It may seem that it’s the speed that NASCAR drivers love about Atlanta Motor Speedway, but it’s really the many grooves on the track that count. Drivers get thrills from many fast moves on the 1.54-mile quad-oval with 24-degree banking. Fans enjoy the speed and the groove search at AMS as well.
Drivers and fans will also soon get the experience of one less chance for the Chase for the Sprint Cup after the checkered flag drops for the Oral-B USA 500 on August 31, 2014. After Sunday, only the Richmond event remains before the final group of Chase contenders, a field of 16, face a gauntlet of eliminations heading into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Much is on the line as teams roll south to AMS, but some drivers with multiple wins will look only to add to their totals. Some with one win are confident they will make the Chase but hope to improve their spot. Many drivers without wins will hope to pull off a win to join in the chance to compete for the Sprint Cup championship.
Drivers from all groups commented on the challenge they welcome at AMS. Fans can get a clear view on what to expect during race day by pondering select remarks by knowledgeable drivers.
Jeff Gordon has three wins and a solid point base. He commented on the AMS track.
“It’s going to be really fast for qualifying, but then you’re going to slip and slide during the race,” Gordon said. “You have to manage wheel spin, manage tire wear. The team has to have a setup that is quick but doesn’t abuse the tires.”
Brad Keselowski also has three wins in the playoff bank. He shared a few words.
“Atlanta is yet another one of the tracks that we’ve run better than our results indicate,” Keselowski said. “It’s a great track; the racing surface is one that challenges drivers, and I like that.”
Jimmie Johnson’s three wins and points haven’t kept him in first place, but he talked confidently and respectfully about Atlanta.
“You are on edge the entire lap on the track,” Johnson said. “Not only is the asphalt old, but there are some bumps you have to deal with. When you ride a few inches from the fence, you really have to have a good handle on your car. It’s for sure an exciting race.”
Kevin Harvick is not far behind the leaders with two wins, and he too spoke of his respect for the AMS track.
“The asphalt is really worn out and the speed of the car changes a lot from the start of a run to the finish of the run,” Harvick said. “It makes for some good racing as the cars start moving and sliding around the track.”
Like Harvick, Carl Edwards has two wins and fondness for the fast track for historic reasons.
“I love racing in Atlanta,” Edwards said. “The track's got character, and it's fast. For me it's a special, considering both my first Nationwide win and first Cup win came at that track. Just have a little fun before the real pressure of the Chase starts."
Kyle Busch has had an up-and-down season, but with one win he will join the Chase contenders. He too shared his thoughts on AMS.
“You can run the bottom all the way from the white line all the way to the wall and anywhere in between,” Busch said. “You have to have a good car there, but it’s a neat racetrack.”
Aric Almirola, who will join the top 16 after Richmond with his win, talked about AMS too.
"I like Atlanta,” Almirola said. “You can search around for grip. A lot of the places we go to there is one groove. You really are at the mercy of your car and track position. When you go to Atlanta, you just constantly search for grip for 500 miles.”
Matt Kenseth has maintained a good point total all season without a win. He shared his take on AMS as well.
“I think that Atlanta has always been a really exciting race to watch from a fan’s perspective,” Kenseth said. “It’s just always a very competitive race, and the groove is all over the place.”
Kyle Larson has had a productive rookie year and may make the Chase if he secures a win or adds to his points. Like other drivers, he too would cherish a win right now.
“Our team has been really steady this season, consistently racing around 10th, which has kept us in the Chase mix,” Larson said. “With only a couple races left before the Chase, I really want to get a win and stop worrying about points.”
NASCAR drivers have always preferred winning, but this year, a visit to Victory Lane has deeper meaning with the emphasis on wins and not just points in the revised elimination scheme.
Gordon summed up a fast day of work at AMS.
“The driver has to drive it hard but not overdrive it,” he said. “And you’re going to be searching all over the track for the groove that works best for you and your car.”
Fans can catch the action of cars searching for fast grooves with an AMS ticket or through the convenience of viewing ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET on August 31.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.