By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Half of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is now complete as Atlanta Motor Speedway comes calling this weekend to kick off the second half with Sunday’s running of the Quaker State 400.
Atlanta’s aging racing surface, which had been in place since 1997, held together as long as possible, but the 260 laps around the 1.5-mile track last July were the last on that particular surface as the track underwent a repave and reconfiguration for the 2022 season.
The 24-degree banking in the turns was increased to 28 degrees, making the banking the highest among intermediate tracks in NASCAR. The straightaways remain banked at five degrees. In addition, the racing surface was narrowed from 55 feet to 40 feet in the turns, 52 feet on the front stretch, and 42 feet on the back stretch.
Following a December test, additional adjustments were made, including smoothing out the transition off of Turn 4 onto the frontstretch by adding 320 feet of wall and SAFER barrier to create a flatter curve. The frontstretch was also widened by removing and paving over portions of the infield grass, as well as reinforcing the catchfence.
After building their notebooks on the Next Gen car at 18 different tracks through the first half of the year, Sunday’s race will be the first chance for teams to put their real-world experiences to the test at a track that they have already raced on this year.
Thirteen different drivers have already won so far this year, leaving just three spots up for grabs, with a number of drivers that won last season still winless at this point in the season. Those winless drivers include Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, and others.
Given the superspeedway nature of the racing at the new Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sunday will also be a wild card race that could provide a driver not yet locked into the Playoffs a chance to punch their ticket.
By the Numbers
What: Quaker State 400, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 19 of 36
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, Georgia (Opened: 1960; Reconfigured: 1997/2021)
TV/Radio: USA Network, 3:00 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 1.54-mile quad-oval
Banking: 28 degrees in turns; 5 degrees on straightaways
Race Length: 260 laps, 400.4 miles
Stage Lengths: First stage – 60 laps, Second stage and Final stage – 100 laps
March 2022 Winner: William Byron – No. 24 Chevrolet (Started 12th, 111 laps led)
July 2021 Winner: Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chevrolet (Started eighth, 144 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Geoffrey Bodine (197.478 mph, 28.074 seconds – 11/15/1997)
Top-10 Driver Ratings at Atlanta:
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford – 98.5
- Kurt Busch – No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota – 96.8
- Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 96.4
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 95.0
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 94.7
- Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford – 94.0
- Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 92.8
- Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 92.5
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 92.3
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 84.0
From the Driver’s Seat
“We’re zipping around a mile-and-a-half at really high speeds, running upper 180s (miles per hour) for the entire lap,” said Tyler Reddick. “Not a lot of rest down the straightaways and the corners are so long and all the aggressive pack racing that we had really drains you mentally. I surprised after that race by the physical toll that it had. Normally speedways like Daytona and Talladega are a mental drain but it seemed like Atlanta was both. It’s going to be hotter when we go back this weekend with our ALSCO Uniforms Chevrolet so it’s going to be even more of that.”
Last Time at Atlanta
The “new Atlanta” certainly had a wild coming out party back in March, with 46 lead changes and 11 cautions throughout the race.
In the end, it was William Byron who survived through to the finish, taking the lead from Bubba Wallace with 10 laps to go en route to his first win of the season. Byron would lead a race-high 111 laps, more than double that of second-place finisher Ross Chastain.
Kurt Busch finished the race in third, followed by Daniel Suarez and Corey Lajoie rounding out the top-five.
“It was so different. You know honestly the last few laps there, just trying to manage the gap to Bubba (Wallace) and trying to not get too far out front. My spotter Brandon (Lines), it’s his first win so congrats to him and just thanks to this whole team. They’ve done a great job this year. There’s a lot of changes with the Next Gen car.
“The Liberty University Chevrolet was awesome there. We had a pretty rough practice; worked hard on it and got it handling well. Like I told you, it was kind of an intermediate style with a little bit of superspeedway to it, so it was lot of fun. Thanks to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Super exciting.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Saturday, July 9
- NCS Qualifying (11:35 am (Coverage starts at Noon) – USA Network)
Sunday, July 10
- NCS Quaker State 400 (3:00 pm – 260 laps, 400.4 miles – USA Network)