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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.

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NASCAR America: NASCAR’s stars hit the track for the ‘Little 600’ (video)

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Like more than three dozen of his NASCAR Cup counterparts, Joey Logano is gearing up for the longest race of the year, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

To warm up, Logano, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Darrell Wallace Jr. and other NASCAR drivers headed to the GoPro Motorplex in North Carolina for the “Little 600.”

Check out how they fared in the above video that was on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America.

 

Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kevin Harvick will start on the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, marking the second consecutive race at Charlotte Motor Speedway he has led the field to the green flag.

Harvick, a two-time Coke 600 winner, earned the top starting spot Thursday night with a lap of 193.424 mph in his Ford. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch, who won last weekend’s All-Star Race.

Chase Elliott starts third and is followed by Matt Kenseth and rookie Erik Jones.

Points leader Kyle Larson will start 39th in the 40-car field after not making a qualifying attempt. He hit the wall in practice and then his team couldn’t get through qualifying inspection until one minute remained in the opening round of the session. The team was unable to get Larson out of the garage in time to make an attempt.

Click here for Coca-Cola 600 starting lineup

Slugger Labbe: How do crew chiefs prepare for grueling Coca-Cola 600? (video)

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Veteran crew chief Slugger Labbe stopped by the NASCAR America studio in Charlotte on Thursday.

Labbe gave his perspective on how NASCAR Cup crew chiefs will prepare for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. While the race length will be the same as it has been for decades, one significant change will have crew chiefs developing strategy that they’ve never had to deal with in the 600, namely, four different race stages.

Labbe also gave his take on the positives and negatives of the Laser Inspection Station for both pre- and post-race inspections.

Check out the above video.

NASCAR: Remembering Martin Truex Jr.’s dominating 2016 Coca-Cola 600 win

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In one of the most dominating performances in NASCAR history, Martin Truex Jr. turned last year’s Coca-Cola 600 into a runaway one-man show, leading the field for 392 of 400 laps.

Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America took a look back at Truex’s record-setting win.

Check out the video above.