By Matt Courson, Staff Writer
HAMPTON, Ga. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was quickest after 50 minutes of practice Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Stenhouse’s average speed of 186.616 mph came midway during the session, followed by Kyle Busch in second and Christopher Bell in third.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Stenhouse said. “I think for us, I felt like our car was really fast and really good. When you get out front, you’re going to be able to control the lanes a little bit easier than a Daytona or a Talladega. Daytona is easier to control a lane than Talladega because it’s so much more narrow.
“You take it another step further here on how wide the racetrack is compared to Daytona. So, you’ll be to maneuver and block those two lanes I think a little bit better, so I think track position is going to be important. We didn’t see a lot of tire wear, so I think that’s a good thing with how fast we’re going. We weren’t sure about that.”
Stenhouse attributed his time on the racing simulator to get an idea of how his Car was going to drive on the revamped surface. During the offseason, Atlanta underwent a track reconfiguration and is now the highest bank intermediate track on the schedule. The banking in the turns was increased to 28 degrees. The racing surface was narrowed from 55 to 40 feet.
“We made some laps on the simulator and kind of had an idea of what the car was going to drive like and what the track was like,” said Stenhouse. “And then obviously when we got out there, we learned a lot more at a pretty high rate of speed. I think the speeds, for me, I didn’t think they’d be as fast as what we were, as far as the single speed there in the draft.”
Stenhouse will start 28th in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 after qualifying was canceled in lieu of a practice session on Saturday. Rain forced the cancellation of practice on Friday, and NASCAR opted to have practice over qualifying on Saturday so that teams could get some data before they take to the revamped track Sunday.
Featured Photo: Christian Koelle / Kickin’ The Tires