year and doing everything possible to gain a little more of an edge over what we already have. So that’s what we always do.”

In addition to the standard refurbishing and inspection of the machine, White has upgraded engine parts to handle the higher pressure of a new blower that he has placed on the car. He has also worked on the chassis setup of his Ford with some different suspension parts. There is also an added feature that has not been used in prior Friday Night Drags competition.

“I re-angled my parachutes,” said White. “Now I know I’m going to have to have my parachutes working. If I run what I think I will, I need them in full working order. I can’t take any chances. I’m going to be going close to 200 mph in a 1/8-mile. I’ve got to have it all comfortable and in working order.”

Aside from the working parts of the race car, White also did a little cosmetic work on the pony, adding a fresh new candy apple red paint scheme to the car. What may seem like a minor detail for some, the new paint could represent the little something extra that could gain added attention for White and his team.

“You’ve got to look professional and not look like chumps,” said White. “You’ve got to look like a complete package. You see enough big guys racing and you know what you need to do and how you need to do that. I’m just trying to line up with all that. I know what this track (Atlanta) has to offer. It has the spectators and the media coverage. It’s competition. And it’s local and convenient for many of us.”

In any racing garage, each driver has his own individual story and reason for coming out. Some are there for the camaraderie, others for the high-speed thrill. For White, it’s the chance to turn a childhood vision and teenage passion into the chance to chase the American dream.

“I plan on going wherever I can with it,” said White of his racing desires. “That’s why I spend all of my available time trying to fix the car and get the team ready and be focused on turning pro with this thing. You’ve got to do this if this is what you want to do. You can’t be partial with it; you have to give it everything you’ve got. John Force puts 110 percent into what he does, and it shows.

“I’ve owned this exact car since I was 13. This has been my dream since way early on, but I’m just now getting to realize it. It took me 19 years to put this particular car together at my house, but I’ve managed to get it together. It’s been a long time coming. I’m excited. Just getting all these things to come together has been awesome.” 

“Cadillac Craze” Takes Over the Next Three Weeks of Friday Night Drags

Fans and competitors alike will have even more incentive to be at Friday Night Drags this week and beyond. The Georgia Lottery’s “Cadillac Riches” instant game will be a major part of Friday Night Drags through the end of May.

In addition to the 16 regular divisions of drag racing at AMS, Cadillac owners are invited to compete in an additional “Cadillac Only” division, pitting Caddy vs. Caddy down the pit lane drag strip. There will also be a “Cadillac Only” Show-N-Shine division for those owners looking to show off their rides.

Each division winner at Friday Night Drags during the “Cadillac Craze” will receive a complimentary “Cadillac Riches” instant game ticket, which could instantly win a lucky ticket-holder up to $250,000 or a new Cadillac vehicle. All “Cadillac Only” division winners in the drag racing and Show-N-Shine divisions will each win 25 complimentary “Cadillac Riches” instant game tickets.

However it won’t only be the competitors that get to take part in the Cadillac festivities. The first 10 fans that show a “Cadillac Riches” instant game ticket at Gate 15 will receive $1 off their gate admission plus the opportunity for a pace car ride at the next week’s Friday Night Drags event. Even if customers can’t be among the first 10, any fan that shows a “Cadillac Riches” instant game ticket will receive $1 off gate admission. All contestants must be 18 or older to participate. This discount is available for the following nights of “Cadillac Craze” at Friday Night Drags: May 4, May 11 and May 18. 

Cheer for Red, Earn Pizza Discount Courtesy of Papa John’s Pizza

As if fans needed an even bigger bonus for making it out to Friday Night Drags, Papa John’s Pizza has upped the ante in 2012.

Anytime a red car wins in the drag racing finals, Papa John’s will offer customers a 50 percent discount on their online order. That offer is good for the entire weekend by using the promo code 50RED through Sunday. This offer is good only at participating locations.

Last week, two red cars went to victory lane during the season opener, earning a tasty discount for hungry fans. Be sure to cheer for the red cars this week on the 1/8-mile at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

 This Week and Upcoming at Friday Night Drags

Week two of Friday Night Drags will feature the Sportsman Clash. Each driver in the Sportsman division is encouraged to come out and battle down the track for supremacy in the division. It’s never too early to work on building momentum for the stretch run to the championship, and getting a fast start at the beginning of the season could prove to be crucial down the line.

Already one of the more hotly-contested divisions at Friday Night Drags, the Sportsman Clash will ramp up the intensity level amongst the competitors this Friday night.

Show-N-Shine competitors are also encouraged to come out and show off the special and custom automobiles of yesterday and today. All participants are invited to the track cruise following judging. Last week’s cruise had to be shortened due to the enormous turnout of cars for competition. This week’s cruise will feature two laps around the 1.54-mile speedway followed by a display of all cars on the speedway’s frontstretch, where fans will be invited to come down and take an up-close look at the machines.

This year, Friday Night Drags will feature several challenge and clash nights for various divisions, a mayor race between local mayors, the popular kids’ Power Wheel races, kids’ candy scramble, Fourth of July fireworks, Top the Cops night featuring the chance to drag race local law enforcement and more.

Fans are also encouraged to enter to win weekly NHRA ticket giveaways with a grand prize to be drawn on championship night, Aug. 17. Each week through Aug. 10, one fan will win two Sunday tickets to the NHRA O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 16. During the Aug. 17 Friday Night Drags, one lucky fan will win a trip to all three days of drag racing at zMAX Dragway, Sept. 14-16. The grand prize winner will receive two suite passes to all three days of drag racing, hotel accommodations and parking. Fans can pick-up an entry form at the gate ticket windows or the souvenir stand on the main concourse. All entries will be at the souvenir stand on the main concourse.

The 2012 Friday Night Drags season runs most Friday nights through Aug. 17, with the Fall Stampede taking place Sept. 14 and Sept. 21. Practice runs begin at 6:15 p.m. and grandstand gates open at 6:30 p.m. Show-N-Shine car show judging begins at 6:15 p.m. with a track cruise at 8:15 p.m. Drag racing eliminations begin at 9:09 p.m.

All racers ages 16 and 17 must have a fully-executed minor’s release form on file at the speedway prior to competition and forms are available at the speedway or at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com. Competitors must wear a DOT-approved helmet and have operational seat belts in their vehicle and pass a pre-race safety inspection.

Entry to drag race or for the Show-N-Shine is $20 or competitors can enter both for $30. Spectator admission is only $8 with children five and under free. Exterior parking is free, while infield parking is $20.

For more information on Friday Night Drags or Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/drags.