Drivers eager to see new-look Atlanta Motor Speedway

JULY 13:

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JULY 13:

The revamped Atlanta Motor Speedway debuts this weekend with the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Construction from August through December last year produced a reprofiled track that went from 24 degrees of banking to 28 and was narrowed from 55 to 40 feet.

“I think it’s really good to add more diversity to our schedule,” said Christopher Bell, who finished 21st in the race last season. “Atlanta definitely did that with the reconfiguration, the added banking, you know, the repave will make it have a lot of grip. So it’s going to be really exciting because none of us really know what to expect. I think we’ve had a couple tests there. Everybody’s kind of anxious for the first practice session, first qualifying session and first racer.”

AMS executive vice president Brandon Hutchison was excited about AMS’ first repave since 1997. He believes the new track, like the old, will be beloved by drivers. For so long, drivers resisted change, and AMS heard their pleas.

Hutchison said they realized last July it was time to repave. They’ve had drivers testing the track since January. “It’s going to provide a very, very fast, tight-packed racing style that’s never been seen in Atlanta Motor Speedway before,” Hutchinson said.

Chase Elliott, a Dawsonville native and 2020 Cup Series champion, is eager to see his renovated home-state track. He wasn’t among the drivers who’ve tested it, so this weekend will be a totally new experience.

“I’m looking forward to getting down there,” Elliott said. “I have a buddy who was flying and said he’d seen it from the air going into the little airport by the track. But I haven’t seen it myself. Just talking to them, you can tell it’s more narrow than it used to be. That’s the first thing everybody says.”

Elliott added he felt that it was “time for a change in Atlanta.” He acknowledges the old track ran its course, and he’s happy to be part of the new era beginning.

Alex Bowman, who won the Pennzoil 400 earlier this month in Las Vegas, is going for his first win at AMS. Bowman loved the old track, but is eager to see the new version. He promises the drivers will “put on a heck of a show.”

“It’s going to be super interesting,” he said. “Atlanta was an amazing race track, so much fun, had some great runs there last year. I think it’s going to be completely different than it’s ever been, obviously. They’ve turned it into a smaller superspeedway, go in there with the superspeedway package, and basically, probably going to pack race for the most part.

“So it’s different and really interesting to see how it plays out on a smaller track than Daytona or Talladega. The same package and mindset of those two tracks. So I’m looking forward to it and go in there and figuring it out.”

The QuikTrip 500 has been held annually since 1960. Ryan Blaney was the 2021 winner, and after finishing fourth in the Ruoff Mortgage 500 last weekend, he’s considered a favorite to win at AMS again. Seventeen drivers have won the QuikTrip 500 multiple times, with 10 doing so twice.