Getty Images

For Jamie McMurray, Atlanta’s track surface will soon be gone, but not forgotten

3 Comments

Jamie McMurray will be at a going away party on Sunday, but he’s not going to be celebrating – unless he takes the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet to victory lane.

And even then, there will still be some wistfulness for McMurray.

McMurray and 39 other NASCAR Cup drivers will be taking their final laps on the current racing surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500.

Once the event is over, track workers will begin work the following day on preparations to eventually tear up and replace the current racing surface, which was last repaved in 1997.

Even with a two-decade old surface around the 1.54-mile oval, Atlanta Motor Speedway has historically been one of the fastest mid-range tracks in the sport.

Sure, there’s bumps and ruts and rough spots and the track surface eats up tires like they’re candy. But old surfaces also have that one attribute that most drivers still love regardless: character.

To many of them, the older the track and the more nuances it has, the greater the character and the greater the challenge of man and machine vs. racing surface.

Even though when McMurray and the rest of his NASCAR Cup buddies return to AMS next spring, they’ll be on a brand spanking new race surface, there’s still a lot to be said about the old surface that bids adieu Sunday.

“No one likes repaves, no driver, no crew member, Goodyear, no one likes a repave,” McMurray said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of our sport.

“That being said, Atlanta is one of the more challenging tracks to have to repave because when they repaved it the first time it was the fastest track we ran on.

“It’s still really fast and it is going to be the fastest track again when we go back.”

While McMurray has struggled at Atlanta in his Cup career, with just four top-10 finishes in 23 starts, he’s had better luck there in the Xfinity Series: two wins in nine starts. He’d like nothing better than to earn his first career Cup win there on the last race on the current racing surface.

Numerous race tracks from Watkins Glen to Texas to Phoenix have gone through recent repaves.

When drivers return to a track after it has undergone a complete facelift, it’s almost as if they’re at a brand new facility. Oftentimes, banking is changed, pit road ingress and egress is altered and what once was old and familiar is now new and a mystery for at least the first few times drivers race upon it.

And one of the biggest mysteries will be how tires adapt to the new racing surface.

“We have done quite a few repaves in the last seven or eight years and I feel like with everyone, you kind of know the expectation when you go back with the tires that we are going to run,” McMurray said. “They have learned a lot, I think, about the process and how they go about that.

“The biggest thing that has come along with repaves is that tire monster where they are able to put like six or eight tires and they literally spin them and they can lay rubber into the track and that has made a huge difference in some of the tracks.”

So while the current racing surface at Atlanta will host its last post-win celebratory burnout after Sunday’s race, the character it has had for the last 20 years will be gone – but won’t be forgotten for a long time to come.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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

Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson involved in minor fender bender while leaving Fontana

Leave a comment

Kyle Larson‘s spectacular weekend at Auto Club Speedway — winning both Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup event — left him feeling good.

But shortly upon exiting the facility, Larson and several others were involved in a fender-bender right outside the Speedway. Larson was a passenger, not the driver.

No one was injured, Larson tweeted.

But somehow, isn’t that strange fate?

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Fontana win shows continued maturing as a driver

Leave a comment

Kyle Larson finally broke his streak of three straight runner-up finishes with his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, the crew discussed his win as well as his maturation as a driver.