"It's going to be a crazy race"
Ask any NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver about what to expect at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, and there is one constant. The second race of the 2016 season will be a great show for both drivers and fans.
The race, the first non-restrictor plate event of the year, has been much anticipated ever since NASCAR announced the new lower-downforce aerodynamic package for 2016.
The package, which includes a shorter 3.5-inch rear spoiler, a front leading splitter edge cut down from 2 inches to just .25 inches and a radiator pan reduced from 38 inches to 33 inches, is meant to provide decreased downforce on the car, causing less grip and forcing the driver to manipulate the car more than ever before. It is also expected to allow cars to race closer together, enable easier passing at high speeds and generally create a more competitive racing atmosphere.
Combine the new aero package with Atlanta's worn out racing surface that already lends itself to loose race cars, and the elements are in place for an exciting show from stock car racing's top drivers. Atlanta has already earned a reputation for producing exciting racing. From multiple photo finishes to Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson's 2011 duel as they manhandled loose race cars in the closing laps before Gordon won his 85th NASCAR race, AMS is no stranger to exciting racing.
"Atlanta is a fun place, because of tire wear, because of low-downforce," said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs racing and 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion. "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."
In fact, with the surface at AMS grinding up tires quicker than nearly every other track, cars are apt to handle far looser than anywhere else. That figures to put racing more in the hands of the drivers instead of the cars.
"It's going to be insane; I'll just be honest," Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 for Furniture Row Racing said. "Atlanta is the one that sticks out in my mind as what's going to be the biggest challenge with the low-downforce. Even with the high-downforce we had last year - the past two years, really - the tire fall-off there and the grip level that we had on a long run was just out of control. I mean it was insane how badly the cars drove and how loose they were. So, it's going to be worse, by far, this year. It's going to be pretty wild, and I think everybody's really looking forward to it."
NASCAR racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway Feb. 26-28, 2016, 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.