The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Hampton, Georgia, for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown halted its visit earlier this season. Atlanta Motor Speedway will play host to Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), an event originally scheduled March 15 before the postponement.
As with other events held since NASCAR returned to action after the coronavirus outbreak, the 325-lap race will take place without fans in attendance, and only a limited amount of essential personnel will be permitted on the track’s grounds. It will mark the sixth Cup Series race in NASCAR’s return and the 10th race overall this season.
Here’s a primer with helpful information for the showdown on the first Sunday of June.
Atlanta Motor Speedway is a 1.54-mile oval that held its first NASCAR Cup Series event on July 31, 1960. Fireball Roberts was the winner of that day’s Dixie 300. The first race was originally scheduled for late 1959 but was not run because of inclement weather.
With a 2,332-foot frontstretch and an 1,800-foot backstretch, each quarter-mile turn is banked at 24 degrees. The asphalt surface is the third oldest on the circuit, last repaved in 1997. Dover International Speedway (1995) and Auto Club Speedway (1996) are older.
Sunday’s 500-miler will be the 113th race for NASCAR’s top division on the Georgia track.
RELATED: Memorable moments at Atlanta
Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 105, Stage 2 at Lap 210, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 325.
Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will be held without practice and qualifying as NASCAR tries to limit exposure for on-site personnel to control the spread of coronavirus. The lineup will be determined by a random draw among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
Pit-stall selection will be ordered based on finishing positions from the NASCAR Cup Series’ previous race — last Sunday’s Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway — followed by new entries in order of points.
For more information about starting-lineup procedures for national-series races scheduled without qualifying, click here.
The NASCAR Cup Series will use its 2020 intermediate track package. Cars will feature a 550-horsepower tapered-spacer engine with aero ducts (an adjustment made after the 2019 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway), an eight- by 61-inch rear spoiler and a front splitter with a two-inch overhang.
Tires are critical: The track surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway may be the most worn and hardest on tires for the NASCAR Cup Series. This leads to teams pitting short of their fuel window to take fresh tires or working tire management to their benefit. Some drivers race hard early, while other conserve their tires to make a later run. Teams will be allowed 13 sets of Goodyear Eagles. Atlanta is also where Goodyear runs its multi-zoned tread right-side tire, which debuted in NASCAR in 2013.
“Tires are always something teams and fans think about when NASCAR makes its annual stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “With the abrasive track surface, tires are an important part of the race. Tire management often comes into play as those drivers that are easier on their tires early in a run will profit from that later on. Teams will opt for four tires on every stop, even after just a handful of laps if the opportunity presents itself. That also draws in the team aspect of our sport as the pit crews will be very busy with 13 sets of tires for the race.”
New setup for all NASCAR teams: All three NASCAR national series will run the same tire setup, and it’ll be the first time teams have run either of the two Goodyear tire codes. For the Xfinity Series and Cup Series, compared to what was run last year at Atlanta Motor Speedway, both of the left-side and right-side tires feature construction updates to align with other speedways run. For the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, the tire setup features the same construction updates but also a compound change on the left-side tire — more grip — compared to last year at Atlanta. The right-side tire is a multi-zone tread tire, with a two-inch inboard compound designed for heat resistance (Endurance Zone) and a 10-inch outboard compound to give more grip (Traction Zone). Like all other NASCAR ovals greater than a mile in length, teams will be required to run liners in all four tire positions. Air pressure in those inner liners should be 12-25 psi greater than that of the outer tire.
STATS TO KNOW
— Toyota has not won at Atlanta Motor Speedway since 2013. The manufacturer has made it to Victory Lane at every other active track besides Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval since then. Ford has won the last three Atlanta races.
— Kevin Harvick led the most laps in five consecutive races at Atlanta Motor Speedway from 2014-19, trying him with David Pearson for the longest streak at the Georgia track. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford won just one of those instances (2018). Harvick also has the most stage wins at Atlanta, with four tallies to his name.
— Bill Elliott is the only Georgia-born driver to win a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and he did so five times.
— Chase Elliott has the best average finish among active driver at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is averaging a 10.5 finish in four starts. Erik Jones has the next-best result, with a 10.67 average finish through three starts in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Everyone else is averaging a finish outside the top 10.
— Hendrick Motorsports has been dominant at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Chevrolet-backed organization has the most wins (14), runner-ups (16), top-five finishes (59) and top-10 runs (90). Its 3,031 laps led is second most of all teams.
— Three drivers won the last five races at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Brad Keselowski (two), Jimmie Johnson (two) and Kevin Harvick (one). There have been nine different winners in the last nine races held at a 1.5-mile track.
Source: NASCAR statistics, Racing Insights
Tune in Sunday at 3 p.m. ET to television coverage from Atlanta Motor Speedway on FOX and the FOX Sports App. For full radio coverage, listen in to PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on-air.
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner (which is FREE for both races), and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Brad Keselowski, who has already won two races in 2020, took his No. 2 Team Penske Ford to Victory Lane in last season’s trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was his second win in the last three races at the Georgia track. Keselowski led 33 laps and finished with a .218-second margin of victory over Martin Truex Jr.
ACTIVE ATLANTA WINNERS
Jimmie Johnson (five); Kurt Busch (three); Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch (two); Denny Hamlin (one).