In Their Own Words - The Storylines Heading Into Atlanta
As we draw ever closer to the start of the 2018 NASCAR season, the storylines heading into Atlanta are already full of juicy intrigue! Drivers are already talking about what it will take to conquer the 21-year-old beast that is Atlanta Motor Speedway's surface when the series makes it annual stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on February 25th.
A Shock to Teams
Following the conclusion of the 2017 season and the crowning of Martin Truex Jr. as the new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion in November, teams quickly turned their focus to the 2018 season and how to find Victory Lane and earn a trip to the NASCAR Playoffs. With the opening of the 2018 NASCAR season still a few days away, many teams have already begun to prepare for the second race of the season, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
As the second race of the season, and the first non-restrictor plate race in 2018, many consider Atlanta Motor Speedway the real start to the season. Daniel Suarez, entering his second fulltime Cup Series season explained why this is the case for both drivers and their crews.
"For teams, crew chiefs, and engineers, Atlanta is a very important race, because it's the first mile-and-a-half race after Homestead," said Suarez. "So for them, it's going to be one of those races where we are going to see exactly where we're at and where we're going to start the season with the mile-and-a-half package."
Jamie McMurray, who has five top-10 finishes at Atlanta Motor Speedway, touched on this transition saying, "I think that's actually tough, because we are in Daytona for 10 or 11 days and there is so much buildup around that race before you ever get there. But then, once that race is over, is really when the season starts."
As some drivers count down the days to the start of the season, Matt Crafton counts down the days to racing on his favorite track - Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Active Pest Control 200 Benefiting Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
"That's when [the season] kicks into high gear, once you hit Atlanta. That's the bread-and-butter of our races. The majority of our races are on the mile-and-a-halves, so that's where we've really got to focus our program,” said Matt Crafton, two-time Camping World Truck Series champion, and winner of the 2015 NCWTS race at Atlanta. "I really look forward to going there. That's by far my favorite racetrack that we go to because of that old, worn-out asphalt. "
The NASCAR triple header weekend will be a measuring stick for teams and drivers. Leaving Atlanta Motor Speedway, they will how they stack up as they battle to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs.
A Georgia Native Will Make His 400th Start
Georgia native, David Ragan is set to make his 400th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Atlanta. This start will mark the second in his 12th fulltime season in NASCAR's top level.
Ragan explained why celebrating this career milestone at his home track means so much to him: "It is very special that I made it to 400 consecutive starts. I think that is a huge accomplishment. As a young kid, I dreamed of being able to race at some of these large tracks and to get my NASCAR license. For it to happen at Atlanta Motor Speedway is pretty neat too. I couldn't have scripted it any better. Atlanta Motor Speedway is where I got my start in racing - my Bandolero car and my Legends car back in the late '90's. Atlanta Motor Speedway is a special place to me and my family, and it's pretty cool that I'm going to run my 400th race there."
Ragan's hometown crowd will be cheering him on as he fights to top his career-best 8th place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Good Luck, Chase
Another Georgia native will also look to find luck at Atlanta this season. Chase Elliott is entering his third fulltime season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. After a 2017 season where he finished in the top-10, 21 out of 36 races, and came in second five times, Elliott is itching for that first Cup Series victory. His home track is bolstering the effort to get Elliott to that win.
Atlanta Motor Speedway is collecting good-luck charms from fans from all over the country. These charms will be presented to Elliott at a special event at AMS on Feb. 13. Elliott spoke about the incoming luck, saying, "It is a cool idea for sure. I hope it brings some luck. My dad - they did a picture of him and he basically had all these good-luck token things, and he won a race shortly thereafter. So, my friends at Atlanta Motor Speedway had this idea to recreate the photo, so I hope it brings me some magic. We'll see."
There is still time to send Chase Elliott luck going into the season. All good luck charms should be sent to: AMS at 1500 Highway 19/41, Hampton, GA 30228, with attention to "Good Luck, Chase".
Although it is the second stop of the 2018 NASCAR season, the anticipation is already high for the 2018 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta. Preparations for the gritty 1.54-mile track are already being made to the cars that will compete on Feb. 25. Atlanta Motor Speedway brings out the best in the competitors all weekend long, but come Sunday, we will see which driver truly has what it takes to outrun the rest of the field.
For more information or purchase tickets today, call the AMS ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.