*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 held this past Sunday was the first race on the newly reconfigured and repaved Atlanta Motor Speedway. What did you think of the final product?
Richard: This race, for me, was particularly hard to judge. It was definitely entertaining. And yes, NASCAR, like all other sports, is as much about entertainment as it is about the purity of competition. And the racing certainly did have some of the same elements as the races held at Daytona and Talladega. But at the same time, something about the final product just didn’t feel quite right. For one thing, by narrowing the racing surface, there was less room for three-wide so when the two-by-two formation came into play, there wasn’t very much room for those further back to make a move forward.
The track is not exactly a Super Speedway yet it’s also no longer a ‘cookie cutter’, which may be a good thing. It’s now more of a hybrid.
In the end, I would call the race a good and entertaining affair but I am not prepared to label it as great. That said, I am looking forward to seeing what happens when the NASCAR Cup Series and its teams return in July having one race on the new surface and configuration under their belts as well as more experience with the Next Gen car.
Michael: I am also in the camp that I’m not sure what I saw. For me Atlanta, has always been about speed combined with cars slipping and sliding around on a worn out surface. Over the past few seasons, the racing hasn’t been as good there because of the low horsepower/high downforce package NASCAR implemented for these size tracks in the Cup series.
Seeing cars race in a pack at Atlanta like they do at Daytona or Talladega was weird to me. It looked like lap after lap was a restart lap. I saw my first NASCAR race in person at Atlanta in 1975. I’ve seen races on both configurations. I really didn’t see the need to change the track, especially narrowing the corners.
I have read a lot of comments where fans loved it. That’s fine if they did. My concern is they eventually do the same with Texas, Charlotte, Michigan, and other tracks to gin up excitement. After all, Atlanta had one of their best attended races in a long time on Sunday.
Christopher Bell appeared to finish second in Sunday’s race. However, it was determined by NASCAR officials that the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota improved his position on the last lap by going below the line meant to indicate “out of bounds”, and thus, he was dropped to the tail of the lead lap(23rd) as his punishment. Should that out of bounds rule be dropped for the last lap of races at Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta?
Richard: I absolutely understand why this rule exists. If there is pavement, race car drivers will use it if they believe there is a chance to improve their position. Going out of bounds then coming back into the racing groove has, in the past, led to some dangerous situations. And as we know, competitors will not police themselves in competitive situations. That said, I hate the idea of a guy who ran well all day, put himself in a great position at the end, and possibly might have dropped lower on the track to keep from causing a wreck, lose positions because of an official’s ruling that came after the checkered flag.
I don’t want anyone to be placed in danger. However, if a driver takes it upon himself to go that far out of the racing groove and does in fact improve his position, I would favor removing the yellow line rule for the last lap of the races held at these particular tracks.
Michael: The way I look at it is a rule is a rule. If the rule is in place for the beginning, it should be in place for the ending. I’m worried if NASCAR dropped the rule for the last lap, we would see all kinds of havoc at the end of these races. Look at the amount of “out of bounds” asphalt there is at Atlanta. I can see very risky moves taking place if the rule was ever dropped for the last lap of a race.
In a recent poll, fans were split on the yellow line rule:
Should the rule that doesn't allow passing below the yellow line be dropped for the last lap of races at Daytona, Talladega and "new" Atlanta? #NASCAR
— Richard Allen/InsideDirtRacing.com (@RichardAllenIDR) March 20, 2022
NASCAR has shown a willingness to think outside the box in terms of the tracks being placed on the schedule. The Los Angeles Coliseum was used for the Busch Light Clash, additional road courses and “Rovals” have been added over the last few years, and the Atlanta Motor Speedway was essentially turned into another “plate” track. Are there any other schedule changes the sanctioning body should be considering?
Richard: I can think of several things here.
First, I think the idea of the NASCAR Cup Series racing on dirt is a good one but I would prefer that Bristol Motor Speedway be left in its concrete state because that surface on that track produces great action. A true dirt track such as Knoxville Raceway, Eldora Speedway or Lucas Oil Speedway would be better suited as all are great facilities which are actually meant for dirt racing.
Second, more short tracks in general would serve to add energy to the schedule. These races could be rotated year-to-year at places such as Slinger Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway(IRP), Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and Five Flags Speedway to name a few. This would help to broaden NASCAR’s appeal in certain markets and would give fans more of what they seem to want.
And finally, something has to be done with Texas Motor Speedway. The traction compounds haven’t worked and the current configuration of the track just isn’t conducive to great racing. There was talk of converting Auto Club Speedway into a short track but that 2-mile facility produces good racing. If a track could benefit from a major reworking, it would most likely be TMS.
Michael: There seems to be a lot of talk about a street course race in Chicago. I think that would be a terrible idea for a lot of reasons.
I would also like to see a dirt race on an actual dirt track. Other than Eldora, there aren’t any other dirt tracks that have the seating capacity to hold the amount of people that would want to attend such an event. Knoxville Raceway would come closest. But judging from last year’s truck race there, I don’t think the racing would be that great.
I would like to see more short tracks on the schedule. It’s obvious fans want action and short tracks provide the most action.
I totally agree that something needs to be done with Texas. They’ve tried to fabricate a wide racing line by putting down the traction compound in the corners. But all that did was turn the best track for IndyCar racing into a one-and-a-half lane wide track for those cars because they can’t run in that compound.
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