The Cup Series test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway isn’t the only NASCAR action that took place this week.
Three rookie drivers from the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series got to make their first laps as well.
Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing and Tyler Reddick of JR Motorsports joined GMS Racing’s Dalton Sargeant in the two-day test at the 1.54-mile track.
The test, held Monday and Tuesday, was Reddick’s first time in action behind the wheel of JR Motorsports’ No. 9 Chevrolet.
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The 22-year-old driver is taking over for 2017 champion William Byron after he spent last season driving the No. 42 part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing. It was Reddick’s first time at Atlanta in a stock car after making two starts there in the Truck Series.
“This track’s definitely got one of the older surfaces on the schedule … so when you come here and test, that makes it difficult to get it going,” Reddick said in a team release. “Obviously, the track is going to wear the tires out really quickly.”
Atlanta’s surface hasn’t been repaved since the track was reconfigured in 1997, the year after Reddick was born.
“Tracks like these are a lot of fun; they kind of knock the dust back off in a sense and get your feet planted back where they need to be,” Reddick said. “This is a track that, even if your car is handling pretty good, it’s still going to be a handful. You have to really work for it as the tires fall away.”
Bell returned to the No. 20 Toyota to begin his rookie campaign.
The two-time defending winner of the Chili Bowl made his debut in the series last year, making eight starts and earning his first win, in October at Kansas Speedway.
The 23-year-old driver earned one win at Atlanta in the Truck Series. His victory last year in February was the first of five on the way to winning the Truck Series title for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I’ve run here at Atlanta twice and ran exceptionally well both times,” Bell said in a track press release. “It’s one of my favorite race tracks. This place is a blast and one of the most fun places we go to.”
The Xfinity season opens on Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. Reddick, Bell and the rest of the Xfinity field will be back at Atlanta on Feb. 24 for the Rinnai 250.
“Just getting the jitters out (was the biggest goal at this test),” Bell said. “I was pretty nervous, and I think everybody is the first time they get in their cars since November. I’m glad today went smoothly.”
Sargeant, 19, made his first laps at Atlanta driving the No. 25 Chevrolet for GMS Racing.
The native of Boca Raton, Florida, has only six Truck starts since 2015. He placed second last year in the ARCA Racing Series.
“Hopefully I’m a quick learner, and we’ll see what we can do,” Sargeant said in the track press release. “We’ve been trying a bunch of different things on these trucks with the new motor and everything. It’s just a little bit different than what they were used to last year and years before, so we’re just out here testing as much as we can.”
Sargeant’s best finish in his six Truck starts was ninth at New Hampshire in 2015.
“It’s definitely a really cool place,” Sargeant said of Atlanta. “I’m looking forward to coming here and racing in February. I think it’s going to be a tough challenge. I know it’s going to be warmer then, so we might be slipping and sliding around a little bit more, but my first overall thoughts is that track is really awesome.”
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