The specter of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s surface commanded the lion’s share of attention prior to Sunday (July 11) afternoon’s Quaker State 400.
Sunday’s race will be the final event on Atlanta’s current surface before it will be repaved and reconfigured. A day after pointed and profanity-laced criticism from Kyle Busch regarding the planned repave, the new version of AMS continued to draw attention as drivers took questions from media within a few hours of the green flag.
Kevin Harvick was among those who lobbed darts of criticism at the repave, even going so far as to suggest that a better option would be a short track in Atlanta.
“I don’t think it’s very good. I think the proper thing do to would probably to build a short track,” Harvick said. “The cheapest thing to do, I think, would be to just leave the walls where they are and hope for the best. I don’t think that [reconfiguration] worked out well for Texas, and don’t think it worked out well for Bristol, I don’t think it worked out well for Kentucky. I don’t think any of those were very good. If you keep winging it and don’t get drivers’ input, you’re just going to keep getting the same conclusion.”
Atlanta’s repave will also feature 28-degree banking in the turns and a narrowing of the racing surface from 55 to 40 feet. Chief among the beefs from drivers? That they appeared to be caught off guard with many not consulted beforehand. Of the drivers Frontstretch spoke to on Sunday, Kurt Busch was the only one that indicated he was among that group.
“Eventually and inevitably, a place to has to be resurfaced,” Busch said. “Why not do that with a Next Gen car and add some more banking and create that superspeedway-style effect on a mile and a half? I’ve seen different layouts for different tracks over time. It’s a matter of a driver wanting to engage with SMI or ISC. I didn’t see any problem when I saw this one. It sounded like a good idea, [so I said] ‘let’s go for it, guys.'”
For the rest of the drivers, the news of Atlanta’s plan to repave and repave appeared to come as a surprise.
“You would think that you would want the driver’s input,” Harvick said. “A lot of times, I think the process is that we need to make the drivers uncomfortable and instead you end up with a media press conference that ends up being about a repave that you didn’t ask any of the drivers about.”
While some drivers indicate that they’d like to be asked for input, others see no reason that they should. And as two drivers point out, drivers protested in previous years when Atlanta mentioned a repave, and the speedway then opted to hold off on those plans are publicly announcing an intent to do so.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a position for someone to consult me about it,” Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a former Xfinity Series winner at Atlanta, said. “Our voices were heard for a while because we got them to not repave it. We voiced our opinion pretty hard and we held off as long as we could, I guess.”
Christopher Bell, who previously won in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner at Atlanta, chimed in as well.
“I remember when I ran my first truck race here in 2016 and they said they were going to repave it after that,” Bell said. “They got a lot of years out of it, I’m really thankful for that. I don’t know what to think, it’s going to be stupid-fast. I’m just imagining 1.5-mile Daytona and Talladega pack-style racing. It’s not really what I want, but I think that’s what the fans want and that’s why they’re going in that direction.”