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

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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: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

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After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones recounts rookie Cup season, being taught by Kyle Busch

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Erik Jones, the rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77 Toyota, joined NASCAR America Wednesday for a special show from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 21-year-old driver won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title and is teammates with Martin Truex Jr.

With Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett and Steve Letarte, Jones discussed the challenges and lessons he’s faced in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.

“The biggest (milestones) for me were trying to win a race and making the playoffs,” Jones said. “Obviously, making the playoffs didn’t happen. … I look back at the last few seasons and rookies that have been in the sport and it’s so hard to win races now. You just don’t see rookies do it a lot.”

Jones also discussed finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Bristol night race and his relationship with the driver who brought him into NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series.

“A lot of times when I was racing in Trucks and Xfinity and Kyle would come to race I’d always run second to him,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘you know what the problem is? This is the guy who taught me how to race these cars. So I’m good at all the same tracks he’s good at. Except he’s been doing about 10 more years than I have.”

Watch the video for more.

 

PJ1 adhesive to be applied again to track for this weekend’s races at Loudon

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With the successful use of the PJ1 compound in July’s NASCAR Cup race there, New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials announced Wednesday they will apply the compound again to the track for this weekend’s racing.

The 1.058-mile flat track will play host to the Cup and Camping World Truck Series playoff races, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the American Canadian Tour race series.

“There’s no question that the track bite compound we laid down in July allowed for some awesome racing around the entire racetrack,” NHMS executive VP and GM David McGrath said in a statement. “We received some very positive feedback from the drivers, teams and, most importantly, the fans. The support to do it again in September was overwhelming.”

McGrath said the PJ1 adhesive compound will be added to the first and third grooves in all four turns on Thursday evening. It will be reapplied again on Saturday night to be fresh for Sunday afternoon’s Cup race.

Several drivers gave their endorsement for the move:

Kyle Larson: “I think it’s awesome. I was surprised at how well it worked. I liked the element of it changing quickly and wearing out and then wearing out in different spots and stuff. It just adds an element to us that we have to adapt to. In the past … you kind of just run the same line all race long, but (in July) everybody I got around was running somewhat of a different line, and I thought that was a really cool thing.”

Joey Logano: “The question got put out to a lot of different drivers … from the (NASCAR Cup Drivers Council). We kind of got on our group chat and were talking back and forth about what we thought was best. (In the past) after 10 or 15 laps, everyone is kind of where they are at and passes don’t happen often. The wider we can make the racetrack, the more passes that can be made.”

Kyle Busch: “We always run that one lane here, which I call the middle lane. They were just trying to widen the racetrack a little bit and give a little bit more opportunity for us to be able to run side by side and not feel like we’re crashing here all the time or running into each other on restarts.”

Kevin Harvick: “I like the prospects of us trying different things. As the (summer Cup) race wore on, things changed. You had to move around. The PJ1 is one of those things that can definitely make the race better if you can add more lanes of racing.”

Austin Dillon: “I thought (the PJ1) held on good throughout the race in July; I’m a fan of it. July’s race was a blast and everyone is excited about it this time around. We’re going to be aggressive and just go after it this weekend.”