HAMPTON, Ga.— The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500 for the 2,500 MENCS race. This weekend will also feature the new lower downforce package that will be used throughout the 2017 season.
39 drivers are scheduled to arrive in Atlanta. Notable drivers include Gray Gaulding, who is making his first MENCS start, and the return of Derrike Cope, who last raced in the MENCS back in 2009.
This is also the final race on the old worn out surface that drivers love at Atlanta. The track was last repaved back in 1997, nearly two decades ago.
This will be the 110th race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 50 drivers have won a pole at the track. There have been 43 different race winners. 14 races have been won from the pole position with Kasey Kahne being the last driver to do so in 2006. The race record was set by Bobby Labonte in 1997 at 159.904 mph. Geoff Bodine set the qualifying record in 1997 at 197.478 mph.
Drivers are pumped to return to Atlanta for the final time on the worn out surface.
“It has always been the surface and now that is changing, but the banking. The banking is a big part of it. I think it’s the steepest 1.5-mile we run on. It’s always put up that short run speed and then the age of the surface has given us the character that we all like in the track. But, we are going to be going so fast when we go back there this year,” said Jimmie Johnson, who will be going for three wins in a row at Atlanta.
“Atlanta is one of the most worn-out surfaces that we go to these days, and I always think that the older surface makes for some fun racing, even though the surface may not let us go as fast as you could on newer pavement. At Atlanta, you need to be decent at the beginning of a run, but also good at the end of a run when you are on older tires. It’s often hard to find that balance with your race car because these races can come down to a short run. This weekend will really be the first time that we see the new rules package come into play for the season since it’s not a superspeedway race. I’m looking forward to getting our DEWALT Camry on track this weekend and working on getting a strong run in,” said Matt Kenseth.
“I expect it will be loose and that we’ll see a lot of slipping and sliding. With the way that the new segments are going to blend in, you don’t want to use up your tires too early in the race because you want to save a set, maybe even two sets, for the final 20 laps. You never know when yellow flags are going to come out and that changes the game. If you don’t have tires ready, then you’re going to be in a defensive position instead of offensive,” said Kurt Busch, 2017 Daytona 500 champion.
Teams will hit the track at 12:00 p.m. EST on Friday for the first practice session of the weekend. Teams will qualify at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, the final practice for drivers will be at 12:00 p.m. EST on Saturday. The green flag will fall for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series shortly after 2:30 p.m. EST on Sunday. All practices will be on Fox Sports 1. Qualifying will also be on Fox Sports 1 and Performance Racing Network. The race will be on FOX and Performance Racing Network.