Home US SportsNASCAR New-look Atlanta’s superspeedway revival one for the ages

New-look Atlanta’s superspeedway revival one for the ages

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New-look Atlanta’s superspeedway revival one for the ages

HAMPTON, Ga. — Marcus Smith stood within the nook of the Atlanta Motor Speedway media middle watching the laps of Sunday’s 500-miler tick down into the only digits, a slight, wry smile on his face. His Speedway Motorsports crew had been tasked with bringing a superspeedway into the company portfolio, and by golly, they’d accomplished it — with out merger or acquisition, and not using a ground-up building venture.

As a substitute, they DIY-ed this beast at one among its personal current tracks, taking the superspeedway method standard at 2.5-mile Daytona and a pair of.66-mile Talladega, shrinking it within the dryer and making use of it to a 1.54-mile hybrid in Atlanta. Therefore one of many causes for Smith, the corporate’s CEO and president, to ever-so-slightly beam within the closing laps. The higher-than-average crowd on a cool, sunny Sunday provided yet one more excuse to smile.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway had hosted 115 NASCAR Cup Collection races earlier than this one, however none had fairly the identical feel and look. In previous lives, an Atlanta race was grueling for its velocity, in some years the central Georgia warmth, and its tendency towards tire put on. Now, it’s a taxing venue for the white-knuckle, pack-racing type of competitors that used to occur simply 4 instances a 12 months. Now it’s as much as a half-dozen.

So how was it? That reply in all probability depends upon the place you line up on superspeedway racing, whether or not you circle the calendar dates for Daytona and Talladega in crimson pen, or whether or not your preferences lie elsewhere. Both approach, a pair of last-lap passes determined the weekend’s different NASCAR national-series occasions, and it’s exhausting to argue with the gate, which added as much as one of many better-attended Atlanta races in current reminiscence.

Sean Gardner | Getty Photos

The stats have been staggeringly new as properly. Twenty of the 37 starters led laps, and the checklist of the document 46 lead adjustments was so long as your arm. Crash involvement ran larger than regular, too, with little place to cover as soon as issues went awry within the bunched-up draft. Kurt Busch gained the final race on the outdated Atlanta floor final 12 months by 1.237 seconds. Sunday, he was among the many high 14 finishers who crossed the beginning/end line inside that margin behind race winner William Byron. Most of the common contenders on this type of racing rose to the highest once more — Byron, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace amongst them. Luck is concerned, positive, however there’s additionally a skillset to it.

Whether or not that every one matches the definition of a aggressive race additionally all depends upon your fondness for superspeedway racing.

“It‘s a regular superspeedway. We just keep crashing,” said Joey Logano, who rallied from a mid-race incident to finish ninth. “… We survived, but a lot of cars crashed today for sure, just like we would expect. I don‘t know, you be the judge if it was entertaining or not. It‘s a different type of racing.”

Georgia native Chase Elliott started and finished sixth after the frantic 500 miles. “It was crazy, for sure,” he said. “Hopefully it was fun to watch because I felt like it was wild from my seat.”

Atlanta’s first two variations got here throughout two separate intervals of speedway increase instances. The observe initially sprang to life as a hulking 1.5-mile true oval in 1960, as stock-car racing had simply began its sluggish gravitation away from small fairgrounds amenities and grime tracks. The following iteration got here in 1997 when Speedway Motorsports put its stamp on the place with the doglegged frontstretch that it additionally makes use of in Charlotte and Texas. Across the similar time, different intermediate-sized tracks have been sprouting in locations throughout the nation, some constructed and not using a promise however on the mere hope of attracting NASCAR’s nationwide sequence.

This rendition of Atlanta comes throughout a time interval the place something on the schedule appears potential. The Cup Collection opened the 12 months with an exhibition on a special-order quarter-mile observe contained in the LA Coliseum, and the premier division will return to a dust imaginative and prescient of Bristol Motor Speedway for the second straight 12 months. Staff proprietor Rick Hendrick talked about his urge for food for bringing the seventh-generation Cup Collection automobile to a avenue circuit throughout his post-race media look. New amenities, an inflow of highway programs, wide-open potentialities — it’s all there.

Nonetheless, simply because you are able to do one thing doesn’t imply you essentially ought to. Atlanta direly wanted new pavement to exchange its worn-out and patched-up floor. It additionally wanted a facet dose of pizzazz, one thing that allowed it to maintain up with that spirit of change. Brothers and sisters, we received that after which some.

MORE: Byron bags first win of 2022 | Atlanta’s reconfiguration in photos

Whereas the new-look Atlanta debut checked loads of containers when it comes to what went proper, let’s let the paving crews and heavy equipment cool off a bit earlier than hurrying to reimagine different intermediate-sized tracks that want the identical superspeedway spice.

As entertaining as Sunday’s race was — once more, relying in your viewpoint — the NASCAR trade can not do that each week. Our collective hearts can’t take it, and in addition to the potential for burnout, the toll in broken equipment usually runs excessive at superspeedway occasions. Hendrick, who prevailed Sunday however has a vested curiosity within the crash-damage invoice, advised that capping superspeedway races on the present six would assist ease a few of these ills.

On the different finish of the Atlanta media middle from the place Smith stood, there’s a show case filled with diecast automobiles. The gathering spans all earlier six generations of Cup Collection fashions, illustrating simply how lengthy the observe has stood and the way automobiles have advanced throughout its lifespan.

There’s room there for a miniaturized model of Byron’s successful Subsequent Gen No. 24 Chevrolet to commemorate Sunday’s thriller, serving as a marker for Atlanta’s superspeedway revival and the subsequent period for each automobile and observe.

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