NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Preview
NASCAR’s regular season is four races old, and already, four different drivers have found Victory Lane.
Rookie Austin Cindric pulled off the upset in the Daytona 500. Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman then took the first two legs of the West Coast swing at Fontana and Las Vegas before Chase Briscoe broke through for his first career win last weekend in Phoenix.
This weekend, NASCAR travels back east and into the great unknown. Specifically, the Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the running of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
But when the drivers take to the track on Friday for practice, they’ll find themselves having to negotiate with a brand-new Atlanta Motor Speedway unlike anything they’ve seen before.
After being repaved and reconfigured in 1997, the speedway got a major face lift in the offseason.
In addition to the track surface being repaved, the banking in the corners of the 1.54-mile oval was increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees, making it the highest-banked intermediate track on the schedule. The width of the corners was also decreased from 55 feet to 40 feet, making the confines of the track much more narrow.
The track layout was tested on iRacing before being adapted to the real world, and the hope is that the track will race more like a superspeedway, such as Daytona or Talladega.
The cars will utilize a 510 horsepower package with a seven-inch rear spoiler in order to create the “pack” racing that is customary of a superspeedway race. The race will also feature an out-of-bounds or “yellow-line” rule to avoid drivers having to force their way back up onto the banking when entering the corner.
There are a lot of questions surrounding what exactly the race will look like, and whether it will actually be a “pack” race or not. The new surface should lead to very minimal tire fall off, likely allowing drivers to stay wide open on the throttle for an entire fuel run. Any off-throttle time would likely be detrimental to the pack racing concept.
Atlanta is also nearly one mile shorter than Daytona, though, and more than a mile shorter than Talladega, so it’s tough to imagine that the racing will look exactly the same as what is usually seen at those tracks.
With all of that in mind, it’s tough to determine who exactly the favorites will be come Sunday. Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch took home victories in the two trips to Atlanta last year, but that was on a completely different track compared to what the teams and drivers will see on Sunday.
If fans are looking for teams to watch, though, they should keep an eye on the Ford contingent of drivers. The Fords have been the powerhouse at the superspeedway races over the past few years, and dominated the closing stages of the Daytona 500, setting up Cindric’s win.
Even though his win in this race one year ago holds virtually no meaning for this weekend, Blaney might just be the driver to keep the closest tabs on.
Not only does he have multiple wins at Talladega, a win at Daytona last August, and multiple close misses in the Daytona 500, but he also won last season’s race at Michigan, which included an abundance of drafting that was perhaps most similar to what fans will see this weekend.
“YRB” will no doubt be looking to rebound after letting last weekend’s race at Phoenix slip away, and history tells us that he could very much be in the thick of the battle for the win as the laps wind down on Sunday.
Kasey Kreider is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Freshman / Broadcast Journalism