Racing under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time on Labor Day weekend, the stars of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series will enter the Pep Boys Auto 500 with little more than educated guesswork and speculation as to how slick and fast the track will really be at night.
For a contingent of 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars, competing one night earlier in the Degree V12 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race under the lights will give them needed seat time at night on the high banks of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"I think you can [learn a lot about the first Sprint Cup night race at AMS from the Nationwide race]," said Dale Earnhardt, Jr. "You want to know at night does the lane change - does where you predominately want to run change from the day races [at AMS]. We'll see what everybody does and where everybody chooses to run late in the race, if they're toward the bottom groove. And you'll get a good idea how much more grip you'll see on Sunday night as the temperature drops."
At least 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contenders will compete in the Degree V12 300. These include: Greg Biffle; Jeff Burton; Kyle Busch; Earnhardt, Jr.; Carl Edwards; Kevin Harvick; Matt Kenseth; Joey Logano; David Ragan; and Brian Vickers.
While these contenders can certainly learn much about the characteristics of Atlanta Motor Speedway at night by running in the Degree V12 300 - such as the amount of grip at night, tire temperatures and preferred lines - the Sprint Cup Cars and Nationwide Cars also have their distinct differences.
"The sensation of speed - it feels pretty fast in both," said Brian Vickers, who finished fifth in March's Kobalt Tools 500 Sprint Cup Series race. "With the Nationwide car, obviously you carry more speed through the corner, not quite as much down the straightaway. You probably feel a little bit faster in the Nationwide car through the corner of course, but the entry speed in the Cup car is quite a bit more."
Obviously the Cup and Nationwide cars certainly have distinct differences, but these drivers hope their Saturday night experience will give them an advantage over the competition on Sunday.
Scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. start on Saturday, Sept. 5, the Degree V12 300 will feature a 195-lap format.
For more information on the Degree V12 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX, or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.