Top Drivers Looking Forward To Folds Of Honor 500 NASCAR Weekend In Atlanta
Day 2 of the 2017 NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway took place on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Downtown Charlotte, with presentations by NASCAR drivers followed by individual break-out media availabilities.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers featured Tuesday included Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Martin Truex, Jr., Landon Cassill, Matt Kenseth, A.J. Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, Ty Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Matt DiBenedetto, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher, Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Michael McDowell, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.
XFINITY Series drivers were Brennan Poole, Cole Custer, William Byron
Notable announcements from Tuesday included
Hooters has joined Hendrick Motorsports to sponsor the No. 24 car of Dawsonville, GA native Chase Elliott in both 2017 and 2018. Hooters will be a primary sponsor for two races and full-season associate sponsor in each of the next two seasons. Hooters' most notable past NASCAR sponsorship was that of Alan Kulwicki in 1992, a season which concluded with the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, now one of the most iconic races in NASCAR history.
Ty Dillon will run 20 XFINITY Series races in 2017, in addition to his full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule in the No. 13 Chevrolet SS for Germain Racing.
Michael McDowell will drive full time and be eligible for a championship for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017 behind the wheel of the No. 95 Chevrolet SS for Leavine Family Racing.
Excerpts of notable Atlanta Motor Speedway-related quotes from the 2017 NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway are listed below. To view and download the full-version, high-definition footage from the individual media breakouts, as well as B-roll, visit the following link: http://bit.ly/2jSKl7s.
Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports:
Elliott finished eighth at Atlanta last year, his home track, for his first career top-10 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He enters his second full season in NASCAR's top series.
"I'm going to enjoy this race weekend for sure because of the surface change. I think we all enjoy the surface that's there and just the options it gives you as a driver to move around. I've enjoyed racing at Atlanta the last few years. I haven't raced there a ton on the big track, but I ran a Nationwide race there in '15 and then the cup race last year.
"I've enjoyed my time there. It's certainly a home track for me. I always enjoy the hospitality Ed Clark and his staff has given me and my family to be friendly as far as inviting friends and family down. I certainly appreciate that, and hopefully we can have a good run there when we get back."
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports:
Johnson won at Atlanta for the second straight year in 2016 and fifth time overall before going on to win his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. He will attempt to win his third straight Atlanta race March 5.
"Atlanta is just such a different race now. They're repaving it, and man, it's going to be so fast, and we're going to be on such a hard tire to make it safe that I don't know what to expect in Atlanta. I think our team really does a nice job of rising to the top when the circumstances are tough and we're certainly hoping to keep that streak alive."
Erik Jones, driver of the No. 77 Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing:
Jones begins his first season as a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver as newly named second driver for Furniture Row Racing. He finished third in last season's XFINITY Series race at Atlanta.
"It's a big change. The lower downforce - and in a Cup car, obviously is different by itself, so it will be a lot different, but I think we adapt pretty quick. So, we'll see how it all goes, but at the end of the day, Atlanta is a fun track, man. I love going to Atlanta. It's a place I struggled with at first, but as the years went by and I've had a few more chances to go there, it's been a place that I've really come to enjoy."
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 78 Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing:
Truex, Jr. finished seventh at Atlanta last year before advancing to the Round of 12 in the 2016 playoffs.
"I'm excited about running on the current surface. It's one of my favorites. It's such a challenge. So difficult to get your car handling well, to keep the tires on. It's really like a big dirt track, kind of in a way that just chews tires up.
"It's one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit. I really enjoy it; it's one of my favorites. About the repave, I'm not real sure what to expect. It's going to be crazy fast at first, I'm sure. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out. Looking forward to this next one upcoming, and I don't like to look too far ahead past that."
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Kenseth finished 19th at Atlanta last year before advancing to the round of 8 in the 2016 playoffs.
"Atlanta has always been one of my favorite tracks. I know it's going to be the last race before they pave it. It's one of the tracks that I've never been able to win at, so certainly, it's one I'd love to get one at."
Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 34 Ford Fusion for Front Row Motorsports:
Cassill finished 36th at Atlanta in 2016.
"I'm definitely going to miss the current surface at Atlanta. I love it. I'm anxious to see how the new surface ages. That's basically what everybody's been talking about with these new track surfaces. It'll be interesting to see what the place looks like four or five years from now. That track is going to be fast when they repave it. It'll be pretty wild, but I'm going to enjoy 500 mile of pure "elbows up" before we think about anything."
A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet SS for JTG Daugherty Racing:
Allmendinger finished 27th at Atlanta in 2016.
"I'm not a big fan of the Atlanta repave. It's a fun race track the way it uses the tires and how much you're sliding around. It's a fun race to go to, so I'll definitely miss it.
"The repaves - it's a good-bad thing. The way they're done, they're done so well and the pavement is so good now, so it takes a long time for the pavements to start wearing out.
"Those first couple of races are going to be interesting, but it's going to be fast. I mean, it's already fast now, and the repave is going to make it really fast. Definitely going to miss it. Atlanta has always been one of my favorite race tracks on the schedule just because of the way the race plays out and the tires wearing out as quick as they do and how hard you've got to drive the car there."
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Busch won the pole and finished fourth at Atlanta last year. He went onto advance to the Round of 8 in the 2016 playoffs.
Busch has won three times at Atlanta: 2002, 2009, 2010
On whether early races stand out more this year, considering the new format:
"Yeah, they definitely do, because of the importance of science-ing out this new format and putting into play the different strategies. Atlanta will be the older, worn-out surface this time around, and then next year, it'll be freshly repaved, and it'll be more parallel to what Texas is going to end up being this spring with fresh pavement there.
"So, you try to put tracks together in like a group in how you put your strategy together, in how you build the car, how you set them up, and so these beginning races are, yes, definitely that much more important to making sure you're gaining points early in the season. You don't want to be behind come July."
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Patrick finished 20th at Atlanta last year.
Her best career finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series of 6th came at Atlanta in 2014.
On her best career finish coming at Atlanta and whether it is a race she especially looks forward to:
"Yes, that's a good point. It puts a little bit of pressure. I think I'll probably text my crew chief after I walk away from this and say, 'Let"s really crunch our brain as to looking back at some of these first few races and how they play out and what we could have done to play into this new strategy, new game, new format.'
"Because, you've got your race winners that transfer into The Chase, but then after that, you're going to have "segment" winners that transfer. So that could sneak up on you, and that can be a big weight off your shoulders to think if you can get one of those segment wins in the first handful of races, geez, that's a real positive. So it puts that much more emphasis on trying to think hard from the very beginning and doing your homework."
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Harvick finished sixth at Atlanta last year.
Harvick won his only Atlanta victory in 2001, in just his third career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Harvick has won four XFINITY Series races at Atlanta, including three straight from 2013 to 2015.
On the Atlanta repave following the 2017 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500:
"Yeah, I hate that, but talking to the guys from the track, the asphalt has just become so hard to take care of, that you have to make a change before it starts flying apart. I think this year will be fun. I feel like Atlanta has been a race track that we've had a number of races slip through our fingers and not win. But we always run well there. Saturdays have been great for us in the XFINITY Series, so I'm looking forward to going back and the new challenge of the new pavement."
Teams from GMS Racing and Brad Keselowski Racing were at Atlanta Motor Speedway Tuesday for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series test. Drivers included Chase Briscoe, Stewart Friesen, Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala and Noah Gragson participated in the session, which wrapped up at 7 p.m.
The three-day NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway continues with its final day tomorrow at the Charlotte Convention Center, where teams and drivers will offer updates to their organizations and thoughts on the new season ahead.
NASCAR racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway March 3-5, 2017, featuring the Rinnai 250 XFINITY Series and Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series doubleheader on Saturday, March 4 and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, March 5.