Last weekend’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 in the notoriously rigorous Phoenix Raceway provided a challenge for NASCAR drivers like Christopher Bell, but this Sunday’s Cup Series race might be even tougher. Though the Atlanta Motor Speedway has been part of the NASCAR Cup Series lineup since before it was the Cup Series, this year’s flight will be a brand new experience.
Ahead of the 2022 season, the historic track got a full renovation – including new pavement, a new banking profile, and a configuration that demands superspeedway techniques from the drivers. Yesterday, the drivers got a taste of the new and improved Atlanta Motor Speedway in their practice sessions ahead of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 this afternoon. After running a few laps on the new track, many drivers voiced their concerns about the new, far more narrow Speedway.
No. 20 driver Christopher Bell, who has a history of wins in the old Atlanta layout, says that even with the practice session, he has no idea what to expect. “Honestly, I’ll be surprised if we make it that long in the pack,” said Bell. “I don’t know. Yes, everyone else is, so I’m going to have to, but it’s going to be unlike anything we have ever seen. I can promise you that.”
Because of the tight-knit action and aerodynamic draft he experienced in practice, the only thing Christopher Bell knows for sure is that it will be mayhem. Bell called yesterday’s practice session “40 minutes of pure chaos,” adding that there were multiple “hold your breath” moments.
Christopher Bell, Fellow NASCAR Drivers Discuss New Atlanta Motor Speedway
The new layout in the Atlanta Motor Speedway requires drivers to use superspeedway techniques – without being in a superspeedway. In NASCAR, a track is classified as a superspeedway when it’s greater than two miles in length. The Atlanta Motor Speedway, however, is a mere 1.5 miles.
NASCAR veteran Kyle Busch believes this spells trouble for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. “I think it will be – just the tighter confines, being a mile-and-a-half…325 laps around here is a lot,” said Busch. “I think we run 188 at Talladega and 200 at Daytona, so 125 more laps going through the same thing and being packed up – being in tight conditions, you will be, probably more mentally than physically. You are going to be tired after this one.”
Christopher Bell echoed Busch’s sentiments, adding that the new track configuration is sure to add a few pitfalls. “The guys that like speedway racing are going to enjoy what we have. The guys that dislike it are going to really dislike it. It’s intense,” Bell notes. “That practice session was super intense. I don’t think anybody expected the draft runs to be that big, and the pack to be that tight. It was full-blown chaos and we’ve got 500 miles of it tomorrow.”