Gen-6 car, tire compound head the stories at AMS

Atlanta Motor Speedway schedule

Aug. 30

6:40 p.m.: Sprint Cup qualifying

9 p.m.: USCS sprint car race

Aug. 31

4:05 p.m.: Nationwide Series qualifying

7:30 p.m.: Great Clips/Grit Chips 300 Nationwide Series race

Sept. 1

7:30 p.m.: AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup race

What a difference a year makes for Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle. Last year Biffle arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the AdvoCare 500 as the series points leader and with his Chase for the Sprint Cup berth secure.

This year Biffle is among the drivers on the Chase bubble, counting on a strong run at AMS to propel them into the 10-race, championship-deciding Chase, which begins after the Sept. 7 race at Richmond International Raceway.

Adding drama to the AMS event, scheduled for Sept. 1, is the fact that the race is the first at the track for NASCAR’s new Generation 6 race car, and Goodyear has developed a right-side tire that has two tread compounds to help drivers deal with AMS’ worn asphalt, which has been in place since 1997.

“So much is different from last year,” said Biffle, who ranked 10th in the standings with one race win before Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. “These Gen-6 cars are all different. We’re continuing to build new cars all the time and learning more and more about them. The reality is that every week, the car is evolving. Every week we’re coming out with the latest stuff or a little change here and there.”

Biffle said he’s heard good reports from his fellow drivers who tested the new AMS tire compound, but he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude about it.

“You never know until you get there and you get on the tire and the track gets rubbered in,” he said. “I’m looking forward to see how it holds up.”

Although his only win at AMS came in 2003 in a Nationwide Series race, and in a Chevrolet, he said the track is among his favorites.

“It’s a fun race track,” he said. “I like that place. We haven’t had as much success there as we’ve had at other mile-and-a-half tracks, but that could change with this Gen-6 car and the things we’re doing with it.”

Another question heading into the AMS race is which drivers and teams are hot and which are not before the final two races before the Chase.

“There are a few guys that have decent momentum, but they’re the guys a little further back in points,” Biffle said. “Martin Truex Jr. is coming off a stretch of decent runs. (Jimmie Johnson) has had a tough run the past few weeks. And the Gibbs cars have cooled off. It seems like everybody is on simmer.

“It’s not like anybody’s on fire. A lot of it is due to this new car. For the next few years, we’ll still be learning it.”