Atlanta Motor Speedway Gets a Major Alteration, Much to Drivers’ Disappointment

Published 07/15/2021, 2:10 PM EDT
Mar 21, 2021; Hampton, Georgia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) celebrates after winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports


In the NASCAR arena, the Atlanta Motor Speedway boasts of the oldest racing surface. However, reports have emerged that the track authorities plan to replace the surface during a process of reconfiguration. Sunday’s Cup Series race turned out to be the final race on the old track configuration that has been present since 1997.

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Of course, that is not the only alteration in store for the speedway. There are several other tweaks in the works, including narrowing the racing surface from 55 ft. to 40 ft. In addition to that, the frontstretch will be narrowed to 52 ft, the backstretch to 42 ft, and all turns to 40 ft.

It is also worth noting that the Atlanta Motor Speedway will soon boast of the highest banking; they will be increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees.

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Mar 21, 2021; Hampton, Georgia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney (12) passes NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson (5) late in the race to take the lead for the final time at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

What has NASCAR said about the changes?

AMS CEO Marcus Smith said, “As Atlanta’s racing surface has aged, we’ve challenged ourselves to reimagine what NASCAR racing at an intermediate track can be. With high banks in the turns, narrower width and new pavement technology, Atlanta will be unlike any other mile-and-a-half track on the circuit.

“It’s all new for ’22 and this will be specifically designed for close, competitive racing.”

As it turns out, the reconfiguration is the culmination of a lot of research based on iRacing simulations. However, it seems that not many of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers received the news positively. Drivers like Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Larson felt slighted by the authorities. This is because the project went ahead without any driver consultation.

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Denny Hamlin tweeted, “With all due respect, this same group [SMI] has reconfigured Texas, Kentucky, Bristol with 0 driver input. One of those lost a race, other one we don’t race anymore, and last one we put dirt over it. But hey, what do the drivers know.”

However, Smith declared that the project received some inputs from a few drivers, though he remained coy on the drivers’ identities. He did insist that they received both positive and negative feedback for the project.

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Dhruv George

11771 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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