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What the Heck Even IS the New Atlanta?

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Joshua Lipowski

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Is it a superspeedway? Is it an intermediate? Is it an intermediate-superspeedway?

Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of NASCAR’s most historic race tracks. NASCAR has raced there since 1960, and it has been a traditional stop on the calendar. It was reconfigured once back in 1997 from a true oval into a quad-oval similar to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

The new reconfiguration of Atlanta is very curious, however. It’s high-banked to allow flat-out, pack racing similar to that of Daytona and Talladega. Still, it’s not quite Daytona and Talladega either, so, what is it?

Atlanta the Intermediate Race Track

The easiest argument in favor of this is the size and shape of the race track. It looks from above very similar to tracks such as Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. By pure size alone, it is an intermediate race track.

In NASCAR, everything under 1.0 miles is considered a short track, tracks between 1.0 and 2.0 miles are considered intermediate race tracks, and tracks above 2.0 miles are considered superspeedways. This means Atlanta is an intermediate purely based on size.

For years, it raced that way. A high-speed race track, that once was considered the fastest race track in NASCAR. Big corners and multiple grooves typically seem from good intermediate race tracks.

The problem here is that the racing does not necessarily resemble that of an intermediate race track anymore. Now, the track has 28 degrees of banking, meaning that the track now allows drivers to race full-throttle around it. It’s no longer the Atlanta of old.

So, if it’s not an intermediate, then is it a superspeedway?

Atlanta the Superspeedway

The biggest argument in favor of Atlanta being a superspeedway is the racing and the way the drivers approach the race track. Nowadays, Atlanta features the big packs typical of those seen at Daytona and Talladega. The drivers also approach the track as a superspeedway with it being full-throttle all the way around the race track.

The two wide racing where the draft is worth everything is very similar to that seen at Daytona and Talladega. If you find yourself out of the draft or in the wrong line, then you are going to the back with no one to help you.

However, does it really resemble Daytona or Talladega? Almost never is there enough room or energy for drivers to go three-wide. That’s primarily because this track is very narrow. The recent reconfiguration made the track only 40 feet wide.

This makes it very difficult to go into the three-wide packs or go from the back to the front as efficiently as can be done at Daytona and Talladega. The track length also plays a factor in this too. The straightaways in particular are far shorter than those at the bigger tracks.

Plus the length is obviously a major problem. The racing seems to resemble Daytona and Talladega, sort of, but the length of the race track is not anywhere close to it. So it’s a superspeedway, but not quite.

Atlanta the….Inter-Speedway?

Okay so it looks like an intermediate race track, but it does not race like one. It races like a superspeedway, to an extent, but it does not look like one. So, should Atlanta be put in its own category?

The Charlotte ROVAL is a road course, but it uses part of the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval, meaning it’s not a natural terrain road course. However, the racing resembles a road course, meaning that it is categorized as a road course. The Chicago Street Course is a street track, but it really races like a typical road course.

Typically people will defer to the type of racing that is seen on a race track as to how the track is considered. So, to them, Atlanta is a superspeedway. However, what about considering Atlanta its’ own separate thing?

An inter-speedway if you will. A track that looks like an intermediate but races like a superspeedway. If more intermediates go this route, then it is not impossible for a new kind of track-type to develop. Atlanta is unique, and it is its’ own thing.

Sure it’s a superspeedway. It’s also an intermediate. It’s both, but is it?

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Joshua Lipowski

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