Atlanta: A Favorite Among Drivers
With all three of NASCAR's national touring series set to descend on Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 weekend just days from now, drivers looking ahead to the races have described AMS in many different ways. Fast, abrasive, slick, aged, fun, wild and even mean are just a handful of the adjectives that have been uttered by drivers about historic 1.54-mile race track. In a yearbook of race tracks, AMS might sweep the superlatives page for most character, most dramatic and certainly, most popular.
No doubt, teams and drivers have had the Atlanta race weekend circled on their calendars as their favorite stop, one they've looked forward to the entire offseason. Its aged surface, last repaved more than 18 years ago, draws the competitors' affirmation for the competitive, challenging and genuine racing atmosphere it produces time and again.
This season, more than ever, NASCAR drivers have been eager to get to Atlanta, especially those in the Sprint Cup Series, where the highly anticipated debut of a new, low-downforce aerodynamic package has added a whole new contingency to an already unpredictable race.
In their own words, here's what drivers have had to say about NASCAR racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
"I'm hoping Atlanta is just like it was in 2005 - the first time I really went here and felt really competitive. Atlanta is just the perfect race track. The pavement's aged, now we're taking a little downforce away, and it might be up on the top again and that'd be cool. The problem is we just don't have as many race tracks with that good asphalt anymore. If you could take Atlanta and put that asphalt everywhere, that'd be spectacular. It's so much fun to race on that, but everybody knows how I feel about Atlanta - it's as good as it gets. If we could go there once a month I'd be happy."
- Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing
"I think it's going to be an incredible race with lower downforce on the race cars. I think the cars are going to be a real handful, and it's going to be exciting. I'm looking forward to just kicking off that part of the season, getting to work, seeing how our cars are, where we stack up. The anticipation is high. Going to Atlanta with a little bit of momentum is always a good feeling."
- Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 78 Toyota for Furniture Row Motorsports
"Atlanta is a fun place, because of tire wear, because of low-downforce. It's going to be a crazy race. There's going to be cars sliding all over the place. It's a unique race track by itself without a low-downforce package, but it's going to be even more so this year with the way the aero rules are. I'm looking forward to Atlanta. I missed that race last year but was able to catch it on TV. Restarts are hectic, groove changes are crazy, and having less aero on the race car - I think - is going to lead to more driver-crew-chief-type relationships, the better ones to showcase their talents."
- Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing
"Atlanta is such an interesting track, so worn out, so slippery. Tire management is critical. And you need every bit of grip that you can get from aerodynamics to mechanical. When you take aerodynamic grip away, it's going to produce more challenges at a place like Atlanta. I think it will provide an even better race for the fans and a better race for the drivers who like to get up on the wheel and push the envelope and the the ones who like to take it easy and try to save their stuff for later."
- Brian Scott, driver of the No. 44 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports
"I love Atlanta. It's got a lot of character in the asphalt. It's worn-out. It's bumpy. It makes for a really good race."
- Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports
"I look forward to Atlanta. It's one of my favorite race tracks. You can run the top; you can run the bottom. I enjoy the old, gritty, worn-out race tracks that you have to manage your tires. You have to manage your race car. You have to move around and find grip."
- Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing
"You go to Atlanta, and it's 'hang on.' Super-fast, super-slick. The track wears the tires out very, very fast. The cars have to handle well. You're lifting a lot. You're sideways. Just a completely different feel as a driver. The cars are going to drive much different with the new rules, and that's to be expected. As a driver, you're going to have to change your inputs, your techniques. Without giving anything proprietary away, it's going to be a challenge."
- Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske
"Atlanta is probably my favorite track to drive, and there are probably a lot of drivers that say the same thing. It's extremely fast for a lap and then I just keeps backing up. Tires fall off. Lap times really fall off throughout a run, two, three, four seconds. I think with this aero package, it's just going to exaggerate that even more. You're not going to have the downforce to lean on, the side-force to lean on. I'm definitely excited about it, both going to Atlanta for the first (low) downforce track after Daytona and seeing how this aero package works."
- Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing
"Man, Atlanta is one of those places that makes me smile. It's big. It's fast. It's scary. It's got that high line right up an inch and a half off the wall. Anybody that knows me knows I love it up there. It just makes me smile. The history of the place and how many great finishes it's given over the years. I love the speed and the damn-near 'oh God, hold on' take-your-breath-away feeling of Atlanta, because it's fast, man."
- Brendan Gaughan, driver of the No. 63 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series for Richard Childress Racing
"I always liked racing at Atlanta. As long as they don't repave it, it's still going to be one of the greatest tracks on the circuit. It is a driver's race track. You aren't going to win a race by just having a great car. You have to figure out what to do with it at Atlanta to be successful."
- Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing
NASCAR racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, featuring the Heads Up Georgia 250 XFINITY Series and Great Clips 200 Camping World Truck Series doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 27 and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 28. For more information, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.