CONCORD, N.C. – With the Daytona 500 now in the rearview, Hendrick Motorsports drivers are gearing up for the next race in the Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Daytona provided a rollercoaster couple of weeks, beginning with capturing the Daytona 500 pole while also claiming the top four spots in qualifying and then winning The Clash. The Daytona 500 itself saw a multitude of multi-car incidents involving Hendrick Motorsports drivers, but with a quick recovery from each team, the drivers hope to keep the spark and momentum from Daytona rolling into the next race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“Leaving Daytona, we all certainly have a little spark of energy,” driver Jimmie Johnson said. “To be able to recover from the wrecks we were involved in and be there at the end is certainly a great start.”
Hailing from Dawsonville, Georgia, Chase Elliott heads to his hometown track of Atlanta this weekend. For the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the race is a great opportunity for his hometown fans to watch the driver compete in person.
“Always nice to go race in Atlanta,” Elliott said. “It’s a special place and there's definitely a lot of fans around home so I always enjoy going back. More than that, it's a fun racetrack to drive. I've enjoyed racing there from a driver standpoint, and glad they didn't repave it.”
Along with the excitement for the race, Atlanta’s race will be the first track this season where the drivers are able to get a feel for the new 2019 aero package.
William Byron said Atlanta will pose a new challenge with its track construction.
“I really don’t know what to expect when we get to Atlanta,” Byron said. “I feel like it’s going to be a challenge in the sense that it’s a slick racetrack. We are going to go there and try and understand the new aero package but also try and understand what that racetrack is going to do throughout the race. I think it’s going to present different challenges than we normally deal with there.”
With downforce racing coming into play, Elliott believes that the race will bring key insights into how the drivers and cars will perform throughout the season.
“With it being the second race of the year, we can all get back to downforce racing,” the driver said. “Big transition and an important week to see how we all stack up. I’m looking forward to getting there.”
However, Atlanta is one venue that has yet to repave their track surface, which leads Alex Bowman to think that the new aero package will provide a completely different style of racing than is typical of the Georgia track.
“There are just a lot of options, it’s worn out, you can move around a lot and kind of gives a driver some options depending on how your car is driving,” Bowman said. “It’s always fun when you have options. Just with the new package, it’s going to be a completely different style of racing. Hard to know what to expect until we get there but looking forward to seeing how it is when we can finally get on track.”
Johnson agrees with Bowman and predicts that the race will be particularly exciting for the fans.
“This weekend in Atlanta is a completely different deal as we roll out the 2019 rules package,” he said. “In my eyes, the cars are going to be faster and we are all going to be closer together, there will be more passing, and there is going to be a lot of excitement with the 2019 package.”
To see how the drivers fare, be sure to watch the race this Sunday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX and listen on PRN radio.