HAMPTON, Ga.— With new rules being at the forefront at the beginning of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS), Atlanta provides unique challenges and great unknowns.
Tires will be a hot commodity throughout all three national divisions. In MENCS competition, drivers will have to race on the same tires they qualify on at the beginning of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500.
Teams are limited to five sets or practice, one set for qualifying and the start of the race, and 12 sets for the race. The tires are the same ones used last year at the track.
When asked before qualifying, many drivers weren’t concerned about playing conservative with tire wear.
“I don’t think anybody will. I think the big thing is just trying to hit your laps. Ideally, you want to make three laps in qualifying. You want to try to get yourself into the top 24 and then the top 12 and then make a run at the pole. I think if you mess up in a round, it’s going to be really hard pressed to be able to run again and have a realistic expectation of having a shot at the pole. I think it’s real important to hit on that first try,” said Chase Elliott, who is racing at his home track this weekend.
“I was talking with some people a little bit ago. They told me, You don't know what you don't know. So this is new for me. I don't really know the old tire. This is the only tire I know, the only tire I will know. You don't really know what you don't know. This is what I got. This is what I going to start with,” said Daniel Suarez, who is making his first MENCS start in Atlanta.
“We will just have to see how it goes. We are eternally optimistic and always think that we have a shot at the pole. If you don’t think that in the final round you have a shot at the pole you can choose to just sit and save a lap on your tires. It might be worth it at a track with so much wear like this. I doubt that will happen. The competitor in all of us is going to kick in and we are all going to think we can make an adjustment and go out and adjust the car. It does put us, especially at a track like this one, put us in a position where we have to be conservative with our tire allotment and how we use them and how many laps we put on every set that we can take to the race,” said Jimmie Johnson, who is going for three in a row this weekend.
Qualifying for MENCS will be at 5:30 p.m. EST on Performance Racing Network and Fox Sports 1.