Atlanta Motor Speedway Announces Major Track Changes

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Getty NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Two of the top NASCAR Series head to Atlanta Motor Speedway July 10-11 for a packed weekend of racing. Prior to the green flag waving, track officials have made a major announcement. Speedway Motorsports will repave the track for the first time since 1997 and will make some significant changes to the layout.

According to a press release from Speedway Motorsports, they will begin the process after the Cup Series race on July 11. The banked corners will go from 24 degrees to 28 while the width of the turns will decrease from 55 feet to 40 feet. Additionally, the front stretch will decrease to 52 feet while the backstretch will decrease to 42 feet.

“As Atlanta’s racing surface has aged, we’ve challenged ourselves to reimagine what NASCAR racing at an intermediate track can be,” said Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO. “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.”

Speedway Motorsports Conducted Significant Research

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Prior to making the announcement about the pending changes, Speedway Motorsports conducted hours and hours of research. The company partnered with the virtual iRacing platform to test out the various design concepts. Speedway Motorsports examined the different track widths in search of the perfect setup that would encourage pack racing around the corners.

In addition to simply showing renderings of the track in its new form, iRacing also provided critical data about the future of motorsports. The Next Gen car will debut during the 2022 season, and the track officials needed to know how it would perform on this altered 1.54-mile oval.

“Flexing the muscles of our virtual track-building capabilities to prototype Speedway Motorsport’s vision for Atlanta Motor Speedway has been a fun and exciting process,” said iRacing Executive Vice President and Executive Producer Steve Myers. “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.”

NASCAR Drivers Had No Input Into the Changes

When SMI set out to make the changes to Atlanta Motor Speedway, they avoided talking to the drivers. Steve Swift, the vice president of operations development for the company, explained that SMI believed that the drivers would take the design in a direction that would not fit with what the fans want.

According to Autoweek, Swift and SMI believe that the fans want to see pack racing like at Talladega Superspeedway or Daytona International Speedway. The changes will reportedly take the track in that direction, especially with the debut of the Next Gen car. Though not all of the drivers are happy.

“I wish they had talked to everybody about it,” Kyle Larson told media members after the announcement, per Matt Weaver. “I think a lot of us were caught off guard. I had heard about it earlier this year, about the track banking but not about the track width and things like that.”

Larson also explained that the fans want to see crashes, which they call “good racing.” He said that the new 40-foot track will keep the drivers tight on the track together and likely lead to these incidents.

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