What drivers say about Atlanta not being repaved in nearly 25 years

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NASCAR drivers may love the latest technology, but when it comes to racetrack surfaces, the older appears to be the better.

This weekend’s venue, Atlanta Motor Speedway, is a good example. The 1.54-mile oval’s racing surface is one of the most abrasive and bumpy in the sport.

While drivers who favor AMS like to use terms such as the track has “character” or they like the fact it’s “weathered” or “slick,” there’s no disputing that the current track surface is nearly a quarter-century old.

MORE: Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta: Start time, forecast and more

The last repave of the Hampton, Georgia facility was following the 1996 season. It’s the third oldest surface in the sport. Only all-concrete Dover (1995) and Auto Club Speedway (1996) have older racing surfaces. Auto Club Speedway has the oldest asphalt surface in the sport, followed by Atlanta.

Track officials announced they would resurface the track after the spring race there in 2017, but overwhelming driver pushback prompted cancellation of the repave.

Still, it’s almost inevitable that the track will have to be resurfaced again, although Ty Dillon offers some interesting alternatives.

“No matter when they do it (resurface the track), all the drivers are going to be upset,” Dillon said. “There is a certain point where they have to do what’s best for the track.

“I think once they decide to repave it, they should maybe ‘dozer the whole thing and change it up. Maybe make it a short track or a road course, do something different. I don’t think we need more mile-and-a-half tracks, I think we need to change up. If they want to get more and more people to Atlanta, they need to look at something different.”

Atlanta is celebrating its 60th anniversary this weekend, having hosted its first race on July 31, 1960. Fireball Roberts was the winner.

Here’s what several Cup drivers have to say about racing at Atlanta:

Chase Elliott, who will start from the pole in Sunday’s Cup race: “The track has a lot of wear to it, a lot of character and a lot of bumps. There is a fine line of getting your car right.”

Alex Bowman: “This track is one where you have a lot of options. It’s worn out and you can move around a lot, which gives drivers a lot of choices. Everyone appreciates options, so this weekend should be a good one.”

Austin Dillon: “We make sure when we go there, we don’t pray for rain. We don’t want any rain because it’s going to be a long day drying that place. It is old, it weeps, but I’m glad they’ve kept it the same. It’s a place that drivers love because you know it’s going to be slick and over time you might be able to find some grip by moving around or changing your line and being disciplined with the throttle.”

William Byron: “Atlanta is a tough track. You have to take care of the right front tire there, or the right rear, whichever one seems to be wearing out the most. I think any time you get a chance to pass a car and get ahead of them you need to take it, but it’s a fine line of how hard do you push it versus taking care of your tires so you’re there in the end. You just really need to manage your equipment the best you can to have a shot. It’s a long 500-mile race and it’s physical.”

Tyler Reddick: “Atlanta is all about managing tires, even with all of the downforce we do have and where the horsepower is at in these Cup cars. You have to be smart and really understand how to manage your car from Lap 1 to Lap 45, which is about how far you can go on a set of tires. Tires will be our best friends this weekend.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: “The old surface is so hard on tires that it creates an entire new strategy for the race.”

Ty Dillon: “Atlanta is old, abrasive and wears on our car and tires very hard. I think everybody’s goal in Atlanta is to make sure that you don’t wear your tires faster than the guy in front of you.”

Ryan Preece: “Atlanta is so rough on tires and your tire strategy that it really gives us a new angle setup-wise than we’ve seen at some of the other intermediate tracks we’ve run at.”

Matt Kenseth: “Atlanta is about as racy as it gets for high-banked intermediate tracks. The pavement’s wore out, there are a lot of bumps, and at times can be very line sensitive. It’s a track I have always really enjoyed racing at and I’m excited to get back. Every week has been a new challenge for me to get acclimated and up to speed, and this will be another one.”

Kyle Busch: “You have to have good grip there, you have to have good (tire) fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run, yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else. So you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early (in the run) or save a little and be there late. We went there several months ago and didn’t get to race there, so expecting the weekend to be much different this time around than when we traveled there in March.”

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Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 25

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report