Atlanta Return Presents New Challenge for NASCAR Drivers

Cup Series

Getty Cup Series drivers race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The three national NASCAR series return to Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 17-19. The drivers must contend with a new challenge as they make pit stops.

Xfinity Series driver Anthony Alfredo provided an early look at the new pit road commitment line, which has moved from Turn 4 back to the apron on Turn 3. This means the drivers will come out of Turn 2 and immediately begin downshifting and trying to get down to 45 mph to avoid a speeding penalty.

As Alfredo showed in an iRacing simulation, having to slow down to 45 mph on Turn 3 instead of Turn 4 adds a significant amount of time. He explained that he did some mathematical calculations and determined that drivers could fall one lap down under green flag conditions before even getting to their pit stalls.

Alfredo predicted that they would most likely be two laps down — or more — by the time they merge back onto the track and try to catch the cars running in a pack.

“Keep in mind, if we got a penalty for either speeding or something happening in the box during this stop, you would be totally screwed, for lack of a better phrase because you’re going to be another two or two-and-a-half laps down,” Alfredo explained. “So you could see someone become four or five laps down just for pitting. You’ve never seen that anywhere else.”

The Drivers Will Not Have Practice

Cup Series

GettyCup Series drivers will return to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

There have been many times in recent years when NASCAR made adjustments to the cars or tracks. Atlanta is a fitting example considering that it underwent a massive reconfiguration ahead of the 2022 season.

When these changes take place, there are often opportunities for the drivers across the series to practice and get some experience. The new commitment line is not in this category.

The drivers will not get any practice time before qualifying and the race due to Atlanta becoming part of the superspeedway family. This will only increase the difficulty for the drivers once the green flag waves.

“You’ve got the new pit road entry point on Turn 3 there,” Joey Logano said during his SiriusXM show. “Everyone’s got a lot of questions on how that’s going to work and how rolling time’s going to work.

“Pit road just almost doubled. Big, big difference there. We’ve got to kind of figure out what we’re going to do with that. We’ve got all the practice in the world to figure it out… not. Qualifying, figure out how to do all that.”

The Cup Series Drivers Get Extra Preparation Time

A 20-minute practice session would be ideal for the drivers to gain some knowledge about the new commitment line. They won’t get this, so they will have to approach their first green flag pit stops cold.

The Cup Series drivers will potentially have some extra preparation time. Their race is the last of a tripleheader weekend, so they will be able to watch the Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series drivers attempt to contend with the new layout.

Of course, there is no guarantee that there will be green flag stops for either of these two series. Atlanta functions as a superspeedway, so there is a very real possibility that every pit stop takes place under caution due to spins, debris, or crashes.

Kevin Harvick said during a March 16 appearance on “NASCAR Race Hub” that he doesn’t expect there to be green flag stops at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He pointed to the two Cup Series races in 2022 that featured numerous cautions for incidents.

To his point, 24.6 percent of the July race was run under caution while 20 percent was run under caution in the spring. Every stage ended under yellow. This trend could continue across all three series in 2023.

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