Atlanta Motor Speedway will repave and reprofile its facility ahead of the 2022 season when Next Gen racecars are officially introduced into NASCAR.
Currently the third-oldest racing surface in NASCAR, Atlanta was last repaved after the 1996 season, when it was also reconfigured into a quad-oval like Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.
As a lifelong NASCAR fan who totally didn’t just start following the sport yesterday, I am outraged by this decision. Not only are the bosses repaving, but they are also changing the sweet 24-degree banking to 28-degrees and narrowing the 1.54 mile track all around (55 feet to 52 on the front stretch, 42 on the back stretch, and 40 on the turns). The thought process behind the changes appears to be rooted in tighter turns and more clusters of racers, which should add excitement for the casual fan.
Lifers like me care more about strategy and pacing, though, and apparently, so do the drivers. NASCAR drivers have been lobbying for 24 years to keep the track in its current condition. Like a good college sofa, Atlanta Motor Speedway has been held together with glue and “stickum” lately, and as a result, the drivers know all of its little sweet spots. Sure, tossing the sofa is what the wife wants, but it still sleeps really nice in a pinch. Unfortunately, though, it seems we can’t even stash her in the garage, as NASCAR brass has decided to overhaul the racetrack before Next Gen cars arrive.
Atlanta will be the first mile and a half track to have this kind of close-quarters racing.
“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,” Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said.
“Our partners at Speedway Motorsports have reprofiled Atlanta Motor Speedway to optimize the racing with the Next Gen car, and early simulations suggest the racing will be closer and even more competitive,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, added. “From the Charlotte Roval to the Bristol Dirt Race and now a re-imagined Atlanta, Marcus Smith and his team continue to take bold, innovative steps to bring unique and exciting racing experiences to our fans.”
So pour out a Natty Light for the memories because changes are happening and they’re happening quickly. My fellow NASCAR outlaws will soon be stuck sitting on Restoration Hardware sofas, watching the boys race around brand new, perfectly polished speedways instead of the down and dirty tracks we grew up watching from our crusty loveseats. But that’s okay; a day watching racing still beats a day furniture shopping. That’s how life goes: the good times get paved over but the memories of farts, beers, and cigarette burns last a lifetime.