HAMPTON, GA — Kyle Busch isn’t happy with SMI. They’re the group that owns tracks like the one we’re racing in this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. See, Busch won Saturday’s Credit Karma Money 250 in a thrilling overtime finish for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
After the race, he asked if he could keep a piece of the track when the demolition of the racing surface begins.
“So I can cherish what the real Atlanta is like,” Busch said on wanting a piece of the track. “I sure am glad to win the final Xfinity Series race on a real Atlanta racetrack. Because the next one is just going to be a showpiece, and it’s going to be shit.”
What he’s referring to is that the track recently announced this past week that they’ll alter this track for 2022 and beyond. The last time the track had any major work done to it was after the 1996 season finale. For 1997, the track was altered to its current state with a D-shaped track with a dogleg and fresh asphalt. Its not been repaved since.
Now, they’ll not only repave it but also add four degrees of banking going from 24 to 28 degrees in the turns as well as narrowing the turns by 14 feet.
Atlanta is trying to separate themselves from other 1.5-milers. They’re trying to be the Daytona and/or Talladega of 1.5-mile facilities. That has drawn the ire of other drivers.
See, there’s a power struggle in the sport right now. What NASCAR and even the tracks may want, the drivers don’t. The weird aspect to this is, the drivers aren’t even being counseled on these changes either. I mean, that’s a big part to this because they’re the ones actually racing on these tracks and they’re the ones putting their lives on the line by doing so.
They’re not having a voice in this and it’s starting to wear on them. This change to Atlanta is breaking point. They’re saying that you’re trying to create something that likely isn’t going to even work.
“If they’re going to narrow it up 15 feet, whatever it is, that’s the whole bottom groove,” Busch said during his news conference on Saturday following his win. “We’re not going to be able to run around here 3 wide. You’re going to be stuck at two wide. It’s going to be as wide as Darlington. So trying to run around here at 210 mph because if they don’t put plates on it, you’re going to be going way too fast.
“Just think about it. Everybody needs to just think. There ain’t nobody thinking. Brains for sale. Never used. Operating racetracks.
“I feel that our side doesn’t get looked at whatsoever from our vantage point. You’re going to come here with fresh pavement with 4 degrees more banking when they were here in 1997, they went around here wide open and set a track record of 197 mph.
“You’re going to tell me that the (NextGen) cars that we’re going to have with more tire, wider tire, we’re not going to go faster? So we’re the ones that need to be consulted as well, too, a little bit. Narrowing a racetrack … all we’ve done at every single racetrack that we’ve gone to over the years is try to widen the racing groove. Right? What do you think the PJ1 bullshit is for? To widen the racing groove.
“We go to Charlotte. We spray this PJ1 stuff in Lane 2 and 3 to make it wider. We go to Texas, we spray it in Lanes 2, 3, 4 at Texas to widen it. What are we doing? Now we’re going to come here and run here like Darlington. I just don’t see it. And they want pack racing? You want pack racing two wide. Who’s going to pass? Where are the lanes going to go? You’re going to get to the straightaway and make it three wide and try to blend back into 2 when you get to the corner. But simulation, they’ve got it worked out.”
Busch said he found out about the changes when we all did on Tuesday. Other drivers say that they were never asked for feedback and some are questioning on whether any one actually was.
“The Xfinity cars will still be fast; it’s going to be close to wide open,” said Busch. “But the Cup cars, they still don’t know what aero package they got for the new Cup car. Are we coming here with the 550-type package? You might as well put the bigger blade on it that we have at the speedways and slow it down because you know you’re going to need to.”
As to where he ranks Atlanta as his favorite tracks to race at?
“Pretty high right now,” Busch said. “Come Monday, pretty low. It’s a fun place. We all say it. The drivers all say it.
“It’s challenging, it’s difficult. You have to figure out how fast you can run, how hard you can push and yet still try to save your tire and not burn your tires off it. … Overall, this is one of the more fun tracks. The asphalt is coming up, so I don’t discredit repave, but the layout … I can’t get it in my mind that we want to go faster.”