Event Overview

● Event: Ambetter Health 400 (Round 2 of 36)

● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 25

● Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia

● Layout: 1.54-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 260 laps/400 miles

● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 100 laps / Final Stage: 100 laps

● TV/Radio: FOX / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Notes of Interest

● Ryan Preece finished 23rd in the season-opening Daytona 500, held Monday after persistent rain postponed The Great American Race to the President’s Day holiday. Preece overcame adversity early when on lap six he was tagged by another car in the left-rear quarter panel, turning Preece across the frontstretch grass and toward pit road. Preece deftly kept his No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang from hitting the wall, and after a trip to pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires, Preece returned to the race.

● Despite his Daytona 500 result, Preece still left Daytona a winner. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver won on Tuesday night prior to the Daytona 500, taking the checkered flag at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway in the 50-lap Tour-type Modified feature at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Preece took the lead on lap 16 from Craig Lutz and maintained the top spot the rest of the way, even as Ron Silk, winner of the prior two Tour-type Modified races at New Smyrna, closed in during the waning laps. The victory was Preece’s 13th World Series win.

● Atlanta Motor Speedway has been around since 1960, but the Atlanta track Preece and his NASCAR Cup Series brethren will compete on this Sunday is only two years old. The 1.54-mile oval was reconfigured after the final race of the 2021 season. The banking was increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees and the track was narrowed from 55-feet wide to 40-feet wide, and it was all covered in fresh asphalt. The goal of the reconstruction was to recreate the kind of pack-style racing seen at the behemoth, 2.5-mile Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the even bigger 2.66-mile Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Drivers competed on the new layout for the first time in March 2022 and the Ambetter Health 400 will be the fifth Cup Series race on the revamped track.

● The Ambetter Health 400 will mark Preece’s seventh NASCAR Cup Series start at Atlanta, the last two of which came last year. His first four starts came on the old configuration, where his best finish was 25th, earned twice – March 2021 and July 2021. Preece logged his best Atlanta result in his most recent start at the track – 24th last July.

● Outside of the NASCAR Cup Series, Preece has three other Atlanta starts. He ran two NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the track, each on the old layout, with his best result being seventh in February 2019. Last March, Preece competed in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Atlanta, where he also finished seventh.

● Back with Preece and the No. 41 Ford Mustang at Daytona for the second weekend in a row is HaasTooling.com, the cutting tool division of Haas Automation. HaasTooling.com allows CNC machinists to purchase high-quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas cutting tools are sold exclusively online at HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users. Haas Automation, founded in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers, rotaries and indexers, and automation solutions.

Ryan Preece, Driver of the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang

How much does the racing at Atlanta emulate the racing you just experienced at Daytona?

“I would say Atlanta versus Daytona, they’re the same but they’re different. They’re different because Atlanta is still a mile-and-a-half, so we’re restricted on horsepower, we’re wide open like a superspeedway, but the runs happen twice as fast. Handling is, by far, way more important than it would be at Daytona. Not only that, it’s a lot tighter of a corner, so when you’re going into turn three and you’re three-wide and four-wide, it gets tight really quick.”

Did Daytona provide some understanding of how you think the racing will be at Atlanta?

“Right now, it’s about trying to understand where your aero balance is and how much the body has changed and what you need to do to adapt to that. I feel like Daytona has given us a good idea that our tools are really close, but it’s about trying to have an understanding of what you need to change going into Atlanta and how much different your car is going to be.”

Single-car qualifying is all the track time you’ll have at Atlanta prior to Sunday’s race. How do you prepare for the race when you know so little about how your car will perform?

“You go into it completely blind. There’s nothing like showing up at a racetrack and going green and not really having an understanding of where you’re going to be. I guess that really just emphasizes how close the tools you’re using are as far as making sure your car drives well. But, yeah, we’re going to be completely blind.”

Is competing at Atlanta mentally taxing?

“Well, it’s different than it used to be, for sure. It’s not like the old Atlanta where you had balanced shifts and you were trying to take care of your tires. Now, it’s about positioning yourself in the right lane, and potentially you can see handling becoming an issue and people trying to hang onto the draft. It’s going to be very mentally taxing, so hopefully our cars are really fast. That fixes everything.”

What do you need in your racecar to be fast at Atlanta?

“You need downforce, you need horsepower, really you need everything. Ultimately, if someone asks me that question, I’d say you need the total package. If you don’t have a lot of horsepower, or a really good-handling racecar because it has plenty of horsepower but a lot of drag, you could potentially struggle.”

Daytona and Talladega races are known to be a crapshoot, where there are so many things out of your control. Is that also the case at Atlanta, or are you still able to make a little bit of your own luck at Atlanta?

“I feel like at Atlanta you can control your destiny a little more. Yeah, you’re going to have to have track position, but if you have a really good-handling racecar at Atlanta, you’re going to have a good day. At Daytona, sometimes it’s just luck of the draw.”

How much has changed for you and Stewart-Haas this year compared to previous years now that Kevin Harvick has moved to the FOX broadcast booth and is no longer your teammate?

“We have four drivers with four completely different personalities. I’m different from Chase (Briscoe) and Noah (Gragson) and Josh (Berry), as they are different from me, so I feel like there are certain traits that I have that push them, as well as certain traits they have that push me. So, I feel like it complements each other as well. At Stewart Haas, we hear everybody, and as you heard Tony (Stewart) say, mediocrity isn’t acceptable. I’m a racecar driver. I’m somebody who’s very passionate about what I do. And I do it outside the Cup Series and I don’t accept mediocrity. I know, within our 41 team, we didn’t have the year we wanted, but we set some of the foundation that we needed going into this year, and now we’re going to go do what we need to do. As a racecar driver, to have a long-lasting career, you need to win races, and I’m sick of talking about not winning.”