HAMPTON, Georgia – Labeling the reconfiguration of Atlanta Motor Speedway as brainless, an angry Kyle Busch vociferously joined a chorus of NASCAR stars miffed they weren’t consulted about the 1.54-mile oval’s makeover.
In closing a blistering news conference Saturday night after winning at Atlanta (in likely the final start of his Xfinity career), Busch asked Speedway Motorsports executive Don Hawk for a chunk “of the real asphalt, so I can cherish what the real Atlanta is like” in one of several digs he took at management.
“I sure am glad to win the final Xfinity Series race on a real Atlanta racetrack,” Busch said. “Because the next one is just going to be a showpiece, and it’s going to be shit.”
Atlanta announced Tuesday that the track will be reprofiled as part of its first repave in 25 years, adding four degrees of banking (to 28 degrees) while also narrowing the width in the turns by 14 feet.
Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and crew chief Rodney Childers are among those who have expressed reservations about the changes (which could create pack style-racing similar to Daytona and Talladega), but Busch was by far the most blunt and forceful in a diatribe that consumed nearly half of a 16-minute news conference.
“If they’re going to narrow it up 15 feet, whatever it is, that’s the whole bottom groove,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to run around here 3 wide. You’re going to be stuck at two wide. It’s going to be as wide as Darlington. So trying to run around here at 210 mph because if they don’t put plates on it, you’re going to be going way too fast.
“Just think about it. Everybody needs to just think. There ain’t nobody thinking. Brains for sale. Never used. Operating racetracks.”
During an appearance on NASCAR America this week (video above), Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith said drivers were consulted about the changes at Atlanta
But echoing what Larson and Hamlin indicated this week, Busch said he learned about the Atlanta changes “at the same time (the news media) all did.
“I feel that our (driver) side doesn’t get looked at whatsoever from our vantage point,” he said. “You’re going to come here with fresh pavement with 4 degrees more banking when they were here in 1997, they went around here wide open and set a track record of 197 mph.
With all due respect. This same group has reconfigured Texas, Kentucky, Bristol with 0 driver input. One of those lost a race, other one we don’t race anymore and last one we put dirt over it. But hey, what do the drivers know 🙄 https://t.co/IRCfVeK79d
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) July 7, 2021
“You’re going to tell me that the (NextGen) cars that we’re going to have with more tire, wider tire, we’re not going to go faster? So we’re the ones that need to be consulted as well, too, a little bit. Narrowing a racetrack … all we’ve done at every single racetrack that we’ve gone to over the years is try to widen the racing groove. Right? What do you think the PJ1 bullshit is for? To widen the racing groove.
“We go to Charlotte. We spray this PJ1 stuff in Lane 2 and 3 to make it wider. We go to Texas, we spray it in Lanes 2, 3, 4 at Texas to widen it. What are we doing? Now we’re going to come here and run here like Darlington. I just don’t see it. And they want pack racing? You want pack racing two wide. Who’s going to pass? Where are the lanes going to go? You’re going to get to the straightaway and make it three wide and try to blend back into 2 when you get to the corner. But yeah, simulation, they’ve got it worked out.”
That’s a reference to the track using iRacing to help design transitions between the turns and straightaways that Smith said were “perfect” during his NASCAR America appearance.
Busch said it would be difficult to predict how the racing would unfold on the new surface with the many variables of the NextGen car.
“The Xfinity cars will still be fast; it’s going to be close to wide open,” he said. “But the Cup cars, they still don’t know what aero package they got for the new Cup car. Are we coming here with the 550-type package? You might as well put the bigger blade on it that we have at the speedways and slow it down because you know you’re going to need to.”
Because of its abrasive pavement and heavy tire wear, Atlanta is a favorite of many drivers who believe that its multiple grooves and low-grip surface put an emphasis on skill.
Where does Atlanta rank on Busch’s list of favorites?
“Pretty high right now,” he said. “Come Monday, pretty low. It’s a fun place. We all say it. The drivers all say it.
“It’s challenging, it’s difficult. You have to figure out how fast you can run, how hard you can push and yet still try to save your tire and not burn your tires off it. … Overall, this is one of the more fun tracks. The asphalt is coming up, so I don’t discredit repave, but the layout … I can’t get it in my mind that we want to go faster.”