Drivers Enthused About Atlanta Motor Speedway, New Race Date
The Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, NASCAR's annual season kick-off press conference, wrapped up with its fourth and final day on Thursday at Charlotte Convention Center in Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina.
The following are notes and quotes from NASCAR drivers and teams relating to Atlanta Motor Speedway and the upcoming Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 weekend Feb. 26-March 1.
Richard Childress Racing announced that driver Ty Dillon will drive in both races of the Feb. 28 Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series doubleheader at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Cole Pearn takes over for Todd Berrier as the new crew chief for Martin Truex, Jr. in 2015.
Hendrick Motorsports announced that Georgia native Chase Elliott will drive in five Sprint Cup Series races in the No. 25 car this year and will drive the No. 24 car full time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2016.
Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Hendrick Motorsports
Jeff Gordon's first Sprint Cup Series start came at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992, which was also Richard Petty's final NASCAR race.
Gordon has won four Sprint Cup Series championships, all concluding at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Gordon has won five Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, including his 85th win 2011.
"I'm extremely excited about the schedule this year, having Atlanta being number two. We ran so well there last year, (we're glad) to have a fairly quick turnaround and get it back on the schedule. I obviously think about the temperature and the weather, but the first thing that really comes to my mind is that I just love Atlanta. It's a great track for us, one track that I always feel competitive at with a shot to win. Especially the way we ran last year, I think we could have another great shot at it this year."
Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Hendrick Motorsports
Jimmie is a six-time Sprint Cup Series champion.
Johnson has won three Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, including both races there in 2007.
"It's just such a hard track to do well at. I think it sets the tone for me - and it did in years past when it was early - that 'oh yeah, this is Cup racing.' These are the most difficult tracks, the most talented drivers, most talented teams. And 'oh, by the way, it's not easy to drive this thing for 500 mile around this race track.' So, it's just a nice eye-opener for the year, like 'okay, you're back to your job and you guys are all professionals, and this is tough.'"
Chase Elliott, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver for JR Motorsports
Chase Elliott won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship last season as the youngest national NASCAR series champion ever and the first for a rookie.
Elliott is the son of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott.
"I've been very fortunate to have a lot of great supporters around home that have really been there for me and were there last year. I got to see a lot of friends and family down in Atlanta for that race last year. That's always exciting to race in front of your home crowd. That's going to be a cool moment again this season, and hopefully we can do a better job for them."
Kasey Kahne, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Hendrick Motorsports
Kasey Kahne is a three-time Sprint Cup Series race winter at Atlanta Motor Speedway, including last year.
On what he expects at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the season's second race:
"It's going to be a good show. I think the speeds are going to be up, because it's going to be cold. But you're also going to wear the tires out quicker, because the speeds are going to be higher. You're going to put your rear tires through a lot, your right front through a lot. I don't see it being a much different race than in the past, but I like the idea of having a 1 o'clock start during the day on probably a cold afternoon in Atlanta. To me, I'm actually really happy they made that the second race."
On why he has been successful at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
"I would say just the way the tires feel on low air and also when they get pumped up and lose a lot of the grip. It's fast, slippery and rough, and for whatever reason, the way the tire grips up on the race track is something that suits me pretty well."
Martin Truex, Jr., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Furniture Row Racing
"Atlanta's always a great race. You could take the bodies off these race cars and Atlanta would still be an awesome race, just because of the tire fall-off and the way the surface is there. I think it's a great place to kick off the downforce part of the season. I love Atlanta. It's probably one of my top-three favorite tracks, and I'm looking forward to going there."
Ryan Newman, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Richard Childress Racing
Ryan Newman was one of four finalists in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last season despite not winning a race in 2014.
Newman is tied for the most pole positions at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"For the last few years, we've always said that we look forward to Phoenix, because it's the first race of the year. Not to disrespect Daytona, but what we do at our core, Phoenix was the first. Now it's in Atlanta and Atlanta to me is one of the best race tracks we can go to. From our sport's standpoint, it's important to start it out with a bang in Daytona but then follow it up with a grand finale of sorts … when it comes to fireworks in Atlanta, which I think is going to definitely happen."
Ty Dillon, driver for Richard Childress Racing
Ty Dillon ran his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta last season, finishing in 25th place.
Dillon is the winner of the 2012 Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the last time the trucks raced there.
On whether or not he'll drive in both races of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series doubleheader at Atlanta Motor Speedway Feb. 28:
"I'm in it. I'm in both of them. It's going to be a great day. I'm running four races for Gallagher Motorsports this year in the Truck series, and Atlanta will be a weekend where I do that. It's going to be a long day, but Atlanta is a race track that I love. I got my first truck win there, and we ran really well there last year … in the Xfinity car. So, I'll be doing a lot of work that weekend. Danny's going to have to help me out and take some of the load off my shoulders, but I'm looking forward to that."
On having past experience racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
"Getting that first Cup start at Atlanta, a place that I really love racing at, it's very helpful to me as far as going back this year. I have the knowledge of running a 500-mile race there, and when we go back with the Xfinity Series and the Truck Series, I'll have so much more experience and knowledge of the race track and the speed. Everything will slow down for me, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity that we're going to have and possibly winning two races in one day, so that's going to be a great weekend."
On the preparation for driving in two races in one day:
"Stay hydrated. That's probably going to be my main focus. Luckily, it's earlier in the year, so it'll be a little bit cooler. I've been really working out hard this off-season to make sure I'm in shape to run as many races as I plan on running this year."
Jamie McMurray, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Chip Ganassi Racing
"Atlanta is really unique. I think you could struggle at Atlanta and still be okay at mile-and-a-halves. The track gives up so much with tires and sometimes you can be good just on a short run there, and if the cautions fall right, you're okay. I think Atlanta is a little bit of a wild card just because of the surface and how worn out it is."
Kyle Larson, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver for Chip Ganassi Racing
Larson is the reigning NASCAR Rookie of the Year.
"If we can get through the first Daytona, Atlanta, Vegas - that first four or five races - consistent and strong, that kind of sets the tone for your season."