For the time this season, the buzz entering a NASCAR Cup Series weekend isn’t about any particular driver or the Next Generation car. No, this weekend, it’s all about the track — Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has undergone quite the facelift since NASCAR’s premier division last competed here last July. Among the notable changes are an increase in banking from 24 to 28 degrees in the corners and a narrower racing surface featuring an overall decrease in width from 55 feet to 40 feet.
How will these modifications impact the racing at the 1.5-mile quad-oval? Some drivers and prognosticators believe the action could mirror the big-pack style racing normally reserved for the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, but no one knows exactly what to expect. Based on a Goodyear tire test held at the track in early January, it sounds like fans could be in for quite the show. “There’s a ton of new here,” said driver Chris Buescher, one of the participants in the January test. “It’s probably not even fair to go comparing to the old Atlanta at this point. There’s just so many variables in it.”
Former series champion Kurt Busch, another test participant, was equally in awe of the new Atlanta. “I’m that brain emoji where my brain is blowing off,” the veteran driver said. “There’s a lot to digest. It’s an engineering marvel to bank a racetrack with this much banking and keep the turns this sharp and to have it as smooth as it is. They did a really good job.”