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Infield Artist Leaves Mark of Charlotte Motor Speedway for 30 Years
When Alan Jones was old enough to carry a paint brush, he followed his father around painting billboards. Little did he know then, the time spent with his father and mentor would shape a career that would take him to NASCAR tracks across the country to create artwork that would be seen by millions of race fans.
A student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Jones got his start painting billboards at the famed 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in the mid-1970s.
In 1984, he was approached by speedway officials with an unusual request.
"They wanted me to paint the ball field," Jones said, referring to the large patch of grass between the frontstretch and pit road. "We were the first NASCAR track to do it."
At first Jones admitted he wasn't sure how he'd manage such an odd request, but with a little ingenuity - a trait that has served him well over the last three decades - and a lot of prep work, the first infield logos at a NASCAR event came to life.
"The first painting was two speedway globes," Jones said. "One said 1960 and one said 1984."
Jones' wife, Roxanne, remembers how much has changed from that first year.
"In the old days they used to do it a lot different," she said. "He used to take the artwork and scale it out with a scaling rule, then convert everything to feet and measure it out by hand. Now we use GPS. That was kind of reinventing the wheel."
That's right, GPS.
Things have come a long way over the last 30 years. What was once a tangled web of string used to plot out designs has since been replaced by high-tech computers and generator-powered paint sprayers that can put down more than a gallon of paint per minute. It's all part of a system Jones perfected in an effort to save time and effort.
On average, Jones said, his team works about 600 man hours over the course of 10 days painting up to a dozen logos for Charlotte's May races. They will use more than 3,000 gallons of paint to bring sponsor and race logos to life.
The size and scale of the logos are just the beginning of the challenges Jones faces. Weather and on-track activity often limit the time he and his crew have to complete his artwork. Paint spills and equipment malfunctions are also potential threats to a successful project.
With Charlotte Motor Speedway's back-to-back race weekends in May, the challenge is even greater as his window to paint the Coca-Cola 600 logos over the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race logos is just four days.
"Mistakes are not an option for me," Jones said. "We have all kinds of protocols in place to make sure it gets done."
In the end, however, Jones admits his is a labor of love. His very unique skill set combined with his passion for NASCAR have allowed him to travel the country - he paints logos at every Speedway Motorsports, Inc. facility that has grass and a few select others, he said - and share his art with the world.
Tickets are still available for all May race events at Charlotte Motor Speedway and can be purchased online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267). With a weekend pass, fans can catch all of the action of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Weekend, including the N.C. Education Lottery 200, Sprint Showdown, NASCAR Sprint All-Star qualifying and the $1 million-to-win NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, all starting at just $99. The Coca-Cola 600 weekend pass, which includes frontstretch tickets to LiftMaster Pole Day, the HISTORY 300 and the 55th running of the Coca-Cola 600, also starts at just $99.
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