Race Weekend Central

Are Manufacturer Lines Forming Around Atlanta Motor Speedway?

It’s no secret that NASCAR drivers want to win every race. That’s a given, but at the same time, it’s not possible.

What, then, happens when a pattern is established at a certain race track? What happens when in some location, one or two manufacturers figure something out before the other? Exactly what’s happening with Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Plenty of NASCAR Cup Series drivers have been asked the same question this week in different forms – should the series race at Atlanta twice a year? Does the real season start next week? Have these first two races been more or as important as the next few? The answers have varied drastically, but before the green flag drops today, a clear pattern has been established.

The Fords and Chevrolets? They’re here to win. The Toyotas? Not as much. Why is that, though?

It’s simple — because the Fords and Chevrolets can win. Look at qualifying, for instance. Ford has the front row locked out, with a Chevy and another Ford right behind them. No Toyota makes an appearance on the grid until Martin Truex Jr. back in 12th.

Christopher Bell, who will start 22nd, spoke openly about how he and many other drivers feel like the real season doesn’t even start this week. According to Bell, it starts next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I don’t know if [Atlanta’s] really any different than Talladega or Daytona, and Toyota has not won a superspeedway race until the duels, and that’s still only half a race,” Bell said. “But yeah, we haven’t won a superspeedway race since the introduction of Next Gen cars, so I think that means there’s something we need to improve on.

“… I think the majority of the drivers will say that the real season starts next week. I personally don’t like having two superspeedways back-to-back, and I think that a lot of people are on the same page.”

Ford drivers seem to share a different sentiment. In his press conference on Saturday, 2022 Cup Series champion Joey Logano noted that these races matter just as much as the others.

“They’re still giving out points, they’re still handing out trophies and they’re still handing out money,” Logano said.

Austin Cindric noted that for his team, these first two weeks are great chances.

“For us, it’s two really great opportunities to win races,” Cindric said. “We’ve been able to bring really fast race cars to not only Daytona, obviously, but Atlanta has been really good as of last year with our package. So it’s certainly two great opportunities for us and our team, but also two opportunities to maybe not control your destiny as much as some other races.”

Kyle Larson said that he wished the series didn’t even have as many super speedways on the schedule in general, and that he would be nervous coming here if he had crashed last week.

Fords, then, seem to be the only ones putting a lot of eggs in this basket. Everyone wants to win, but Ford drivers seem like they’re tackling this opportunity, while others seem to want to get it out of the way and get to next week.

The question is this, then: if roles were reversed, and say, a Toyota had won the Daytona 500 and subsequently, another Toyota had put it on pole this weekend, would the Toyota garage be as ready to move on as they are?

Is this racing drivers’ coping? Or is this the drivers being genuinely tired of riding in a single-file line all weekend just to avoid totaling their car two weeks into the season?

Many answers will be provided, but not until the green flag drops on the Ambetter Health 400 from AMS at 3 p.m. ET.

About the author

Tanner Marlar is a staff writer for On3 Sports' Maroon and White Daily covering Mississippi State Athletics, an AP Wire reporter, an award-winning sports columnist and talk show host and master's student at Mississippi State University. Soon, Tanner will be pursuing a PhD. in Communicative Research.

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I’m gong to do something as exciting as watching an event at Atlanta: watch the snow melt on the lawn!

Bill B

Why single out the RP tracks?
I’m not a fan of them either but if one manufacturer decides to concentrate making their cars good in a pack, and another good at road courses and the third at 1.5 mile ovals, that’s their decision. In most cases designing your car to excel at one type of track lessens how good it is at other tracks. The bottom line is everyone has the opportunity to do the same if that’s the basket they want to put their eggs in. I don’t see an issue with it.

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