RCR Race Preview: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway… In 162 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Richard Childress Racing has earned nine wins and three pole awards, including Kevin Harvick’s emotional victory in 2001. Dale Earnhardt won eight times at the Hampton, Ga., track under the RCR banner (1984-fall, 1986-fall, 1988-spring, 1989-fall, 1990-spring, 1995-fall, 1996-spring, 2000-spring). The Welcome, N.C., team has 30 top-five and 61 top-10 finishes at Atlanta and has led a total of 3,020 laps at the 1.54-mile oval.

RCR in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway… RCR has recorded five NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, led by Austin Hill (2022 and 2023) and Jeff Burton (2006 and 2007). Kevin Harvick (2013) also has a victory at Atlanta with RCR. RCR as an organization has racked up 16 top-five and 31 top-10 finishes over a span of 60 starts at the Peachtree State track.

Catch the Action… The Atlanta 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be televised live on Saturday, February 24 beginning at 5 p.m. ET on FS1. The race will be broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

The Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be televised live on Sunday, February 25 beginning at 3 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will be broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

Austin Dillon and the No. 3 BREZTRI AEROSPHERE® (budesonide, glycopyrrolate, and formoterol fumarate) Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway… In 14 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Dillon’s best finish is a sixth-place effort in March 2021. In four NASCAR Xfinity Series and four NASCAR Truck Series races at the Georgia oval, Dillon has earned seven top-10 results and never finished worse than 11th-place.

BREZTRI AEROSPHERE® (budesonide, glycopyrrolate, and formoterol fumarate) Team Up with Dillon… Dillon and the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team will be supported by BREZTRI AEROSPHERE®, an AstraZeneca product, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This partnership is about more than just racing. You can learn more about Austin Dillon and his family’s personal connection to the brand at Breztri.com. AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialization of prescription medicines in Oncology, Rare Diseases, and Biopharmaceuticals, including Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism, and Respiratory & Immunology. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.

AUSTIN DILLON QUOTES:

With the hybrid that is Atlanta Motor Speedway now, what did you have to learn to be successful at that track given the change in the track and change in the car?

“I haven’t been as successful as I’ve wanted to be at Atlanta Motor Speedway, so I’ve got to go to work on that one. In the first race we competed in on the new Atlanta Motor Speedway configuration, we were pretty good. I got turned at the end of the stage, and if we didn’t, we would’ve finished second or third. That was probably one of the best cars I’ve had there. Past that, Atlanta has been difficult because I’ve had some massive hits there.”

What is your plan for tackling Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend?

“I think this time around, it’s coming up with a game plan. When you don’t have a game plan going into one of these races that you can’t truly commit to, you kind of get stuck in the middle and you don’t know what you’re doing, and it usually doesn’t turn out good. You’ve got to be committed to strategy and stick to that strategy. That’s a part of speedway racing. Am I going to go all out and try to lead every lap or am I going to ride around and make a charge? You can’t just be in the middle trying to figure it out. Sometimes that works, but I feel like you need to be decisive on which one of the two places you want to be. Atlanta has been really weird, and it’s still changing. I think the track with another winter on it, it could be slicker. But we’re going to be there when it’s probably cold and we’ll have grip. You’ll be in between trying to take as much downforce and drag out as you can. We just haven’t been great there yet, but we’ve just got to figure it out.”

You’ve talked about Atlanta Motor Speedway being a hybrid and taking a massive hit there, but is the crashing the same? Meaning, there’s usually not a single-car crash at Daytona. Is it the same way at Atlanta?

“If you’re involved in a wreck, it’s going to suck either way. Atlanta is similar to crashing at Daytona. The field did spread out on the long green flag run in the second race when pit stops started happening. But it seems to kind of yoyo back together.”

What did you learn from Kyle Busch last year during his first full year at RCR?

“I think just his competitive nature. He truly eats, sleeps, and breathes racing. When he’s not at a NASCAR track, he’s at a dirt track with his son, Brexton, and racing when Brexton isn’t racing. He is just a competitor, and he’s very good at explaining what he wants in the racecar. What we need to do to get better. He’s one of those people that at all costs, he’s trying to make things better.”

Kyle Busch and the No. 8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Atlanta Motor Speedway… Kyle Busch enters this weekend with two wins (2008 and 2013), nine top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 28 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He scored a fifth-place finish in his most recent NASCAR Cup Series start at the track in July 2023. The driver of the Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet won the pole at Atlanta in 2018 and ranks second among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in laps led at the 1.540-mile speedway with 558. He has three victories in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition at the Hampton, Ga., track and six victories in the NASCAR Truck Series.

Solid start to the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season…Busch has enjoyed a solid start to the 2024 Cup Series season. He scored a second-place finish in the Busch Light Clash (his third top-three finish in three seasons). This past weekend at Daytona International Speedway, Busch posted a 12th-place finish in the Daytona 500 in a backup car. He is eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver points, 17 points behind the leader.

Did You Know? Busch is the youngest winner in Cup Series history at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch was 22 years, 10 months, and 7 days old when he won the spring event in 2008. The Las Vegas, Nevada native also leads all active drivers with 22 lead lap finishes at the 1.54-mile oval.

Meet Kyle Busch…Busch is scheduled to visit the Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen location in McDonough, Ga., at lunchtime on Friday to bring recognition to Cheddar’s new weekday lunch specials. Starting at $8.59 and featuring items like a Classic Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Pot Pie, Cajun Chicken Bowl and Philly Cheesesteak, guests can skip the drive-thru or the brown-bagged lunch for a classic homestyle meal at a comforting price. Cheddar’s has steadily grown its relationship with Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing, and the No. 8 team each year of their partnership. Kyle and his family have also embraced Cheddar’s as a meal fit for champions, with their homestyle favorites frequenting the Busch family’s dinner table. And to kick off a memorable meal, every guest is welcomed with a warm Honey Butter Croissant on the house.

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – Cheddar’s serves American classics and homestyle comfort food in a feel-at-home atmosphere. Guests get a lot, for not a lot with homemade entrees like hand-breaded Chicken Tenders, homemade Chicken Pot Pie and slow-smoked Baby Back Ribs so big, they almost fall off the plate. To kick off a memorable meal, every Guest is welcomed with a warm Honey Butter Croissant on the house. Cheddar’s operates more than 180 restaurants in 27 states and employs more than 15,000 friendly and passionate team members. Cheddar’s is open for lunch and dinner, now featuring new weekday lunch specials, starting at just $8.59. For more information or to locate the nearest restaurant, visit Cheddars.com. Fans can like or follow Cheddar’s on Facebook, X , and Instagram.

KYLE BUSCH QUOTES:

What are your thoughts on Atlanta Motor Speedway, especially with the relatively new configuration?

“Driving on the new Atlanta Motor Speedway configuration is definitely challenging just due to the fact that it’s really, really fast and it’s a mile-and-a-half, so it seems like the superspeedway speeds that you get at a mile-and-a-half make everything go by really quick. Things happen quick, faster than a superspeedway. That’s definitely the challenging part. Understanding the grip level of what the cars have in the draft and the moves you can make is also pretty challenging. It’s easier for everybody to go fast with it being restrictor plate style racing and everybody being able to hold it wide-open for the most part is what makes it a plate race.”

Last year you won early and often. How important is it to get that out of the way early, then concentrate on what’s next?

“Yeah, winning early is huge for your season. It sets the tone and gives you a chance to know you’re in the NASCAR Playoffs. You just have to make sure you keep everything else in order. If you’re getting into the July, August months, and you don’t have a win yet, it gets stressful. That’s not going to be a place where you want to get to.”

You had two top 10 finishes at Atlanta Motor Speedway last year. You seemed to take to the track reconfiguration quickly with a different car. Is there an element of the track that works with your driving style or can you acclimate quicker than others?

“We got lucky last year with the fifth-place finish, because we stayed out on fuel mileage and when the rain came, it gave us that opportunity. Track position is hard to get there. It’s hard to pass with two lanes running two-wide. I felt really good about my car. I could go to the bottom and rip the bottom better than anybody, but then there wasn’t any room to get back in line on the top to get the straightaway speed you need. I kept getting sucked backwards every time I would try to pull out of line and make a move. The confidence I had in my car was net hurting me. Just hard to be patient in those situations and sit and ride.”

Jesse Love and the No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro SS at Atlanta Motor Speedway… Jesse Love will make his inaugural start at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Saturday. The 19-year-old has never seen the 1.54-mile oval in person and Friday’s qualifying session will mark his first lap on the surface.

First Pole, First Stage Win… During Love’s Xfinity Series debut at Daytona International Speedway, the Menlo Park, California native earned his first career pole position, putting the No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet on the front row for the season opening event. Love led the most laps (34) and captured his first career stage win.

Did You Know? Love is the third youngest pole winner in Xfinity Series history at Daytona International Speedway and just the 14th driver to claim the first starting position in their series debut.

About Whelen Engineering… Whelen Engineering is a family-owned company with a pioneering spirit and a passion to protect the lives of those who protect and serve others. The company mission is to provide industry-defining safety solutions around the world, while creating a community of problem-solvers who are inspired to push boundaries and continue our legacy of delivering ground-breaking innovation. As a global leader in the emergency warning industry, Whelen has been trusted to perform since 1952, when George Whelen III invented the first rotating aviation beacon. Whelen now encompasses two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Connecticut and New Hampshire with over 750,000 square feet of engineering and manufacturing space and the largest design staff in the industry. Every part of every Whelen product is proudly designed and manufactured in America. We embrace quality as our foundation, we celebrate innovative engineering in every product we produce.

JESSE LOVE QUOTES:

Describe your NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Daytona International Speedway.

“I thought it was a productive debut. It was nice to get our first pole, win a stage, and lead the most laps. The stage point that we earned could go a long way in a few months, so I’m glad to have a playoff point secured already. It was pretty cool to edge my teammate, Austin Hill, at the line to win the stage. At the same time, I do think he cut me a little bit of a break to let me have a moment of glory. After we lost our track position at the end of Stage 1 – which was part of our overall plan – I wanted to be aggressive and get back to the front as fast as I could. I thought I made smart decisions that were aggressive but calculated from a timing perspective. I just got a bad push from the No. 20 and that spun us around. Looking back on it, I’m not sure if I should have put myself in that spot, but there were a lot of good cars in the line that I was in, and we were rolling on the bottom. Traditionally on superspeedway races, you are safest out front so I wouldn’t take any of it back. In the future knowing how fast of a car I had though, I could have been more patient.”

What did you learn at Daytona International Speedway that you can apply to Atlanta Motor Speedway?

“For Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend and when we go back to superspeedways later this season, the key is going to be putting myself in safe positions. With how fast my Whelen Chevrolet was in Daytona, I could have been safer than other people and still had the same result. The goal for this weekend is to do the same thing as Daytona though, except not get wrecked and have a better outcome. I need to be aggressive. Hopefully, we will be able to sit on the pole again and keep that first pit stall. From there, we will try to stay out front. At some point we will lose track position and when that does happen, I need to take my time a little more than Daytona. The racing at Atlanta is a little less tight than Daytona, so I can be safer with my moves, still go forward, and be in position to have a shot at the win at the end. In the back of my mind, I can be more passive than others and still get to the front with how fast our No. 2 car is.”

Austin Hill and the No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet Camaro SS at Atlanta Motor Speedway… Austin Hill has four career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, earning two wins and a second-place finish while piloting the No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet. Hill has led at least one lap in each of his four starts, totaling 204 laps pacing the field. In addition, Hill has six NASCAR Truck Series starts at the Hampton, Georgia facility, posting one pole (2019), two top-five (2020, 2021) and three top-10 results (2019-2021).

Three-Peat at Daytona… After starting from the second position, earning a stage win, and capturing the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway, Hill is now the back-to-back-to-back victor of the season opening event in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. With the win, Hill has successfully locked himself into the Playoffs for the third time in as many years.

Did You Know? Hill is only the fourth Xfinity Series driver to win at least three consecutive February races at Daytona International Speedway, joining Dale Earnhardt (five), Tony Stewart (four), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (three).

Defending Race Winner… Hill enters Atlanta Motor Speedway as the defending race winner. Last spring, the No. 21 Chevrolet started from the third position, led 103 of 163 laps, and captured the victory at Hill’s home track. This marked Hill’s third victory of the 2023 season, where the then-sophomore driver won three of the first five events.

Georgia Boy Returns Home… Hill is a native of Winston, Georgia, sited 60 miles from Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 29-year-old started his motorsports career racing bandolero and legends cars on the frontstretch quarter-mile oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hill’s family continues to live in the Peachtree State and will be in attendance for Saturday’s race.

Bennett Home Race… Located a short 15 minutes from Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bennett Transportation and Logistics’ headquarters are based in McDonough, Georgia. Celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2024, Bennett Family of Companies will have over 250 guests on site to watch Hill compete. The No. 21 Camaro features Bennett’s special anniversary logo and gold accents throughout the design.

About Bennett Family of Companies… McDonough-Ga. based Bennett Family of Companies is a woman-owned, Women’s Enterprise Business Council (WBENC) certified, diversified transportation and logistics company. Through its 14 affiliated operating companies, the Bennett Family of Companies delivers integrated transportation and supply chain management solutions worldwide. Bennett has 4,625 drivers/owner-operators, over 1,000 employees and 600 agents located across the United States. For more information, visit www.bennettig.com.

Meet Hill… On Saturday, February 24 at 2:10 p.m. ET, Hill is scheduled to make an appearance at the Bennett Family of Companies display in the Fan Zone at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Stop by to meet and get an autograph from the defending race winner.

AUSTIN HILL QUOTES:

What will it take for you to get win number three at Atlanta Motor Speedway? Similar racing to Daytona International Speedway, but not the same.

“A lot of what is going to determine our outcome is how our Bennett Transportation & Logistics Chevrolet drives with the new rule change of adding slits to the back glass. We did see the car drive differently at Daytona when in the pack and when leading up front. Knowing the car handled differently at Daytona, determining what it is going to take to make it handle well at Atlanta is a big question. Are we going to need the car to be looser or tighter? We won’t know those answers until we get into the race and through Stage 1, to truly see how our car is driving. With no practice and only one or two laps of qualifying, there will be a lot of learning happening in Stage 1. The more that you can learn early is going to propel you through Stages 2 and 3 to put yourself in the right position at the end. If we can get the car driving well, it will put us in a good position to win the race.”

Atlanta has hard winters and hot summers, so you don’t know what the pavement will be like when you hit the track. Without having practice, how hard do you send it into Turn 1 during qualifying?

“My team and I have talked about this quite a bit leading into this weekend. We are going to unload the same way we have for the last two years, since it has worked for us. Our car traditionally handles well at Atlanta. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it does handle well. The one thing that does help us is from what I’ve been seeing with the temperature is it’s not going to be hot. It’s going to be on the cooler side, which is going to add grip to the track. Going into qualifying, the job is simple – hold it wide open and don’t lift. You have to be 100% throttle and hope it sticks. If it doesn’t, you have to be ready to catch it. How much of an angle you take on entry during qualifying is going to be a decision made on the fly once we determine how our car will handle.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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