The Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series took part in a wreck-filled doubleheader at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 18. The 22 combined cautions led to comments about how the track is ruined after its reconfiguration to a mini-superspeedway.
“It’s just not fun, you know, superspeedway-style racing,” Justin Allgaier told NBC Sports reporter Dustin Long after a violent wreck at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “After the reconfiguration of this, to me, it’s completely ruined this place, and I hope we can figure something out because the fans here, this market for us, this is such a great place, and it’s always been unbelievable racing.”
There were a record-setting number of cautions at Atlanta Motor Speedway in both races. The Craftsman Truck Series had 11, which topped the previous record of nine in 2007. The Xfinity Series race had 11 while breaking the previous record of 10 from three different races.
10 Xfinity Series drivers ended the race early due to accidents. This list included Josh Williams, who parked his car at the start-finish line after NASCAR officials told him he was done for the day.
There were four Truck Series drivers that ended the race early after sustaining extensive damage in incidents. Two others had mechanical issues that disrupted their races.
Wrecks Were the Story at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Both races at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 18 ended with cars crashing across the finish line. For example, Parker Kligerman was fourth in the Xfinity Series race, but he crossed the finish line backward after contact from Daniel Hemric spun him. This sparked a multi-car incident that crumpled the No. 6 of Brennan Poole, the No. 10 of Justin Haley, and the No. 98 of Riley Herbst.
Truck Series driver Ben Rhodes finished fifth in the day’s first race, but his No. 99 Ford F-150 was completely destroyed. Niece Motorsports driver Bayley Currey slammed him into the outside wall coming to the checkered flag causing extensive damage. Though this was only one of the wrecks on the final lap.
“Mechanical grip started to reign supreme at the end and with that came a lot more aggressive racing, so I’m disappointed with the finish,” Rhodes said after the race.
“When you go for a shot for the win going into Turn 3 and 4, and then you wind up with a sixth-place finish and a destroyed truck, that’s not good, especially going into the five-race run we have here. We’ve got some work to do back at the shop and not a lot of time to fix it.”
Several Drivers Had No Prior Experience at Atlanta
There are multiple reasons for the cautions at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The aggressive pushes were some of the examples. There were also several drivers in the field that had no prior experience at the reconfigured track.
These drivers did not have opportunities to prepare before taking the green flag at the start of the race. Rain washed out qualifying, and there was no practice. The only superspeedway race with any practice before it is the Daytona 500. The two races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the two races at Talladega Superspeedway all take place without practice.
Without these practice sessions, the drivers with no previous experience at the mini-superspeedway were unable to learn all the bumps and turns. Additionally, drivers and teams had no time to complete laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway in preparation for the doubleheader races. They were also unable to work out any mechanical gremlins.
The Truck Series drivers will not return to Atlanta Motor Speedway until the 2024 season, but the Xfinity Series drivers will be back in July. Will they deliver a cleaner race? This is possible considering that the second race in 2022 only had six cautions.