When Paul Menard driver of the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Menards/Moen Ford Fusion, talks about the racing surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway, site of this weekend’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, he uses terms like old, worn out and hard on tires.
But to real racers, those are positive attributes.
“It’s one of my favorite race tracks,” he said. “It’s fun.”
Menard said the old surface gives drivers several options for racing grooves and puts a premium on driving skill.
“It’s a great surface,” he said. “I know they will have to repave it at some point, but I hope I’m retired when they do.”
The excessive tire wear caused by the worn surface at Atlanta causes drivers to want fresh tires at every opportunity, but crew chiefs having to play a tire-management strategy so they won’t run through their allotment of tires before the checkered flag falls.
“After you run two laps at Atlanta, you want four tires,” Menard said. “But you have to have a plan so you won’t run out of tires.”
Atlanta’s 500-miler also marks the first race of the season on the downforce tracks that dominate the Monster Energy Cup Series schedule.
“Daytona is kind of its own animal,” Menard said. “Atlanta is the first normal race of the year on one of the tracks that are the bread and butter of our season.
“Having a good car at Atlanta can be the start to having a good year. It’ll be a good chance to see what these Ford Fusions have for this year.”
Menard and his No. 21 Wood Brothers team is already off to a good start to the season thanks to a sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500 and 15 Stage points earned during Speedweeks. He enters Atlanta fifth in the championship standings.
“We had a good points day at Daytona,” he said. “Obviously we wanted to have a shot at the win there are the end, but we dodged a lot of wrecks and got a good finish.”
After carrying the orange and white colors of Omnicraft in the Daytona 500, the No. 21 will be painted neon yellow and carry the logos of Moen at Atlanta.
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Qualifying for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is set for 5:15 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.
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Wood Brothers Racing
Wood Brothers Racing was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team and one of the winningest teams in NASCAR history. Since its founding, the team won 99 races (including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades) and 119 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series. Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. Glen’s brother, Leonard, is known for inventing the modern pit stop. The team currently runs the Ford Fusion driven by Paul Menard in the famous No. 21 racer.