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


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 at 5 p.m. ET: Auto Club Speedway recap, West Coast Awards

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and looks back at the weekend’s racing at Auto Club Speedway.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett from the “Big Oak Table” at NBC Charlotte.

What to expect from the show.

  • Martin Truex Jr. flashed his championship form from last year and earned his first win of the 2018 season Sunday in Fontana. We’ll recap the last race of NASCAR Goes West from around the “Big Oak Table” at our NBC Sports studios in Charlotte. Plus, Rut and the gang will hand out the West Coast awards, honoring the best moments from the Vegas-Phoenix-Fontana run.
  • NASCAR is a sport built on families, and it’s seen lots of kids grow up at the track through the years. We’ll spend time discussing the next generation to catch the racing bug – including Harrison Burton, son of our Jeff Burton.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http:/

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Landon Cassill gets Cup ride for Martinsville, Texas

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Landon Cassill will drive the No. 00 for StarCom Racing in the next two races, Martinsville and Texas, the team announced Monday.

Cassill replaces Jeffrey Earnhardt. StarCom Racing and Earnhardt parted ways after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway will mark Cassill’s first Cup race of the year. The 28-year-old has 259 career Cup starts and a career-best finish of fourth at Talladega in October 2014. He drove for Front Row Motorsports the past two seasons but was not retained after last year.

Cassill’s sponsor the next two races will be the United States First Responders Association, a non-profit, professional and social network of fire, EMS, rescue, law enforcement and military personnel, as well as civilian support teams.

StarCom Racing was privileged to acquire a new partnership with USFRA and Landon Cassill behind the wheel,” said Derrike Cope, team manager, in a statement. “I’m optimistic that his knowledge and experience will only help our efforts as well as the growth of our team.”

Said Cassill in a statement: “I love working with new teams. I feel like that is one of my strengths. StarCom Racing looks like they are in it for the long haul, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.” 

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Hendrick Motorsports withdraws appeal of Phoenix penalties against No. 9 team

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Hendrick Motorsports has withdrawn its appeal of penalties against Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 team from last weekend’s race in Phoenix, NBC Sports confirmed.

NASCAR found a L1 infraction on Elliott’s car in the rear-suspension after the race at ISM Raceway.

NASCAR stated that the team’s truck trailing arm spacer/pinion angle shim mounting surfaces must be planar and in complete contact with corresponding mating surfaces at all points and at all times.

NASCAR fined crew chief Alan Gustafson $50,000, suspended car chief Josh Kirk two races and docked Elliott 25 points and the team 25 owner points. Elliott’s third-place finish in the race will not count toward any tiebreakers.

Following Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway, where Elliott finished 16th, he is 21st in the point standings.

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Preliminary entry lists for Martinsville

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NASCAR visits a short track for the first time this season when it heads to Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the circuit.

The Cup Series is joined by the Camping World Truck Series, which has been off the last two weeks.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – STP 500

There are 38 cars entered.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is listed as driving StarCom Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet, but the team announced Sunday it has parted ways with Earnhardt.

Landon Cassill will take his place this weekend and at Texas Motor Speedway.

D.J. Kennington is entered in his third race this season, driving Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Ross Chastain is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet for the fifth time this season.

Harrison Rhodes is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. Rhodes has one start in the No. 51 at Atlanta.

Last year, Brad Keselowski won this race after leading 116 of 500 laps. He beat Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. In the fall playoff race, Busch won over Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

Click here for the entry lists.

Trucks – Alpha Energy Solutions 250

There are 36 trucks entered.

Todd Gilliland will make his first start of the season in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota.

His father, David Gilliland, is entered in DGR-Crosley’s No. 54 Toyota.

Timothy Peters will make his first start of the year driving Ricky Benton Racing’s No. 92 Ford. A former driver for the defunct Red Horse Racing, Peters’ last start was in the 2017 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, Chase Elliott won this race over Johnny Sauter and Christopher Bell. The fall playoff race was won by Noah Gragson over Matt Crafton and Sauter.

Click here for the entry list.