Atlanta Motor Speedway… What comes to mind when you hear those words? A race plagued by weather? Boring? SMI’s next demise? For me, I hear the words abrasive and tire management. That is what happened this weekend for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500. It was an exciting race that went 209 laps caution-free at the start. Drivers were on wheel, turning right to go left.
Ed Clark and his team at the Atlanta Motor Speedway did a better job this year marketing the event compared to last season. Clark and his team had more time to market the event to the Atlanta fan base, which struggles to support their own sports teams. The weather was something that plagued last year’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500. The “Chamber of Commerce Weather” for the race weekend was a factor for many of the fans in attendance for the weekend. Attendance for the event was better than the year’s prior. Fans loved the new ticket packages being offered by Atlanta.
I was able to attend the double-header on Saturday between the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series and Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race. All three races were filled with great unknown. The first ever use of the new caution clock for the Camping World Truck Series, and the new low-downforce package for the Sprint Cup Series were used for the first time at Atlanta.
On Saturday, fans were treated to the second edition of the NASCAR Double-Header at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race was considered “boring” to the fans around me in the stands. Kyle Busch won for the first time at the Atlanta Motor Speedway ending the win streak of Kevin Harvick at the 1.54-mile track. Fans were treated to the battle of Kyle Larson trying to close the gap on Kyle Busch in the final laps. After the Heads Up Georgia 250, fans had roughly thirty minutes to reprogram their scanners, reapply sunscreen, and refuel on beverages and food.
The Great Clips 200 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was a rather eventful race. Trucks that were dominate throughout the whole race crashed allowing John Hunter Nemechek to capture his second career Camping World Truck Series win. The caution clock expired twice during the race. Fans enjoyed the idea of the caution clock because without it Matt Crafton would have continued his dominance at Atlanta. Fans cheered when the caution clock expired for the first time on lap 28. At the beginning of the race, the time remaining on the caution clock was not available on Sprint Vision, but after about 10 minutes, fans could see how much time was remaining. The second caution clock provided for an “amazing restart”, according to some fans. Matt Crafton and Daniel Suarez were turned coming off of the second turn by Suarez’s teammate, Christopher Bell, red-flagging the race. Fans cheered when Crafton and Suarez were able to walk away, and booed when they saw that Christopher Bell caused the accident. When it looked like Bell was on his way to victory, he had a tire go down and he hit the wall coming off the fourth turn. The impact to the wall was loud enough where fans with scanners could hear the impact. Fans were excited when John-Hunter Nemechek held off Cameron Hayley to win.
Atlanta Motor Speedway does a good job of getting fans to renew their tickets for the next season. When a fan renewed their tickets for 2017, fans were able to receive a QuickTrip Gift Card, Spy Sunglasses, and a Brookstone tool. Fans who renewed are placed in the AMS Insider’s Club. This club allows for fans to have preferred parking in the front three rows of the unreserved lots of the speedway, a coupon book up to $40, and over 750 exclusive prizes. I was an AMS Insiders Club Member for this weekend. I was able to go into race control and the Performance Racing Network Booth as one of the prizes. Fans were able to see how a radio broadcast works from the booth perspective, and how race control is run during the event.
The Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 showed a great step in the right direction for the low-downforce package. Tire management was key in the race and drivers were forced to manage their tires with perfection. After about 35 laps, drivers were planning their stops to get four fresh Goodyear tires. Drivers were able to pass throughout the field, no matter where they were on the speedway. The leader was not able to run away with the lead in clean air. Drivers were able to battle for the lead, unlike other 1.5-mile events. NASCAR Overtime also played a role into the race. However, I had to explain to some fans about the new overtime line. The anti-climatic finish allowed for Jimmie Johnson to win. Fans were amazed that the drivers with dirt backgrounds struggled with the new package. Cars that were fast in practices throughout the weekend, struggled during the race.