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Evaluating NASCAR’s reconfiguration of Atlanta Motor Speedway

Atlanta Motor Speedway is ready to host its second weekend of the 2022 season with the new configuration. Should NASCAR reconfigure more tracks like Atlanta?

Austin Konenski
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Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will be going back to Atlanta Motor Speedway for their first race at a track where they have already been during the 2022 season. Let’s evaluate the new configuration of Atlanta Motor Speedway ahead of its second race and whether it should be used elsewhere.

Related: NASCAR today – TV schedule, race highlights, and rankings

How successful was the first weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway?

NASCAR’s first weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway was full of hype and questions on how the track would run after the new configuration. Well, everything says it went really well. The racing was very similar to pack racing at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Due to the narrowness, it was more like a mini-Daytona event.

That was truly on display with a total of 20 leaders and 46 lead changes during the NASCAR Cup Series race. Both of those are track records at the venue that dates back to the 1960 season with 116 total races. It gave off an unpredictable vibe as drivers, such as Corey LaJoie, scored career-best finishes due to the drafting. It’s not as potent as the bigger superspeedway tracks, but it was still enough.

NASCAR’s TV ratings also helped show the story of why superspeedway tracks are good for viewership. Last season’s first Atlanta event registered 3.724 million average viewers on FOX. However, this year’s event was up 7.5% at 4.003 million average viewers. It’s a decent jump that shows how fans love new styles of racing and superspeedway racing, specifically.

Due to these bits of information, it is easy to say that Atlanta’s first weekend was successful and this weekend should be no different.

Should NASCAR reconfigure other intermediate tracks?

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Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The success of the first weekend of the season brings us to this question ahead of its second weekend. Should NASCAR reconfigure other intermediate tracks to this style of racing? There is a case to be made for and against the idea. Let’s start with the case that NASCAR should reconfigure similar intermediate tracks to superspeedway tracks.

The entertainment value of superspeedway racing is through the roof as the stakes are high and the cars are running close together for the entire event. This allows more opportunities for smaller teams to run up front as the car itself is not as dependent due to the draft. It’s a major reason why there are so many David v. Goliath stories over the years.

Atlanta Motor Speedway’s previous configuration might have been deemed boring by some fans’ standards and this helps bring electricity to the event every season. Due to this fact, it seems reasonable to believe that other venues, such as Texas Motor Speedway, could benefit by changing the style of racing. The racing being more exciting for the fans is a good thing.

However, the case against making other intermediate tracks into superspeedway tracks is just as strong, if not even stronger due to multiple reasons. The main reason to not reconfigure other tracks is due to how many superspeedway-style events the Cup Series already runs. Right now, six of the 36 races are draft-dependent and chaotic in nature.

If NASCAR were to change some tracks such as Auto Club, Michigan, and Texas, it could go as high as eight to nine events. It can become repetitive and affect the playoff picture significantly. There are also financial reasons against the idea. The number of wrecked cars at superspeedway tracks is way higher than on other tracks. This means more money spent and working for teams during the week.

The financial implications themselves are a huge factor in why even more superspeedway tracks are completely unnecessary. The casual fan might not think about this complication. Plus, with the overwhelming success at intermediate tracks with NASCAR’s NextGen car, is it truly necessary to add more events similar to Atlanta?

The final verdict

The question of whether NASCAR needs more tracks similar to the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway is a difficult one when you look at both sides. However, the answer is no due to the financial implications. Yes, the racing itself is more entertaining than other styles of racing but it’s completely unnecessary to add more of them.

Right now, superspeedway tracks take up 1/6th of the schedule. It seems like a perfect number to have as NASCAR looks to diversify the schedule even more for the 2023 season and beyond. There will be some pushback if NASCAR decides to keep it at six events, but it goes much further than the pure entertainment value that it brings every year.