With the NASCAR Cup Series‘ Quaker State 400 right around the corner, it will be the last race weekend under Atlanta Motor Speedway‘s current configuration. On Tuesday, track operator Speedway Motorsports announced a slight redesign that will turn the 1.5-mile track into the tallest intermediate circuit on the schedule.
The banking in the turns will be increased from the current 24 degrees to 28°, the highest of tracks in the intermediate category; Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways, both of which are D-shaped ovals with doglegs on the frontstretch, have turns banked at 24° (Texas’ first two turns are 20°). Atlanta’s straightaway banking will remain at 5°.
In contrast to the growing banking, the track width will contract from 55 feet to 40. The frontstretch will have a width of 52 feet, while the backstretch and turns will be set at 42 and 40, respectively.
Atlanta is no stranger to major changes. For much of its history, the track was a 1.52-mile “standard” oval before being reconfigured to the current quad-oval in 1997. The track surface has remained the same since, resulting in an aged course that has proven popular with fans.
“As Atlanta’s racing surface has aged, we’ve challenged ourselves to reimagine what NASCAR racing at an intermediate track can be,” Speedway Motorsports head Marcus Smith stated. “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 ’22 and this will be specifically designed for close, competitive racing.”
The design process was conducted in collaboration with iRacing, who provided renderings and a basic gist of how the 2022-bound Next Gen cars will presumably race.
“Flexing the muscles of our virtual track-building capabilities to prototype Speedway Motorsports’ vision for Atlanta Motor Speedway has been a fun and exciting process,” iRacing executive producer Steve Myers added. “From one concept to the next, we’ve seen the future of AMS take shape, all without moving a shovel of dirt in the real world.”
However, drivers had no involvement in the reworking. Cup Series racer Josh Bilicki voiced his displeasure, tweeting that it “seems the drivers thoughts and views are irrelevant.”
“With all due respect. This same group has reconfigured Texas, Kentucky, Bristol with 0 driver input,” began Denny Hamlin. “One of those lost a race, other one we don’t race anymore and last one we put dirt over it. But hey, what do the drivers know”.
Myers responded to the skepticism: “Not a single track we are working on to redesign is currently configured how the original concept was presented to us. Nobody has used technology like this before to do this work and find the obvious issues before moving dirt. You might hate the idea but don’t hate the process.”