It was a weekend of question marks for NASCAR as the circus rolled into ‘Hot-lanta’ for the 5th race of the season. Recently finished work on the 1.54 mile speedway that began in July 2021 was the source of many of these questions – how would the new surface fair, what would the tire falloff look like, how will these new cars perform?
The answer – it was classic superspeedway racing with a side of chaos.
At the end of it all, only one driver could emerge as victor, and Hendrick Motorsports William Byron ended up on top in his 24 Liberty University Chevrolet, making him the 5th different winner on the year, and the 3rd of the 4 Hendrick drivers to clinch a win and a potential spot in the Cup Series Playoffs.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) March 20, 2022
Byron took hold of the lead from 23XI’s Bubba Wallace on lap 316 and held on till the end to clinch his first win since winning at Homestead-Miami in 2021, finishing 0.109 seconds ahead of Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain, however, Bell was penalized for passing below the designated boundary line on the final lap and was dropped to 23rd position in the finishing order. Chastain, promoted to 2nd place, tied his best finish after a 2nd place in Phoenix in the prior week.
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An even hotter Atlanta
Atlanta Motor Speedway has long been one of the fastest circuits in NASCAR, with some years requiring the uses of restrictor plates to reduce the top speed of the cars – which could reach over 190mph – so to take an already fast speedway and tweak it to make it ‘faster’, raised some eyebrows.
After the changes, which included reducing the track width, changing the angle of approach from turn 4 into the front kink, and altering the bankings in all 4 turns, Speedway Motorsports Inc, the tracks owner group, took was was a mid-range downforce 1.5 mile track and converted it into a 3/4 scale Daytona…a mini superspeedway. In response to this, NASCAR changed the downforce and power packages by mandating that all teams utilize the superspeedway competition package for the first event on the all-new surface.
These dramatic changes left a field of 37 cars in tatters, with 28 of the 37 being involved in at least one incident on track, leaving teams and drivers with destroyed cars and payback on their minds heading to Austin, TX for the first road course race of the year.
Left turns AND right turns
For the second year in a row NASCAR returns to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX for the Echo Park Automotive Grand Prix of the Americas and Racer Views contributor Nick Hrehor will be there to capture the action. Defending winner Chase Elliott will be looking to take his first win of the year and secure his spot, while the rest of the field looks to de-throne the road course king.
The action starts Sunday, March 27th at 3:30pm ET on FOX (US).