NASCAR officials will return to Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday, Oct. 20 to test a low downforce package similar to what was used in competition last month at Darlington Raceway . Drivers scheduled to take part in the test are defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet, current XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher ( Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford) and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contender Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota). According to information provided to the teams on Wednesday, the test is to verify max and corner speeds with three different grip levels of tires. The schedule calls for individual 10- and 25-lap runs in the morning and afternoon sessions. The lower downforce package debuted at Kentucky Speedway this season before also being put into play at Darlington, where it featured a 3.5-inch spoiler, 25-inch splitter extension panel (radiator pan) and 6.63-inch by 25-inch splitter. The only change for the MIS test will be an increase in the splitter extension panel to 33 inches. Drivers and teams were pleased with the initial results of the package, particularly at Darlington where Goodyear was able to provide a specific tire based on data gained from testing there prior to the race. The MIS test will take place approximately two months after the Sprint Cup Series competed at the 2-mile facility with a high-drag aerodynamic configuration. A high-drag package was also used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . JGR driver Matt Kenseth called the high-drag package "terrible." "You just can't pass," he said after finishing seventh in the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard. "Yeah, you can run up on the straightaway a little bit, but you can't run though the corner with anything." A month later, after his driver dominated at Michigan with the same rules package, Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratcliff said "at the end of the straightaway (cars could) gain on others two or three car-lengths. But they just couldn't do much once they got there and they got down in the corner, they were kind of helpless." The high-drag rules included a 9-inch spoiler with a 1-inch wicker bill, a rear fascia extension panel (similar to those used for superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega), a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter and a 43-inch splitter extension panel. "We know that high drag package is awful," four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon said following the Darlington race. "We know that this (lower downforce) is definitely in the right direction. … I think when you look at the less horsepower we had coming in this year it's the package that should have been with this car that we have now. You can't take that kind of power away and not do something significant to the downforce as well." Homestead Test Slated for December NASCAR and Goodyear officials have added a post-season test scheduled for Dec. 14-15 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to continue preparations for the 2016 rules package. Organizations scheduled to participate in the test are Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet), Richard Petty Motorsports (Ford) and Furniture Row Racing (Toyota). It is expected to be the first on-track testing for Furniture Row and driver Martin Truex Jr . with a Toyota entry. The Denver-based team is making the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for '16. Because of the change, SHR was added to the test to replace Furniture Row for Chevrolet. "I think '16, we're not really even thinking about right now," Truex said earlier this week. "We know what we're doing next year, we'll worry about that after (the final race at) Homestead. "I think everybody in the Chase is probably in the same position -- you're worried about today and tomorrow and this coming weekend. No further ahead. Once you set your plans, it's real easy." Lineup Change for Atlanta Test The Toyota teams of Michael Waltrip Racing and BK Racing have declined to take part in the Goodyear tire test slated for Oct. 27-28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Joe Gibbs Racing has been added to the lineup to represent Toyota teams at the 1.54-mile track. MWR will not field a full-time Sprint Cup Series team next season. The two-day program is a confirmation test for Goodyear; an open team test is scheduled for Oct. 29 following the completion of the tire test. CMS Tire Info Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series teams will be running the same tire codes this weekend at Charlotte, according to Goodyear officials, and is unchanged from what was provided for the 1.5 mile track's May races. The left-side tire code has been used at CMS since 2012; the right side, which features a multi-zone tread, was used there for the first time in May.
At least four NASCAR drivers have crashed hard into walls not protected by SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers this season, with two sustaining injuries that required medical treatment. Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Theriault was the most recent victim, as the Brad Keselowski Racing driver suffered a 10 percent compression fracture of the lower back after crashing during the Oct. 3 Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Theriault's No. 29 Ford struck the wall nose-first in approximately the same spot hit by Erik Jones ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) earlier this year during an XFINITY Series event. Jones was not injured as a result of his crash. Tuesday, team owner and 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said he had not seen Theriault, "but I spoke to him and I know he's going through all those stages with the protocol you have to go through for NASCAR. Until that's done, I think it would be a little premature for me to say anything as to how he’s doing." Keselowski, whose organization fields two full-time trucks, said he is hopeful his driver will be "ready to go" when the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway in two weeks. The fact that another driver hit in an unprotected area at a track, Keselowski said, does make him cringe, "but then I get back in the race car and say 'What are my options?' "As a team owner I have no ability to affect chance on the tracks, and as a driver I'm consistently told how lucky I am to have a spot as a race car driver and I need to shut up and driver the car. "There are no options available for me to remedy the situation, so I move on to things I can affect change on." Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told NASCAR.com on Monday that the installation of SAFER barriers and other safety enhancements is "something that we've been very diligent about. "We were very vocal coming out of Daytona (in February)," he said. "We've worked with each of the facilities to have an aggressive plan in place for the SAFER barriers. In this case we've already had those conversations with Las Vegas and you'll see some changes heading into the 2016 season. "It was very unfortunate … but the tracks have made some big investments in terms of from the first race to the second and I expect that to happen again as we look at Las Vegas and heading into the Cup weekend for 2016." Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials, contacted this week, said that plans are in place to have SAFER barrier installed in the area of the Thireault and Jones crashes before next season and that those plans were in place before this most recent incident. JGR driver Kyle Busch suffered a broken right leg and fractures to his left foot when he hit the inside wall nearest to Turn 1 during the season-opening XFINITY Series event at Daytona International Speedway in February. Busch, who competes full-time in the Sprint Cup Series, missed the season's first 11 races while recuperating. DIS president Joie Chitwood said that SAFER barrier should have been in place where the Busch accident occurred, but added after the incident, "we're going to fix that" and that the energy-absorbing barrier would be installed "on every inch at this property." By the time the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series returned to the 2.5-mile track in July, additional barriers had been put in place beyond the exit of pit road (where the Busch impact took place), along the entire backstretch and at the entrance to pit road beyond Turn 4. More than 20,000 square feet of grass areas inside the track, between the racing surface and interior walls, was paved as well. "My thing about it is they do need to work faster," Busch said of additional SAFER barrier being installed at facilities. "I know there's a plan, but there's no reason why some of these race tracks -- like Bristol for instance had (SAFER barrier on) the walls on the straightaway" before this year's spring events at the track. "And at a place like (Las) Vegas, it's been eight months and … they don't have (SAFER) walls. It's frustrating sometimes. "I've said it before and I'll say it again … we'll figure out how to crash in the stupidest ways in the weirdest spots and get hurt. That Austin (Theriault) crash, that was so weird and never should have happened, but it did. We all need to stop playing God and protect as much as we can protect and let the rest take care of itself." Fellow Sprint Cup driver Jeff Gordon was not injured when he crashed at Atlanta Motor Speedway , a week after Busch's wreck, hitting a portion of the backstretch wall not covered with SAFER materials. Incidents such as Theriault's "points out how important it is to have every single wall covered at these race tracks," Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup Series champion, said. "You know, for whatever reason, somewhere along the way somebody said 'we can put it here and we don't need it here' and that just proved that it doesn't matter what stats show. … These incidents can happen at any time," said Gordon. According to AMS officials, additional SAFER barrier will be installed in January of 2016 along the outer wall on the front and backstretch as well as portions of the inside wall and in the turns.
Standing on stage holding his arms high above his head giving double peace signs, 10-year old Elijah Aschbrenner looked like a rock star – bright red hair, high wattage smile and unmistakable attitude. A year after being diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer, Epithelioid Sarcoma, Elijah struck the pose after joining NASCAR stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Danica Patrick walking the runway as part of the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation's "Catwalk for a Cause" pediatric cancer fundraiser this past May. Predictably, Earnhardt and Patrick got rousing cheers, but Elijah clearly stole the show -- afterwards be-bopping around the Mooresville, N.C., venue shaking hands with donors, grabbing snacks with his little brother Sam, 9, and posing for photos with the race car drivers. It was difficult to tell who was the celebrity and who was the cause célèbre. That was only five months ago. Unfortunately, a recent CT-scan revealed that despite the chemotherapy and the radiation and the surgeries -- despite great courage and faith -- Elijah's cancer has spread. And after a brief and hopeful time participating in a clinical trial in Atlanta last month, doctors have decided there is no further treatment to prescribe. A hospice nurse visits Elijah every Tuesday at his home outside Charlotte making sure he is comfortable. A hospice social worker also stops by regularly to counsel Sam and Elijah's friends, whom his mom, Becky Hughes, says "are having a real tough time with this." Though Elijah would much rather be riding a Ripstik outside with his brother and friends, he mostly spends his days in a wheelchair building elaborate Lego creations or watching television -- "Wheel of Fortune" is one of his favorites. "My mom and I are really good at it," he says. He loves the occasional trips to Target or Toys "R" Us, and the steady stream of visitors who bring prayers and love. The cancer has taken a real toll on Elijah's young body. His voice is softer and strained, his stamina greatly diminished, but cancer has not sapped his incredible spirit or lessened his intense resolve. "There are so many days I could just cry and let myself get buried in that, but I can't," his mom explained. "Elijah is strong and Sam is strong, always there to make us laugh and smile. "I have prayed to God to just give me this tumor. I would do that in a heartbeat. The worst pain in the world is seeing your child going through something like this, and you can't fix it, you can't do anything. "I could be an emotional wreck, but Elijah only allows me three minutes of crying a day. Some days I don't need it, but if I start to, he'll say, "Three minutes, Mom." Hughes has worked in the racing industry for years both as a driver public relations representative and now with sponsor Great Clips. She has been buoyed by the outpouring of support from the NASCAR community but not surprised. This weekend Elijah and his family will be guests of Ann and Ken Schrader at the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . After some souvenir shopping -- his favorite part of the day -- Elijah is looking forward to stopping in the garage area and seeing his "friends" from the Catwalk event. So many of them have provided help to Elijah and his family. Drivers have lent their private airplanes to transport Elijah to various doctors around the Southeast. They have donated money to cover the escalating medical bills and sent messages of support using the hashtag #prayersforelijah on social media. More significantly, they have given their time and attention. Truex and his girlfiend, Sherry Pollex, herself undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, are essentially on speed dial with the family and have been constant support for Elijah. Pollex organizes the Catwalk event and had been raising money ($300,000 this year) for childhood cancer long before she was affected personally by the disease. Team Penske put Elijah's name over the door of both of its Sprint Cup Series Chase contending cars last week. And 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski devoted one of the entries on his popular blogs to remind people about "perspective" in life. He used Elijah as a shining example. Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing are among the organizations to publicly offer good wishes -- the entire team from shop foremen to drivers posing with a "Prayers for Elijah" sign. And while it is all a bit overwhelming and "very cool," Elijah joked this week that it does cause a minor problem when it comes to picking a driver to cheer for. "That's the hard part," Elijah said. "They are all so good to me. "The fact they know me is outstanding, I don't know how a kid like me would get that lucky to meet them. Just knowing them means a lot to me." His mother begins to cry when trying to explain the impact of those relationships. "He really looks up to Martin (Truex) and Dale Junior and Kasey (Kahne) and Jeff Gordon and feels like they are all his buddies because they have done events with him," Hughes said. "After the Catwalk, he'll talk about how Dale Junior is his buddy. During a race, he'll ask me to call Dale Jr. and get him to do this or that. I'll laugh. It shows how great these guys have been to Elijah. "Even if they were just with him for half an hour it made such an impact on him and made him feel comfortable and like a friend.That means everything to me. To see how happy he gets thinking he has all these buddies in all these different avenues of sports." Taking the cue from NASCAR's best, other sports have rallied about Elijah, too. WWE wrestling star Titus O'Neil changed a flight to detour to Charlotte and pay a visit to Elijah. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton surprised Elijah at a block party in his honor -- a Halloween theme because that's Elijah's favorite holiday. News outlets from People Magazine to "The Today Show" shared the story. "I'm in disbelief. Every day we'll hear of another athlete doing something for him, last night someone sent us a picture of Kirk Cameron holding up a sign saying 'Prayers for Elijah,' " Hughes said. "It's just amazing to me, the outreach and the people that have been impacted throughout all this, from NASCAR, to WWE to the Panthers. Everyone's just put their arms around us and are supporting us. "He is definitely a loved little boy, and I am so blessed that God chose me to be his mom. He is the bravest little boy I know and I just pray for many, many more years to watch him grow up." It's not just famous people who have recognized and rallied for Elijah. Classmates from school visit him. The community organized a golf tournament fundraiser, and even local restaurants designated certain nights to donate funds. In some ways, "Prayers for Elijah" has grown from a sentimental hashtag or well wish into a movement. It is a plea for more funding and research into childhood cancers, which currently receive a very small portion of the overall funds. It is an inspiration reminding us if a 10-year-old boy can be this strong and positive despite all he's going through, then we should have great courage and a better attitude, too. It is a lesson in living in the present each day. As a breast cancer patient myself, I feel a special connection to Elijah. I was diagnosed a couple months after him and our chemotherapy treatments and surgeries often coincided. In fact, I had radiation treatment the morning I flew from Florida to Charlotte to attend May's Catwalk event. And I had to leave early the next morning to be back in the cancer center for my next round. That evening I asked Elijah what advice he had for other cancer patients. "Keep fighting," he said. "And breathe." His mom considers that evening a gift -- a time of pure happiness and excitement. How proud to know her son was an inspiration to every soul in the room. And still is. "He was amazing, he just shined that night," Hughes recalled. "It was like, 'Here I am and I'm not going to let cancer get the best of me.' And he's had that attitude from Day 1. "There have been many days when my faith is down and I’m scared and worried and he'll look at me and say, 'Mama, we're going to get through this.' So never once has his faith been in question. A few months ago he coined the phrase, 'Faith and believing are your cure.' And he really means it. "He is amazing and he gives me strength every day." He does the same for all of us.
Take a virtual lap around Atlanta Motor Speedway with Kurt Busch.
Additional tire tests are currently on the books for Homestead-Miami Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway , according to Goodyear officials. Both tests are scheduled to take place after the completion of the 2015 season. The Homestead test is on tap for Dec. 14-15 and the Las Vegas test is slated for Jan. 12-13, 2016. Two final previously scheduled '15 tests will see Goodyear and teams travel to Phoenix International Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway next month. The AMS test replaces a test originally scheduled for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Whether an open team test will be included at Atlanta has yet to be determined. A single-day test has followed most of the Goodyear tire tests conducted this season. Because next season's Atlanta race likely would once again be held early in the season, there is a limited the window of opportunity for potential testing at the 1.5-mile track. NASCAR officials have yet to announce the 2016 race schedule for the Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. " Atlanta is a recent addition," Stu Grant, Goodyear's General Manager for Global Race Tires, told NASCAR.com this past weekend at Chicagoland Speedway . "We’ve talked to NASCAR about 'hey do you want to make an open test for that? It's most likely that we'll end up with a different tire for the Atlanta race for 2016. … We want to test the 2016 rules package and you guys may want to have an open test.'" Grant said to his knowledge, an open team test following the Atlanta tire test had not been confirmed. Teams participating in the Goodyear tire tests at Homestead and Las Vegas have not been announced. Because Goodyear tested with the low downforce configuration being considered for 2016 at Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway, and teams raced with a similar package there earlier this month, Grant said it would be unlikely that Goodyear would return to Darlington for testing next year. "But we always have to leave that open just to kind of see how things evolve," he said. “Because the reality is in this sport you have a rules package and the car configuration and a tire setup, right? You run it and it may look good at the first event of the season; by the time you get to the second event, the cars may be a half a second faster. Things change. So I guess I'd say we’ll have to see how '16 plays out and see if there is a significant change in how the teams are approaching the car setups and things like that." NASCAR has also yet to announce its 2016 rules package, but is scheduled to meet with teams and others within the industry this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Under this year's National Series Unified Testing policy, teams are no longer allowed to conduct private tests. The bulk of the on-track testing has come during scheduled Goodyear evaluations as well as open team tests held the following day. Because of a new rules package in use for '15, and the additional work toward development of the '16 package, Goodyear conducted more tests than normal this year, but Grant said he expects the company's '16 testing program to be more line with previous seasons. "So you can probably figure that Goodyear is probably going to test about 10 times in 2016 and if NASCAR has the same policy in 2016 then that's what (teams are) looking at," he said. “But I don't know if things are going to change … or not. We don't know what the race schedule is so consequently we haven’t really laid out a test program. I'm not sure where NASCAR is going to land on that open testing side." Overall, Grant said, the move to a lower downforce package has provided Goodyear a broader range of possibilities from which to work. "It's nice to design a tire for the low downforce package because when you take the aero off and the driver and the car is relying more on the tire for grip in the corner, it makes the tire more a part of the package," he said. "We're not just designing for wear and heat and durability to handle the load … it gives us a lot more freedom, a lot bigger window to design a tire in." Live Viewing of Final Inspection at NASCAR R&D Fans can now watch teams as their cars go through final post-race inspection at NASCAR’s Research and Development Center each Tuesday, thanks to live streaming of the process each week on NASCAR.com. First- and second-place finishers from the previous weekend's Sprint Cup Series race, as well as a random selection, are taken back to the center each week for a more detailed inspection. To watch the process, which begins promptly at 8 a.m. ET, fans can go to http://www.nascar.com/inspection.html.
Officials with Richard Petty Motorsports and transportation services company J.B. Hunt have announced a five-race associate sponsorship agreement that will consist of one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event this season and four for 2016. The company will serve as an associate on the No. 9 RPM Ford, currently driven by Sam Hornish Jr ., at this year's AAA Texas 500 race weekend (Nov. 6-8) as well as events next season at Atlanta Motor Speedway , Auto Club Speedway , one of two stops at Pocono Raceway and at Chicagoland Speedway . "Nobody does it better than J.B. Hunt and their thousands of employees," team owner Richard Petty said in a statement announcing the agreement. "We're proud to partner with them and I'm excited to be a part of their driver recruitment program. Our country's truck drivers are the backbone of our commerce system and I can't wait to interact with them." J.B. Hunt is based in Lowell, Ark. "There is no bigger brand in NASCAR than Petty," Craig Harper, Executive Vice President of Operations for J.B. Hunt Transport said. "All of our drivers know that name and can relate to the race team, their goals and the work and dedication that is required to safely transport the team's equipment from race to race each week." RPM fields two entries in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, featuring drivers Hornish and Aric Almirola . Petty is the sport's all-time leader in wins with 200 career victories and is one of only two drivers to capture seven premier series titles. He was one of five inaugural members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted in 2010. Almirola is currently 17th in points, the highest ranked driver not among the 16 competing in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup . Hornish is 27th in the standings. The Sprint Cup Series travels to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., this weekend for Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR).
NASCAR.com analysts Chris Rice and Marty Snider talk about Kevin Harvick dominating in Dover to punch his ticket into the Contender Round and explain what it's going to take to win at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.
Track is the latest to announce safety enhancements Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Atlanta Motor Speedway announced Tuesday morning that it will expand its use of impact-absorbing barriers ahead of this weekend's on-track activity. The move comes three days after Kyle Busch was injured in a NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway , his car slamming into a concrete retaining wall without the benefit of the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barriers. "As promised, we expedited a review of potential safety advancements at each of our racing venues," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. "We're pleased with the additional safety enhancements Atlanta Motor Speedway will be making leading into our events this weekend. As we've stated, NASCAR and its track partners remain steadfastly committed to safety." According to the statement, the Atlanta track -- which has hosted NASCAR's top series since its 1960 opening -- will add 130 linear feet of protective barrier for this weekend, extending coverage of the protective wall at the exit of pit road near Turn 1 and an additional tire barrier along the inside wall of Turn 4. All three NASCAR national series will be racing at the 1.54-mile Georgia track this weekend, culminating with Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), the second race of the year for the Sprint Cup Series. Officials at the speedway said they would conduct a further review of additional SAFER barriers after Sunday's race. Hours after Busch's injury, Daytona track president Joie Chitwood III said the 2.5-mile track would take every measure to ring its facility with the SAFER technology. Atlanta's decision comes one day after similar announcements by officials at 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway and 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway to expand their coverage with protective walls. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Track president: 'We've got history and experience doing March races' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live For the first time since 2004, NASCAR teams won't load up and head west for the season's second stop following the Daytona 500. Instead, Week No. 2 will find teams from all three national series -- Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck -- headed to Atlanta Motor Speedway . Coming on the heels of the season’s premier race has its challenges, AMS president Ed Clark told NASCAR.com, and weather is always a concern with an early March date in the area. RELATED: Atlanta plans SAFER barrier additions But, Clark said, "We've got history and experience doing March races. "The thing that's different about this one is that in the past, the Daytona 500 kicked the season off, we came home and had two to three weeks of outstanding interest in the sport. The day after the 500 was always your biggest ticket sales day of the year. "In this case, the Daytona 500 is over Sunday afternoon and we’re into Atlanta's race week right then." AMS hosted a Labor Day weekend race from 2010 through this past season. Up until 2010, it hosted two annual Sprint Cup weekends, the first typically falling in early to mid-March. From '82 through 2004, the second Sprint Cup race of the season was held at either Richmond International Raceway or North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham). California's Auto Club Speedway hosted the second stop from '05 through '10 and Phoenix International Raceway had been the host since '11. "It's a plus and a minus," Clark said of being No. 2 on the schedule. "We all remember the year that Cale (Yarborough) and Bobby and Donnie (Allison) got in a fight (at Daytona in '79). The printing press couldn't have printed enough tickets for the next race. … That's a bonus when it happens. The world is watching what goes on at Daytona, there's a lot of focus on the sport. Everything is new. So it's a plus from that standpoint." Weather issues early in the year aren't uncommon for the Atlanta region, however. And the long-range forecast for this year's race weekend didn't look promising. But it has since changed (and will likely again), going from a chance of snow to a 40 percent chance of rain to a 20 percent chance of rain in the span of a week, according to www.NOAA.gov. Clark is more concerned about those things his group can control instead of those it can't. "I haven't even looked at (the weather forecast) in about a day and a half," he said. "No need to. It changes. "That's the approach we've taken all along. We know how to promote races; we've done it for years. Have your plan; work your plan. When you get to race time, you don't want to look back and say there was something you could have done that you didn't do." Part of that plan included an appearance by reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick on Monday. Prior to Thursday's scheduled test session, Atlanta Motor Speedway Day will be celebrated at the state capitol. Three-time premier series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Darrell Waltrip is expected to join active native Georgia drivers from all three series for a visit with the governor as well as stops as the Senate and House chambers. "The long and short of it," Clark said, "is we've done things we typically do, no matter when the race is." In addition to normal race-weekend preparations, AMS announced Tuesday upgrades to its current SAFER barrier system will be put in place in time for this weekend's events. Camping World Truck Series teams, which haven't competed at AMS since 2012, will share top billing on Saturday with the XFINITY Series in a double-header race day that features the Hisense 250 XFINITY Series race (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 Truck Series event (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sprint Cup Series event is scheduled for Sunday, March 1 with TV coverage on FOX. "We know we'll have a good race; we always have a good race at Atlanta ," Clark said. "If we can get that first one done and all be positive, we have a whole year to work on ('16). I think that's when we will find out what the potential is for the future." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Get caught up before Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live What: 56th annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 . Where : Atlanta Motor Speedway , 1.54-mile oval in Hampton, Georgia. When: Sunday, March 1 p.m. ET. TV/Radio: FOX, PRN. Distance: 325 laps; 500.5 miles . Pit road speed: 45 mph . Caution car speed: 55 mph. Fuel window: 50-55 laps. On the front row " Starting lineup 1. Joey Logano, Team Penske No. 22 Ford. 2. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet. Fastest in practice First practice: Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (192.989 mph). " Full results Final practice: Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (191.054 mph). " Full results To the rear: Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (engine change); Michael Annett, Circle Sport Racing No. 33 Chevrolet (driver change) Driver rating (Best driver rating average at Atlanta based on the past nine years, minimum 5 starts): Jeff Gordon, 106.0 Jimmie Johnson, 104.9 Last year's winner: Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet. Strange things: Between Travis Kvapil's stolen -- and then found -- No. 44 Sprint Cup Series ride, Denny Hamlin's motorcoach backed into by a runaway llama SUV, Rodney Childers' tow vehicle being the victim of a hit-and-run and who knows what else, Atlanta has gotten off to a strange start. Considering this is the race that saw a cat and/or squirrel run in front of Kevin Harvick on the track, there's no telling what could happen in Sunday's event. On a roll to the pole: Joey Logano, your Daytona 500 winner, backed up his first victory in the Great American Race by coming out strong in qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway . The Team Penske driver earned the Coors Light Pole Award for both the Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series races. AMS has given Logano headaches in the past, but it appears he finally has a handle on the 1.54-mile speedway . Qualifying … or not: Plenty of big name drivers will be working their way up through the field after they failed to make it through technical inspection ahead of Coors Light Pole Award qualifying. With Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart -- not to mention Kevin Harvick, who will start from the rear for an engine change -- we'll see some fast, intense racing from the get-go as drivers fight their way through the field. They said it I: "This is a very rare occasion. This is the first one I have ever had. The engine shop does a great job. I am just glad that it happened today. Our Jimmy John's/Budweiser team is doing a great job and the car is handling good. If we were going to have something happen, this is a good place to have it happen because you can pass. … It will just make for a better show." -- Kevin Harvick on his blown engine They said it II: "Hopefully, we'll finish where we start. It's been an amazing few weeks if you think about the Daytona 500 and everything that comes along with that, and then coming down here to Atlanta and starting first is special, especially for me here at this race track. I remember sitting in the corner and watching drivers up here talking about their qualifying run and racing Legends cars out front here for years, so there are a lot of memories here. You guys see the picture over there (in the Media Center) when you walk in with David (Ragan) and Reed (Sorenson) when we were young and racing here. Obviously, anything to be in Victory Lane here; it's a very special place for me. I don't know what's going on lately. Everything is going well and we're just trying to keep the old train rolling here. It's going great and we'll see what happens on Sunday." -- Joey Logano They said it III: "I don't think she is interested in being a celebrity. I think that she enjoyed the moments of celebrity that she has gotten. Who doesn't like some attention? I think that for her it's more of kids telling her at school. Being seven and eight years old that well you are not going to be on TV anymore after this year. I think that sort of took her back. But it's been a good life lesson trying to teach her how to handle those types of situations." -- Jeff Gordon on daughter Ella Sofia, who received a Bandolero car from AMS to share with her brother Leo Former Atlanta winners in the field: Jeff Gordon (5); Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart (3); Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick (1). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule