One of the country’s most popular and successful drag racing programs cranks back up this week as Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Friday Night Drags & Show-N-Shine resumes in its sixth full season of action this Friday night, April 27.

The 16 divisions of drag racing will cinch up the belts and take to the 1/8-mile pit lane drag strip for pride and bragging rights. With an anticipated number of nearly 300 drivers on-hand to battle, opening night of the 2012 Friday Night Drags campaign will be one to watch. Each division points champion will be honored on the pre-race stage prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Sept. 2.

Eight classes of Show-N-Shine will also be judged prior to drag racing each night. All Show-N-Shine participants will take a couple of parade laps around the 1.54-mile speedway prior to parking their cars on the frontstretch, when fans will have the opportunity to leave their seats and get an up-close look at each automobile. All weekly divisional winners will be invited to be a part of the Labor Day weekend night racing festivities on Sunday, Sept. 2.

With the tight competition, new competitors and money invested in car upgrades, the anticipation and smack talk amongst drivers has been high throughout the off-season. In particular, the rivalry and banter between Ford and Chevrolet drivers has been ramped up.

Friday Night Drags veteran and McDonough resident Eddie Chapman, who competes in the ever-competitive Pro division with his 1969 Chevrolet Nova, looks forward to being around a group of racers that are not only his competition, but also friends.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying spending the time with friends and family on Friday nights and having fun,” said Chapman, who will be entering his fourth year of competition on the 1/8-mile. “I’m excited about opening night, to participate and enjoy the racing. I really enjoy being back with a good group of racing buddies. Whether you win or lose, everyone has a good attitude and enjoys racing with each other.

“You learn that your racing friends, even though you are racing against them, they are still your buddies and you help them work on their cars after the day is done.”

With the addition of big-block engines into the Pro division, an already fierce group of racers will have new competition to face-off against, something that Chapman anticipates.

“I’m expecting a lot of different winners this year,” said Chapman, in regards to the tight competition within his division. “A lot of guys have spent a lot of money to come out and run this year. I also think the Chevys are going to rule this year.

“I hope we put on a good show for the crowd. And I hope we have a lot of people come out this year and watch us.”

Stockbridge’s Bobby Daniel, 2010 champion of the Super Pro division and another Chevrolet driver in his 1999 Monte Carlo SS, only ran a part-time schedule last season. He will be back for a full campaign and looks forward to taking on defending champion Mark White, the new faces in the stack and a tough bunch of veteran competitors including Mike Herring, Joe Sheets and Tony Morse.

“I was only able to run the last four races last year, and I won all four,” said Daniel. “Mark’s car was broke, so we weren’t able to run against each other. It’s going to be interesting for sure. I know what kind of times my car will run, and I don’t think I’ll have any problems keeping up with Mark. He’s got more power than anyone, but that old track will only take so much. I can’t put everything I have down and I know he can’t either. It’ll come down to who knows the track better than the other guys.”

“Cadillac Craze” Takes Over First Four 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 for the first four weeks of the season.

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 first four weeks of the season 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 on May 4. 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 all four nights of “Cadillac Craze” at Friday Night Drags: April 27, May 4, May 11 and May 18.

This Season at Friday Night Drags

This season’s edition of Friday Night Drags looks to be one of the best yet. Many of last season’s champions will be returning to defend their respective titles and a stellar car count with some new faces are expected for opening night. Factor in that many veteran competitors have invested in new equipment or spent a considerable amount of time fine-tuning their current machines, and the racing action will be must-see viewing this Friday night.

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.