Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should Tracks Like Texas Follow Atlanta’s Lead?

Following the third closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history on Sunday (Feb. 25), Atlanta Motor Speedway suddenly felt like the track of old once again.

No, they didn’t essentially treat it like a mini-Talladega 20 years ago, but at the same time, if the Cup Series was looking to mimic the swan song of the IROC-era, they produced a reasonable facsimile with the new layout.

While NASCAR does have a history of immediately overdoing something that shows promise, it does beg the question if intermediates (particularly those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area) and other tracks would benefit from making configurations similar to Atlanta. This week Chase Folsom and Wyatt Watson pick things apart in 2-Headed Monster.

Less is More

There is absolutely no doubt that we saw one of the best races in recent memory this past Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, along with a finish that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest in NASCAR history.

However, the buzz around the NASCAR world now is about the racetrack. As we all know, the reconfiguration of Atlanta to be a 1.54-mile drafting-style track was unlike anything we had ever seen, and it had many skeptical that it would be successful, up until this past Sunday. The problem is, this past Sunday’s race now has many saying we should do this to others, or even all of the intermediate tracks on the schedule, and that simply isn’t what should happen whatsoever.

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The new Atlanta is an anomaly, but one that absolutely works, and is great for what it is.

It’s exciting because we’ve never seen anything like it. It’s unique because there are no other tracks like it on the schedule. The anticipation going into these two races will always be high, because it only happens twice a year. Why on earth would we take that away, and wash it out by making more tracks just like it?

Taking Atlanta and doing the ole copy and paste method on Texas Motor Speedway for example, would only take away from what makes Atlanta special by being unique. 

Now, I use Texas as an example because it’s no secret that the track does need a makeover, but most certainly do not. The likes of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway — fellow 1.5-mile racetracks — have all produced great racing in their own rights.

NASCAR has always taken pride, especially in recent years, in having a very diverse schedule, and at this point in time, we have a very good balance in the sport. The addition of any more drafting style races would, in my opinion, lead to over-saturation, and take away from the lore of all three tracks.

We went through this exact scenario a little over two decades ago — and more recently have repeated it with dirt tracks and road courses. When will we ever learn from history and stop letting it repeat itself?

Everyone loved the racing that Charlotte put on in the 1980s and 90s, with the 1992 Winston ‘One Hot Night’ serving as the catalyst to light up anything with pavement and a tri-oval. Everyone thought that this was the new age of racetracks, so they started building more of them – and only them – until the market was flooded.

Atlanta Motor Speedway’s first reconfiguration, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, and Kentucky Speedway, all opened post-1995, and all built around a similar 1.5 mile cookie-cutter template.

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Fast forward almost 30 years and Charlotte, Kansas, and Las Vegas are all thriving, but all three helped in a major way by their market and location. Meanwhile, Atlanta was struggling, saved by the new reconfiguration, while Texas has endured a failed reconfiguration and is struggling in its own right.

Chicagoland is sitting dormant, waiting to be turned into warehouses, while Kentucky is being used as a parking lot for F-150s from a Ford plant.

If we turned three more tracks into Bristol and Martinsville clones, those tracks wouldn’t be iconic anymore. That’s what makes them special, they’re one of a kind. Give Atlanta the same treatment, let it have its glory, and leave the other tracks alone. – Chase Folsom

Time for Texas to Follow Suit

NASCAR has officially struck gold with their Atlanta Motor Speedway configuration.

The new-style 1.54-mile superspeedway version of the Hampton, Ga., racetrack has captured the attention of NASCAR in the last two races at the facility, and unprecedentedly so last Sunday. For this track to pretty much replicate the finish in the movie Cars is absolutely unbelievable.

To view this from a historical aspect, the new Atlanta helped create the third-closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history at .003 seconds and the closest margin of victory to first and third at .007 seconds. And just like Ross Chastain’s ‘Hail Melon’ at Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR became one of the most talked about sports across social media in the immediate aftermath.

This is all thanks to the moment created due to the nature at Atlanta’s configuration.

It now begs the question if another track should take what Atlanta has accomplished and replicate that, and the answer is more than obvious: Texas Motor Speedway.

I would be one of the happiest people in the NASCAR world if I start hearing rumors that Marcus Smith and Speedway Motorsports announced plans to configure Texas in the same style as Atlanta. Although last year’s race wasn’t as bad as it had been in previous years, the stark difference in entertainment between both tracks is undeniable.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 100% correct when he proclaimed on The Dale Jr. Download back in July 2023 that Atlanta is the hottest ticket in NASCAR right now, and to be honest, why shouldn’t Texas follow suit? If configured in an equal manner as Atlanta, Texas could more than likely join Atlanta in that echelon very quickly.

The Cup Series schedule has had two dates for two tri-oval type superspeedways in Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway throughout the majority of NASCAR’s history. I don’t see anything wrong with having three or four races for two quad-oval, 1.5ish-mile type superspeedways on the schedule as long as NASCAR doesn’t populate them in the playoffs with more than two races.

Now, before anyone thinks I would like all 1.5-mile cookie cutters to become pack racing superspeedways, pump the brakes. That is absolutely not the case.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has had arguably its best racing at the facility since about the early 2010s and definitely deserves a second oval date rather than the infield road course.

Kansas Speedway is right up there with how good Charlotte has been and deserves to be a playoff race. Las Vegas races well enough to not turn it into a superspeedway. Homestead-Miami Speedway has its own character and an argument can be made on if it should return as the championship race. Hell, I would love to see tracks not on the schedule such as Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway make a return with how enjoyable the Next Gen car has become on intermediate tracks.

Texas has been in a much different situation since its reconfiguration back in 2017, and it has been long overdue for a facelift. It hasn’t exactly drawn rave reviews in recent years, and the All-Star Race experiment proved to be short-lived.

With IndyCar removing Texas from its 2024 calendar, hopefully NASCAR and SMI can make a decision sooner rather than later on creating the next great superspeedway in the Lone Star State. – Wyatt Watson

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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9 Comments
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Tom

No way Texas should become like Atlanta. How about turning Texas into a high banked 1 mile concrete oval. The corners would be banked between 25-30 degrees.

Bill B

We have a track like that…. Dover.
And races there aren’t that spectacular most years.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
janice

devils advocate here…..would the end of the race had been so “spectacular” if there had been a lot more green flag racing before the checkers?

Tom Washtock

How about if it wasn’t single file racing or gas saving racing for 60 percent of the race!! It’s like watching a commuter train rolling by. (boring)

John Q Public

No way. Texas is now an infinitely better track than Atlanta since the reconfig. The 1.5 mile package works. We’re up to 6 of these BORING conga line pack races with little genuine RACING happening. We should be cutting that number down to no more than three, not ruining other tracks by turning them into more mini Daytonas or more half miles like they’re doing to Fontana Auto Club. The Fontana races were in the Top 5 best Cup races the last two years and it was a unique 2 mile track. They should’ve cancelled plans to turn it into a half mile, as if those aren’t a dime a dozen. Not to mention the current short track package still sucks.
They need to work on the cars and get those right before messing with the tracks. Add 100-150 hp. Enough with just aero adjustments. Enough with gimmick tracks. More intermediate tracks, less pack races, less road courses.

DoninAjax

Only the NA$CAR Brain Trust would consider turning another venue into a Restrictor Plate crap shoot track. But then again, there would be lots of crashes for their ads.

Jeremy

Absolutely! Look at the ratings for Daytona and Talladega and it’s clear: NA$CAR should only race on 2.5 mile D-shaped ovals that require running restrictor plates. Perhaps they should build a couple 3.0 mile D shaped oval restrictor plate tracks? Or perhaps go the opposite direction and add some short figure 8 tracks. Then they would get plenty of crash footage for advertising.

Is there a special font to denote sarcasm? If so, please apply it to the comments above.

Bill B

And I thought I was the only one hoping for a figure 8 track. Although in my vision it’s laid out like the tracks I had when I was a kid, with the overlap at different levels. While that would keep some of the crashes down, think of the opportunities for cars going airborne. That’s even better than crash footage.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
Anonymous

How about keeping Texas at 1.5 miles, straightening out the curves with 20 to 22 degree banking around the track (slightly higher than Kansas) – but paving the whole thing with concrete?

There are no concrete intermediate tracks, other than Nashville which is a borderline intermediate. Basically, Texas would become a big Dover rather than a small Daytona.

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