By Jerry Jordan, Editor
Say goodbye to worn-out asphalt and the traditional 1.5-mile oval as Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) not only prepares for a much-needed surface upgrade but also a banking reconfiguration/reprofiling designed to add even more excitement to the racing action.
For years, AMS has provided some of the best racing with its gritty, patchworked surface that chews up tires and keeps NASCAR drivers up on the wheel. Drivers and fans have lobbied and fought for years to keep the old surface but with chunks of pavement needing to be constantly repaired after each race, repaving wasn’t a matter of if but when.
The news broke at 12:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday that after months of secret research, the decision was made to not only repave but changing the banking profile from 24-degrees to 28-degrees.
“As Atlanta’s racing surface has aged, we’ve challenged ourselves to reimagine what NASCAR racing at an intermediate track can be,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith. “With high banks in the turns, narrower width and new pavement technology, Atlanta will be unlike any other mile-and-a-half track on the circuit. It’s all-new for ’22 and this will be specifically designed for close, competitive racing.”
Stakeholders are calling the change a “bold new era” of racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway and that it should produce even more side-by-side racing. To come up with the idea for the new banking profile, SMI reached out to iRacing to create a model they could use in simulation.
“Flexing the muscles of our virtual track-building capabilities to prototype Speedway Motorsport’s vision for Atlanta Motor Speedway has been a fun and exciting process,” said iRacing Executive Vice President and Executive Producer Steve Myers. “From one concept to the next, we’ve seen the future of AMS take shape; all without moving a shovel of dirt in the real world.”
Brandon Hutchison, Executive Vice President and General Manager at AMS said he is very excited about the future, adding they have done all they could to keep Atlanta’s old surface but now it is time for something new.
“Our operations staff has done everything possible to extend the life of our racing surface, and as a result fans have enjoyed some historic moments and fantastic finishes at Atlanta,” said AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison. “While this asphalt cannot outlast Father Time, the memories of the great racing will last forever. NASCAR’s best will have one more chance to add to the legacy of this surface with a grand finale at the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart on July 11.”
The work is scheduled to begin almost immediately – actually just after this weekend’s racing action is completed with the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday. Once the dust settles from the cars going 190 mph, the heavy equipment will take to the track and really get the dust flying.
According to a press release announcing the improvements, “the current asphalt at AMS is the oldest racing surface the NASCAR Cup Series will visit in 2021. Since its last repave in 1997, the speedway has hosted 38 NASCAR Cup Series races, 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, 20 Camping World Truck Series races, 10 ARCA Series races, and four IndyCar Series races on its 1.54-mile oval plus countless U.S. Legends and Bandolero car races on its frontstretch.”
“Our partners at Speedway Motorsports have reprofiled Atlanta Motor Speedway to optimize the racing with the Next-Gen car, and early simulations suggest the racing will be closer and even more competitive,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. “From the Charlotte ROVAL™ to the Bristol Dirt Race and now a re-imagined Atlanta, Marcus Smith and his team continue to take bold, innovative steps to bring unique and exciting racing experiences to our fans.”