Tuesday on his podcast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. weighed in on the debate that took root over the weekend where a handful of NASCAR drivers spoke out against Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s plans to not just repave Atlanta Motor Speedway but alter its width and banking.
On July 6, speedway officials announced sweeping changes that would hopefully enhance the racing product. Those changes included decreasing the track's width by 15 feet and adding four degrees of banking into the turns. Following his NASCAR Xfinity Series win on Saturday, Kyle Busch questioned the reconfiguration, saying the track would be way too fast and way to narrow to deliver the results AMS officials anticipate.
“Just think about it,” he said. “Everybody needs to just think. There ain’t nobody thinking. Brains for sale: Never used, opening racetracks.”
Earnhardt offered his opinion Tuesday on his podcast, The Dale Jr. Download.
“First of all, I’ve long expressed how I wish they would put it back to its original configuration, which was a true oval,” Earnhardt said. “But they’re not going to do that. They are going to add four degrees of banking which is really nothing at all – it’s mainly in the center of the corner. I honestly don’t think we’ll be able to tell a difference. If it were 8 or 10 degrees, that’s a bit much. You’d definitely know the difference.”
Earnhardt said he was one of several drivers who got to race virtually on the new iRacing simulated configuration.
“I’m telling you I couldn’t tell a difference," he said to co-host Mike Davis. "I raced on the original Atlanta configuration in real life and in iRacing, and they are absolutely identical to each other. So, when I raced on this new version on iRacing, yes, it’s a little bit narrower, but it’s still a lot of race track. The transitions into the corners are the same. You have a little more banking in the middle of the corner, but otherwise it looked the same. Sure, it’s going to race differently, but not because of the narrowing or the banking. It'll be because it’s new asphalt.”
Junior went on to discuss how Daytona and Charlotte are both 40 feet wide. He also said Atlanta has struggled for attendance numbers, and if it’s going to survive, its ownership has to do whatever is necessary.
Davis said he believed the drivers were disgruntled over not being included in the conversation about reconfiguration with SMI and NASCAR, but added they didn’t make a compelling case on why they should’ve been. Rather, Busch and Kevin Harvick took aim at the credibility of “suits” making decisions that drivers should be making.
“I think the Smith family has earned the right to make decisions on their tracks, how to spend their money and how to win their customers,” Davis said. “You don’t have to look hard to see that Atlanta needs a jolt based off the empty seats, and Marcus is known for taking big swings.”
You can hear the full conversation on Episode 348 of The Dale Jr. Download, which features special guest Chipper Jones. Also on the show, Dale Jr. expresses amazement at the redemption of Kurt Busch, whose win on Sunday was yet another sign of his remarkable career transformation. Earnhardt closed the segment with a hilarious anecdote from the weekend in which he received an unexpected text message from the unlikeliest of people about his wardrobe.
-- Dirty Mo Media –