For years NASCAR has been dominated by mile and a half’s but we are entering a new era in NASCAR racetracks. Like I discussed in my Chase Elliott conspiracy article a couple of days ago, the Cup schedule is becoming significantly more diverse than at any other point in the history of the sport. Atlanta is now jumping on board the Auto Club bandwagon and borderline creating a brand-new track, with a new style of racing.
Atlanta is a track that has had complaints from fans for years about how boring the racing has become, and while a repave was inevitable, this overhaul is far from expected. The new track is going to increase banking and make the track narrower. With these updates, there is a theory that Atlanta will become a small track that races like a superspeedway.
NASCAR tested the new track with the new cars on iRacing and even released some of the footage of the racing. Fans quickly pointed out that the racing looked a lot like racing at Daytona and Talladega. A lot of pack racing and what appeared to be drivers holding the car through the corners full throttle.
One of the biggest issues with superspeedway racing is the fact that a lot of wrecks happen, and driver safety is always a concern being voiced from the garage. Earlier this year, Joey Logano made a big deal about how tired he and many other drivers are of superspeedway racing. All irrelevant point because superspeedway racing is the best and most beloved racing in NASCAR and is not going away or being overhauled anytime soon.
What can be done, is exactly what NASCAR and Atlanta are doing and attempting to make a compromise. They are going to create a track that should recreate the type of close and fast pack racing of a Daytona on a smaller scale which will keep speeds down and in turn make wrecking safer.
You would think drivers would look at this and say “that’s fair,” but on the contrary drivers have been very vocal about their displeasure with the new Atlanta plans. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson have been leading the way in drivers not being happy about the idea. Both state they are displeased at the fact that Atlanta did not consult drivers in the slightest.
This is Denny Hamlin’s response to Speedway Motorsports vice president Stephen Swift’s comments courtesy of Jenna Fryer:
While Denny makes a good point, the reconfigurations on those tracks were to create the type of racing that was already beginning to stale for NASCAR fans, these new ideas are being done to create unique experiences. At the very least if they fail, they can say they tried.
Kyle Larson then had this to say on the subject:
He takes a not-so-subtle jab at NASCAR fans as a whole and calls out their love for “big wrecks.” A bold move for a guy who should be worried about losing support after his mouth got him into trouble last season.
While I agree that drivers should have some input on certain decisions made, at the same time this is not really their call. They are paid to drive the tracks that NASCAR puts on the schedule and paid well I might add. I think the only time NASCAR drivers’ opinions on tracks should be given more credence than the fans is when safety is the concern. These are not safety concerns that Hamlin and Larson are bringing up, more so, they are just complaints that they weren’t asked to give input. If anything, this is meeting what fans want and what drivers want right in the middle.
Kyle Larson believes NASCAR fans only like pack racing because it produces a lot of wrecks, when for most that is not the case at all. If I could watch a Daytona or Talladega race without a single crash, it would be more exciting because then you get to watch as over half the field is vying for first place. He’s trying to make a poor point by calling out race fans, and I personally think it was an unwise and decision. But, to be fair, he was asked the question and answered it on the spot; he did not bring that discussion up himself.
We won’t truly know if the theory of pack racing at Atlanta will come to fruition until next year, but that seems to be the idea. Until we see how these cars and drivers all react on the track together and what other factors can play out in a real race, we won’t know for sure.