NASCAR rookies get up to speed during Atlanta test
Several rookie drivers got some valuable track time and experience during a test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
XFINITY Series drivers Noah Gragson and Justin Haley, drivers of the No. 9 for JR Motorsports and No. 11 for Kaulig Racing, respectively, were both taking their first laps around the 1.54-mile oval since making the jump from trucks to XFINITY cars.
"I really am just trying to focus on getting comfortable within my Chevy and then just trying to learn the track with these cars," Gragson said. "I've never raced a car on a mile and a half, especially here at Atlanta. It's been challenging so far, but I'm just trying to take it as it comes and learn as much as I can."
"This is my first time in the No. 11 Kaulig Racing car; first time in an XFINITY car at Atlanta; first time in an XFINITY car at a mile and a half, so I'm a rookie," Haley said. "We fired off a lot better than I thought we would and I got the hang of it a lot better than I thought I would."
Behind the wheel of two Gander Outdoors Truck Series entries were two more green drivers: Harrison Burton for Kyle Busch Motorsports and Anthony Alfredo for DGR-Crosley. Both took to Atlanta Motor Speedway's high banks for the first time during the test session, and both were struck by the Speedway's distinct driving characteristics.
"It's a really fun racetrack," said Burton. "In the (Gander Outdoors) Truck Series there's a big, I think, divide between driving styles. At this racetrack in particular those come out so it's a lot of fun for me to kinda implement my own style into this racetrack."
"It's very fast and it loses grip really quickly as well because it's a worn out surface. This is my first time ever in a NASCAR Gander Outdoors truck and only my second time on a mile and a half," Alfredo explained; his only other time spent behind the wheel on a speedway like Atlanta was in an ARCA Series event last year. "That kind of helped me get my feet wet for this and I've got a great opportunity to work with DGR-Crosley this year. So it's our first time working together as a team at the racetrack and we're trying to learn as much as we can."
For these rookie drivers the test provided much-needed experience. For the team of engineers setting up their racecars, the test no doubt yielded valuable information that could give them an edge when they return to Atlanta Motor Speedway to race in less than four weeks.
The Atlanta NASCAR Weekend features Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Friday, Feb. 22, the NASCAR XFINITY Series Rinnai 250 and NASCAR Gander Mountain Truck Series 200-mile race doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 23, and culminates with the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 24.
Tickets for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 can be purchased by contacting Atlanta Motor Speedway at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.