Atlanta Motor Speedway is finally getting repaved.
The inevitable was announced on Tuesday as Atlanta said that Sunday's race at the track will be the last on the current pavement. Atlanta was last repaved in 1997 and has been pushing off new asphalt for as long as possible.
The repave also comes with a reconfiguration. The 24-degree banking in the corners will be raised to 28 degrees to make Atlanta the steepest 1.5-mile track in NASCAR. The corners will also be narrowed from 52-feet wide to 40-feet wide.
“As Atlanta’s racing surface has aged, we’ve challenged ourselves to reimagine what NASCAR racing at an intermediate track can be,” Speedway Motorsports president Marcus Smith said in a statement. “With high banks in the turns, narrower width and new pavement technology, Atlanta will be unlike any other mile-and-a-half track on the circuit. It’s all new for 2022 and this will be specifically designed for close, competitive racing.”
NASCAR didn't shy away from the expectation-setting either.
“Our partners at Speedway Motorsports have reprofiled Atlanta Motor Speedway to optimize the racing with the Next Gen car, and early simulations suggest the racing will be closer and even more competitive,” NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell said.
There's some serious hyperbole in Smith's comments and it's hard to take anything said about the future racing product seriously. NASCAR and Atlanta said that it had collaborated with engineers and iRacing over the past months to run simulations for a competitive track redesign.
But here's the catch — you knew there was a catch, right? Teams do not have any new cars for the 2022 season. Next season marks the debut of NASCAR's new Cup Series car and that car is still being figured out. Teams have not started to build their own cars or even do widespread testing. There's no real clue how the car is going to race at the moment. While Atlanta and NASCAR have tickets to sell and excitement to generate about the new track, making predictions about the racing product borders on irresponsibility.
At the very least, NASCAR and Atlanta are setting themselves up for a failure of their own making if the racing doesn't immediately live up to the lofty expectations that are being created.
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