Atlanta Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that the track will be repaved and will be reprofiled; a move that will increase the current 24-degree banking in Atlanta’s turns to 28 degrees. In addition, the racing surface will become narrower with an overall decrease in width from 55 feet to 40 feet. New widths will be 52 feet on the front stretch, 42 feet on the back stretch and 40 feet in the turns.
NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Rodney Childers said after the announcement Tuesday that he isn’t in favor of the changes.
“My opinion is it’s gonna make the racing horrible and it’s gonna be one lane and nobody is gonna pass anybody,” Childers. “That part sucks, but Atlanta is one of the last racetracks that we have with a surface like that, that you can run up against the fence or you can run on the bottom, you can run through the middle of one and two. You have so many options.
“Even though it was a racetrack that had so many options and what old school racers would call good racing, a lot of people thought that those races down there became boring because the runs are really long. They get spread out. The cars that are good on long runs just drive away from the field and all those things.”
The combination of the new car, with less downforce, and the new pavement will change the way the track races.
“You’re gonna run wide-open all the way around.,” Childers said. “It’s gonna be like racing at Talladega and you’ll be drafting a lot and kind of become a speedway race in a way. The cars will stay tightly packed together, probably more wrecks and all those things that it seems everybody wants to see these days, so that’s kind of the way I see it. If you put more banking in it and make it narrower, it’s gonna be one lane. That’s kind of how the new asphalt tracks are anyway.”
NASCAR will be doing a friction test at Atlanta in the coming days in the hopes that Goodyear can match a tire for the track. Childers said that won’t make any difference.
“I think the car is gonna be so much different,” he said. “I don’t know how you could even use any of that. A friction test now versus then is not really gonna matter at all.”
Childers said that means that when NASCAR returns next year with the new car, and the new track, it will be a whole new game for all the teams. Whatever has been learned over the years won’t matter.
“You can’t make new asphalt like old asphalt,” he said. “They don’t even make it that way anymore, so you can’t buy it that way. You can’t make it that way. There are things that they won’t allow. The EPA won’t allow you to put in it that way anymore, so there’s no real comparison at all. You really just have to pave it and let it weather over the years, and then the next part of it is just gonna be that car.
“We have to as a group figure out how does that car race? How do we put on the best show for the fans, which is our goal? And what changes need to be made over the next couple of years to make that racing better. All of that we’re gonna have to learn together and figure out, so we’ll just have to see how the racetrack turns out and kind of go from there.”