Checkin' In with Merissa Lynn: AMS cemetery mysteries - New York News

From grandstands to graveyards: AMS cemetery mysteries

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Is Atlanta Motor Speedway haunted?
 
Not in the slightest. But, there is something there that may cause some race fans to think so. There is a cemetery-- two of them, actually. Both lie on the property that is now known as Atlanta Motor Speedway.
 
I noticed one of them a few weeks ago while on a drag racing story with my partner-in-crime for the day, Thomas Goodhew, one of the talented photographer/producers we get to work with down in the FOX 5 Sports bunker.
 
"Did you know that there's a cemetery here?" I asked him.
 
Thomas' answer was what the majority of people would say-– "No."
 
Even Marcy Scott with AMS' public relations told me via e-mail that she and the crew there don't know much about it.
 
"A church used to be there and the graveyard is still privately owned," she wrote.
 
Here's the thing: You can't even really see the fenced in cemeteries from the grandstands, so who would even know?!
 
While there are some people who do know there are a couple of cemeteries on the speedway's property, as a journalist, I wanted to know WHY?! (We like to ask questions, lots of them, in this business)
 
With some help from our friend Marcy and some of my own calling around, I was able to track down the two families that own the 4-acre plot of land that one of the cemeteries sits on. They are the Clowers and the Littles.  I spoke to both Richard Little and Robert Clower over the phone, who told me the history of this "mysterious" AMS cemetery.
 
Nobody is really sure how old it is, but both families estimate it to be around 150 years old. In a document Marcy forwarded to me of the names of the deceased buried there, the most recent was 2004 (however, both she and Mr. Clower confirmed there had been a burial there just a few weeks ago) and the oldest, 1839. That would make the cemetery 174 years old.
 
Across the street, there used to be a church-– Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church, which would make sense because the cemetery is named "Mt. Pleasant." Mr. Clower told me that church "faded" over the years and doesn't exist anymore. The cemetery stayed put, though.
 
Mr. Clower said about 100 people have been buried there. He also anticipates 50-60 more will be laid to rest there. And, if they need more room, the fence can be moved to extend the cemetery.
 
For the most part, only family members have been buried there, but Mr. Clower did tell me that if the deceased have no where else to go, they will allow them to be laid to rest there.
 
Back to the track-- it opened in Hampton in 1960. This is where it gets interesting. Originally, the plan was for the track to run east-west on the land. But, if that were the case, the families' cemetery would block turn 3. So, AMS and the Clowers and Littles made a deal. The track would run north-south as long as Atlanta Motor Speedway maintained the cemetery, AND AMS could use the north-south ends of the cemetery during races.
 
Mr. Clower said he doesn't worry about the tombstones getting destroyed. The cemetery is fenced in and AMS does its part to make sure it's secured.
 
As I mentioned earlier, the lot is NOT the only cemetery on AMS' property. Mr Clower says another one resides just north of the big one-– a smaller one which he believes is a family lot and is probably even older than the one owned by the Clowers and Littles.
 
I asked Mr. Clower if he's ever had any race fans ask if they could take their final bow there, he said no. Like I said before, they really only lay people to rest there that are family.
 
The cemetery will eventually be passed on to the Clowers' and Littles' children.
 
That's the history of the two not-so-mysterious-anymore cemeteries at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is just one example of the kind of stories I like to tell-– stories that are just out there, crazy or even weird. I was always a fan of "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" growing up. This reminds me of something I might see on there. So, if you have a story that has a sports connection and is not what you are normally used to reading or seeing like this one-– send the idea my way! I wanna hear about it. :)
 
 
Until next time, peace out!

-Merissa
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