Photo: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Fans send lucky charms to help Chase Elliott get to Victory Lane

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In an effort to help Chase Elliott score that elusive first Cup victory, Atlanta Motor Speedway asked fans to send good luck charms to present to the Georgia driver.

Multiple boxes of Lucky Charms were sent. Other items included stuffed animals, a tie, coins, letters, and items with four-leaf clovers on them.

Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, recalled doing a similar promotion when he worked at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bill Elliott sought his first victory.

“If you can’t create a new idea, steal a new one,” Clark quipped Tuesday before presenting the good luck charms to Chase Elliott, who has finished runner-up seven times — including five such finishes last year — but has not won a Cup race.

Bill Elliott finished runner-up eight times before he scored his first Cup victory, which came in November 1983 at Riverside, California.

“I hope it works,” Chase Elliott said of the charms sent to Atlanta for him.

Elliott, in his first season driving the No. 9 for Hendrick Motorsports (a number his father drover during his career), was 10th in Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday. He will start fifth in the second Can-Am Duel qualifying race Thursday night. The two qualifying races set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 behind the front row of Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin.

After the Daytona 500, the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 25.

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You want new year’s predictions? Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Ed Clark has some for you

Photo courtesy Ed Clark official Twitter account
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What’s the new year without predictions, right?

So as we head into 2018, Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark is out with his annual list of NASCAR predictions.

Clark consulted his magical crystal ball and here’s what he came up.

“I’ve been pretty close on my predictions over the past couple of seasons, and I’m confident the trend will continue in 2018,” Clark said. “So without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2018 season.”

Do you agree with Clark’s predictions? Leave a comment if you do – or don’t.

1. Chevrolet Rides The Camaro ZL1 To 2018 Manufacturer’s Championship

You can’t keep American muscle down for long! After Chevy’s 13-year run of manufacturer’s championships between 2003 and 2015, Toyota earned its first two titles in both 2016 and 2017. But with an all new model in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the 2018 season, the Camaro ZL1, Chevrolet will get back into the manufacturer’s win column on the strength of a powerhouse lineup of Bowtie drivers, including Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

2. William Byron Wins Rookie Of The Year … Again

Talk about a rising star. It seems more and more these days that there isn’t much AMS Thursday Thunder Legends alumnus William Byron can’t do. As a quick recap, Byron won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Rookie of the Year in 2015, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year in 2016 and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year just this past season in 2017. So why stop now? William Byron will continue his ascent to stardom by winning his fourth Rookie of the Year award in as many seasons, edging out Darrell Wallace, Jr. for the 2018 title in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series behind the wheel of his sleek new No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports ride.

3. All Three Team Penske Drivers Find Victory Lane

Between Team Penske veterans Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, the pair of Ford drivers have no less than 42 career Cup Series victories under their collective belt. Each with at least one win every season since 2012, Penske is a perennial powerhouse among the top teams on the circuit, and it will only get better with the addition of Ryan Blaney as the team’s third full-time driver in 2018. All three Penske drivers will find Victory Lane next season, as they continue to feed of each other’s on-track success.

4. A Top Team Announces Manufacturer Change For 2019

Like we’ve seen in recent years with teams like Stewart-Haas Racing and Furniture Row Racing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a major NASCAR race team to jump ship from one car manufacturer to another when an advantageous opportunity presents itself. That said, I predict one top Cup Series team with a long-tenured manufacturer alliance will announce plans sometime in 2018 to move to a different OEM (Official Equipment Manufacturer) for the 2019 season. Keep an eye on the news for this one.

5. More Aggressive Stage Finishes

Considering the way Martin Truex, Jr. racked up stage wins all season long to put himself in a favorable position all throughout the 2017 NASCAR Playoffs, a majority of race teams will adjust their in-race strategies in 2018 – especially early in the season – to focus more on collecting those highly valuable Playoff points. That will result in even more frantic, aggressive and highly chaotic final laps at the end of stages next year.

6. Three Drivers Earn Their First Cup Series Victories

There are a lot of talented drivers out there who have yet to earn their first career Cup Series victory. That will change for three of them in 2018. Chase Elliott, Darrell Wallace, Jr., Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon are all likely candidates to find Victory Lane next season, and half of them will do it.

… ONE MORE THING:

Oh, and just as a side-note, you may have noticed that I chose not to predict a Cup Series champion for next year. I picked Joey Logano in both 2015 and 2017, but it appears it may have been more of a curse than a blessing each time. So with that in mind, I’m going to try and avoid being a harbinger bad luck in 2018. Sorry about that, Joey!

Well, be sure to check back in with me next November to see just how accurate I was with my predictions for 2018. Until then, have a happy holidays, and we’ll see you in Atlanta in February (for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500)!

Repaving not planned anytime soon for Atlanta Motor Speedway

(Photo courtesy Atlanta Motor Speedway)
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The last time Atlanta Motor Speedway was repaved, Bill Clinton was President, Titanic set box-office records, the Chicago Bulls won their last of six championships in the 1990s and Jeff Gordon won the second of four Sprint Cup championships.

A lot has happened in the 18 years since AMS was last repaved between its two annual races in 1997. And it’s likely a lot more things are going to happen before the next time AMS is repaved again.

Track officials announced Tuesday that there are no plans to resurface the 1.5-mile asphalt track layout, one of the oldest racing surfaces on the Sprint Cup circuit.

“The well-used racing surface at our track produces some of the most exciting racing in NASCAR,” Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark said in a release. “Competitors participating in our recent NASCAR test sessions gave the surface high marks and encouraged us to maintain the racing surface as it currently stands.”

AMS is one of the fastest tracks on the Sprint Cup Series. Located 20 miles south of downtown Atlanta in Hampton, Georgia, AMS hosted its first race in 1960 (won by Fireball Roberts), and has held a total of 108 Sprint Cup races since.

There have been 33 Sprint Cup races contested on the current racing surface, which is a favorite among many NASCAR drivers for its aged abrasiveness.

AMS’ next event is Feb. 26-28, including an Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series doubleheader on Feb. 27 and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series race on Feb. 28.

Follow @JerryBonkowski