Real racing begins in Hampton

Major storylines as NASCAR comes to Atlanta Motor Speedway


Staff Photo

This weekend, NASCAR racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton for three full days of on-track activity.

For the past two months, NASCAR fans have anxiously awaited the start of the 2018 racing season. The wait is over as NASCAR drivers and their loyal fans leave Daytona and gear up for the second race weekend of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. With one race down and a full weekend of racing ahead, including the only Xfinity / Camping World Truck double-header of the season, here are some of the top storylines as the teams ditch the restrictor plates and look for speed on NASCAR’s oldest racing surface.

Johnny Sauter – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Losing the GMS championship last year by a single point didn’t prevent Johnny Sauter from starting off the 2018 season strong with a win in Daytona.

As he enters his third season in GMS racing, there is much to look forward to. In 2016, his first year racing for GMS, Sauter won the championship. This accomplishment, combined with the extremely close championship from last season, shows he is definitely a contender for this year’s championship as well.

While he already shows great potential this season for another championship win, the race this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway doesn’t appear as promising. Sauter’s average finish in his last seven races at Atlanta Motor Speedway is 15th, with only one top-five finish coming at last year’s race. However, his average finish on 1.5-mile tracks last season was 3.9, with wins at Chicago and Texas.

Though Sauter has not performed as well at Atlanta Motor Speedway, this could be the year that all changes.

Tyler Reddick – Xfinity Series

With one win under his belt already in his first full season in the Xfinity Series, Tyler Reddick is definitely turning heads.

Reddick drove the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing last year, averaging tenth at 1.5-mile tracks with a win at Kentucky and top-five finishes in three of his last four races in 2017.

This season, Reddick is a part of the JR Motorsports team in the No. 9. He started his first full season strong with a win over teammate Sadler by 0.0004 seconds, making this win the closest in NASCAR history.

With such an ambitious accomplishment so early in the season along with previous successes at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the truck series (he placed fifth in 2015 and 14h in 2016), race weekend looks promising for Reddick.

New Camaro ZL1

Instead of sticking with the old, it’s in with the new as Chevrolet drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be exchanging the Chevy SS model for the new, and hopefully improved, Camaro ZL1 for the 2018 Monster Energy Series.

While the new Chevy showed great speed at Speedweeks in Daytona, it’s simply too early in the racing season to tell for sure if switching models was the right choice. In 2017, Toyota dominated NASCAR with 16 manufacturer wins, seven of which came at 1.5-mile tracks.

However, Chevy has won three of the last four and five of the last eight races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hopefully, this weekend drivers and racing fans alike will discover whether the switch to the new Camaro ZL1 was worth it.


After three major wrecks during the Daytona 500, it is clear aggression proves to be an ongoing pattern. The main question racing fans will be asking moving into the second race weekend is the cause of this aggression.

One of the probable causes is stage racing. In only the second year of implementation, stage racing splits the entire race into three sections in which drivers receive points for finishing in the top ten. Crucial playoff points can also be earned for winning stages. Instead of focusing on winning one race, drivers are incentivized to win three separate ones, leading to more drivers grouping at the front and a higher probability of wrecks.  

Growing tensions between the inexperienced young drivers and their older, “wiser” counterparts could also be a huge factor in the increased aggression. Many young drivers come into this sport immediately expecting to be the best, which may aggravate the older drivers that had to earn their way to the top. This huge difference of opinion could potentially impact the drivers while they are behind the wheel.

Besides the two major changes NASCAR is experiencing, there is still the obvious flat out desire to win that influences drivers on the track. With 40 drivers that want to win with equal intensity and only one that emerges victorious, that desire clearly allows for a great amount of aggression.

Georgia Drivers

As NASCAR leaves Daytona and enters the Peach State, it’s no surprise that Georgia drivers are taking center stage.

Dawsonville’s Chase Elliott, son of famous driver Bill Elliott, has been making headlines since he took over his father’s No. 9. While he won the Can-Am Duel race, he is still searching for his first career points win after crashing mid-race in the Daytona 500. As the racing continues this weekend in Elliott’s home state maybe he will finally return the famous No. 9 to victory lane.

Garrett Smithley, driver of the No. 0 for JD Motorsports, is coming off his best career finish as he placed fifth at Daytona in the Xfinity series. Hopefully, he will continue his strong start to the season this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

David Ragan, driver of the No. 38 for Front Row Motorsports, will celebrate his 400th career Cup start this weekend at his home track as well.


With all of the major storylines, the weather may be the one to steal the show.  Meteorologist Nick Maddock from Norman, Okla., has provided this three-day forecast.

Friday will be dry with temperatures in the morning in lower 60s rising to highs in the upper 70s and mostly sunny skies.

Should be mostly dry on Saturday with temperatures making into the upper 70s by afternoon after a low of 60 in the morning. Clouds are expected to increase throughout the day.

Sunday morning rain will move through the area between the 6am to 10am time frame. Then there should be a window of dry weather in the early afternoon with more rain moving back through in the early evening. Temperatures on Sunday will remain relatively cool in the low 60s throughout the day.

Tickets for three days of racing are still available. Kids ages 12 and under get in free Saturday with a paid adult general admission ticket. Go to or call 877-9-AMS-TIX for more information.