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NASCAR entry lists for Atlanta Motor Speedway

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Speedweeks is finally over and all three of NASCAR’s national series will once again be in action this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It will be the last time the Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will be at the same track until May.

Kyle Busch will start in all three races.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three events, beginning with the Cup Series’ Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500.

There are 38 cars entered into the Cup race. A full field would be 40 cars.

The trip to the 1.5-mile track will be the first start of the season for Derrike Cope, Timmy Hill, rookie Gray Gaulding and Reed Sorenson.

Last year, Jimmie Johnson won his first race of the season after short pitting and leading the final 45 laps for his fifth Atlanta win.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity Series – Rinnai 250

Forty-four cars are entered into the Xfinity Series race. A full field is 40 cars.

There are nine Cup drivers in the field: Kyle Busch, Ty and Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Kevin Harvick,  Kyle Larson and Corey LaJoie.

Last year, Busch led 119 of 163 laps to win the Atlanta race, the first of three straight wins for Busch.

Click here for the full entry list.

Truck Series – Active Pest Control 200

There are 34 trucks entered into the second truck race of the year.

A full field in the Truck series is 32 trucks. Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch are the only Cup drivers entered into the race.

Alex Bowman will drive the No. 24 truck for GMS Racing in place of Justin Haley, who isn’t old enough to run on tracks 1.5-miles or larger. Chase Elliott will drive the No. 23 for GMS Racing.

Last year, John Hunter Nemechek won the race after leading the last eight laps, including the final two in an overtime finish.

Click here for the full entry list.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway to delay repave at least a year

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The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.

Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.

“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”

After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.

“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can.  But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.

“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”

Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.

“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”

Clark said that the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.

“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.

Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.

“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.

“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”

Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.

Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.

“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.

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NASCAR America — My Home Track: 50 States In 50 Shows — Arkansas

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we continued our series of My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows as our trucks rolled into Arkansas!

We visited two short tracks in the state that produced President Bill Clinton and Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen.

Plus we talked to NASCAR Hall of Famer and Arkansas native Mark Martin about racing in his home state.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.