The first NASCAR test session of the new year is set for the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway this week, with all three national series tackling the freshly paved 1.54-mile track.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will share the circuit Tuesday in Goodyear tire testing. The tire-test sessions will continue Wednesday and Thursday with the Next Gen car for the 2022 Cup Series.
Tuesday morning, NASCAR competition officials confirmed the driver lineup for the three-day test, with each of the three manufacturers represented across the three series:
• Cup Series: Chris Buescher (RFK Racing Ford), Kurt Busch (23XI Racing Toyota), Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet).
• Xfinity Series: Justin Allgaier (JR Motorsports Chevrolet), Ty Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), Riley Herbst (Stewart-Haas Racing Ford).
• Camping World Trucks: Grant Enfinger (GMS Racing Chevrolet), Tanner Gray (David Gilliland Racing Ford), John Hunter Nemechek (Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota).
Atlanta officials announced the reprofiling for the intermediate-sized layout on July 6, just five days before the last Cup Series race on the aging asphalt surface. Track representatives indicated Dec. 22 that the renovation project was complete.
“Certainly a lot of hard work’s gone into the reconfiguration of the track,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We got a little bit behind with some of the paving issues, but luckily the weather’s been really, really good for us in terms of getting the track ready for this next test. So, all three series will be there. We’ll spend one day where you’ll have Xfinity and Trucks on the track, same day, and then Cup, we’ll look at multiple days of testing as well.
“So really with any new configuration, it’s making sure that the tire matches the car in terms of the aero package we put together and the engine’s also obviously part of that. So, making sure all those three are dialed in for the package that we want for Atlanta and then we’ll go race.”
Atlanta officials increased the banking through the track’s sweeping turns from 24 to 28 degrees, all while narrowing the racing surface and improving the drainage systems. It’s the first major reconfiguration of the track since 1997, when the front and back straightaways were switched, with a double dogleg added to the frontstretch.
O’Donnell indicated that the track’s characteristics and the expected increase in speeds are likely to prompt competition officials to use the superspeedway rules package reserved for the series’ fastest ovals, a short list that includes Daytona (2.5 miles) and Talladega (2.66 miles).
The test is scheduled roughly one month before the Next Gen model makes an exhibition debut in the Feb. 6 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum (6 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Two more test sessions — both organizational tests — are scheduled before then: Jan. 11-12 at Daytona International Speedway and Jan. 25-26 at Phoenix Raceway.
Atlanta is scheduled to play host to two NASCAR weekends in 2022, with all three national series in action March 19-20. The Cup Series and Xfinity Series return July 9-10.