Drivers to bid farewell to old asphalt at Atlanta

Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 4, 2017 in Hampton, Georgia. (Getty Images)

HAMPTON, Ga. – If it were up to the world’s best stock car drivers, race tracks would never be resurfaced.

In fact, faced with the final race on old pavement at Atlanta Motor Speedway — Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. facetiously suggested on Twitter that he and his compatriots hold some sort of memorial for the soon-to-be-jackhammered old asphalt.

Reality and necessity, however, sometimes contravene the drivers’ wishes. In the case of Atlanta, the pavement is 20 years old, abrasive and bumpy enough to chew up tires within a few laps. Texas Motor Speedway also is getting a new surface because “weepers” in the asphalt have rendered track drying a near impossibility in humid conditions.

Though the drivers would rather slide around on pavement that’s aged, they understand.

“We get it,” said seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, who will try to win his third straight Atlanta race on Sunday. “We understand, but it’s just going to take a long time for the track to get back to this condition. …

“We’ll enjoy it this weekend and maybe have that memorial service Dale Jr. is talking about and come back and go really fast next year.”

SHORT STROKES

Chase Elliott led final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice for the Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, posting a lap at 188.015 mph on Saturday afternoon. Brad Keselowski was second fastest at 187.602 mph.

Pole winner Kevin Harvick was 27th on the speed chart in Happy Hour. Ryan Newman, who qualified second on Friday afternoon, recorded the fastest average speed over 10 consecutive laps at 181.429 mph.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will start 12th on Sunday, was second fastest in 10-lap average at 181.398 mph.

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