Big changes are coming to Atlanta Motor Speedway ahead of the 2022 NASCAR season.
Ahead of hosting the Cup and Xfinity Series this weekend, AMS announced Tuesday that the 1.54-mile track, renowned by drivers for its abrasive surface, will be repaved for the first time since its 1997 reconfiguration to a quad-oval layout.
But that’s not all. The track will also undergo a reprofiling. As part of that, banking will increase in the turns from 24 to 28 degrees. Banking will remain at five degrees on the straights.
Additionally, the racing surface will become narrower with an overall decrease in width from 55 feet to 40 feet.
New widths will be 52 feet on the front stretch, 42 feet on the back stretch and 40 feet in the turns.
In a press release, the track said the reprofiling is the product of “10 months of confidential research, development, testing and simulation with engineers and iRacing.”
“As Atlanta’s racing surface has aged, we’ve challenged ourselves to reimagine what NASCAR racing at an intermediate track can be,” Marcus Smith, president and CEO of track owner Speedway Motorsports, said in the release.
“With high banks in the turns, narrower width and new pavement technology, Atlanta will be unlike any other mile-and-a-half track on the circuit. It’s all new for ’22 and this will be specifically designed for close, competitive racing.”
Speedway Motorsports has carried out track reprofiles in recent years at Kentucky Speedway (no longer on the NASCAR schedule) in 2016 and Texas Motor Speedway in 2017.
The company also reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in 2006.
Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development for Speedway Motorsports, noted the importance of iRacing in helping to take “a lot of the guesswork out” of the upcoming Atlanta tweaks.
“There’s been simulations in the past, starting when we first (reconfigured) this track in 1997,” Swift told reporters Tuesday. “It’s almost like the difference in video games, if you’ve played video games from the old Nintendos to what they play today.
“There was really bad simulations. They would show you one car that was like, lack of a better term, a dot that went around the track and just showed you the driving path.
“With iRacing’s innovation today, it’s made it so much easier. We’ve been working on [the reprofile] for the last three years, and it gives you that ability to see what you’re actually designing in lieu of hoping what you’re designing is gonna work out.”
As for potential driver pushback – which helped scuttle a previously scheduled repave in 2017 – Atlanta Motor Speedway general manager Brandon Hutchinson acknowledged the current 1.54-mile track as “a racer’s race track” but that the timing was right to push ahead with a repave.
“I expect that we’ll get a lot of feedback from the drivers,” Hutchinson said to reporters. “I think, just as with anything else, you’re gonna get some feedback that’s very supportive and I think you’ll have some feedback that’s not as supporting.
“But we’re in the business of selling tickets. We are confident that our fans are gonna love the product that they’re gonna see here in 2022.”
Hutchinson also noted that, in light of the new project, “I think it’s safe to say you’ll see two races at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2022.”
Atlanta Motor Speedway has been part of the NASCAR circuit since 1960, and hosted at least two Cup races annually from 1960-2010. Three races were held there in 1961.
After hosting a single Cup weekend from 2011-2020, it received a second Cup date again starting this season.