It’s hard to get over your first love. When it comes to racing for me that first love was the Atlanta Motor Speedway. It wasn’t my first race. That was Talladega. And although I enjoy going to Dega now, I didn’t get it at first. Atlanta, ah Atlanta. That was pure speed. Watching the cars enter the corners at close to 200 mph, it was the closest thing to the more traditional CART/Indy Car racing I already enjoyed watching. It was there that I became hooked.
It is part of the reason why, when NASCAR makes now just one stop in Atlanta each season it makes me sad. The track is a shell of its former greatness, not only because of the fact it has just one date, but also because it is now losing its night race and seems destined to bounce around the schedule filling holes here and there. And it’s no longer one of the fast tracks on the schedule. It seems like it’s become just another track.
Thank goodness the drivers still see the allure of AMS.
"I don’t care when we come here. I love this track,” said Jeff Gordon. “I’d come here in the middle of December if they would let us. Well, maybe I wouldn’t come here in the middle of December. Don’t quote me on that. This is an awesome track. Whatever works for them and for NASCAR and for the fans is good."
The biggest thing that make Atlanta different than most of the mile and a half tracks on the schedule is, the surface is old, I mean by NASCAR standards it ancient. The last repave came when the track was reconfigured in 1997.
“We only go there once a year and it’s really, really worn out so you don’t get a lot of time to get ready,” said Matt Kenseth. “It’s a lot different than any other track we go to with the pavement and the tire combination and all that. I guess the challenge there is to be decent on new tires and still be decent on old tires and be able to get your car to work in every lane and to be able to be versatile enough to search around and find some grip.”
Whenever NASCAR heads to Atlanta, there is always a group of drivers that you can expect to in contention for the win. Gordon, who will make his 750th career start this weekend, has five wins. Tony Stewart is making his first start since he was involved in a deadly sprint car accident at Atlanta. He has three wins. Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson also have three wins. Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch each have two wins. Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Denny Hamlin each have single AMS victories. Harvick also won Saturday’s Nationwide race and will start Sunday night on the pole.
“I feel that the car is comfortable and that’s really the main thing that I try to focus on here to make sure that the car is comfortable and we’re able to drive lap after lap and be able to do the same thing. So, it’s a lot of fun, “ said Harvick.
Starting up front with the 4 car will be Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Kenseth. Stewart will line up 12th and Kansas native Clint Bowyer starts 21st. The green flag on the Oral B 500 sometime after 6:40pm Central Time.