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With casino still a hope, Atlanta track headed for a repave and ‘reprofiling’

NASCAR America reacts to the eye-opening schedule changes for the 2021 Cup season, which includes a dirt race at Bristol, a trip to Circuit of the Americas, a race at Road America, and the All-Star Race's move to Texas.

As Atlanta Motor Speedway returns to two annual stops on the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021, the race expansion is tied into an ambitious future for the track that includes a repave and “reprofiling” of its 1.54-mile surface.

Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith said the plan remains to attract a $1 billion casino and entertainment complex that would be built adjacent to the track located in Hampton, Georgia, about 40 minutes south of downtown Atlanta.

“That is a big hope for us,” Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith told NBC Sports in a Thursday interview. “We’re working in the state of Georgia on the gaming license opportunity, and it’s of course taking longer than we would like and a lot of other people that have been working on it, but we’re hopeful for that.

“We also think that Atlanta Motor Speedway is a fantastic racetrack, and the drivers and fans have always given it high reviews. So we are optimistic about NASCAR at Atlanta and the Atlanta market. Then, of course, we also are going to be doing a repave of Atlanta coming up soon. So having two races there is something we feel like is the right move for us as a company, and I think that we’re optimistic and pretty excited about what the repave and reprofile is going to be like in Atlanta. And I think fans will enjoy seeing NASCAR there twice a year.”

Before its 1997 repaving and reconfiguration into a “quad-oval” layout similar to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, Atlanta had a more traditional oval shape a la Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others have lobbied to return Atlanta to its original oval layout.

Since Homestead (which originally was created as a 1.5-mile version of Indianapolis Motor Speedway) was redesigned and repaved with progressive banking in 2003, the South Florida track largely has been regarded as a gold standard for intermediate track racing in NASCAR.

There has been Twitter buzz that some of AMS’ casino complex renderings indicate a return to its former layout (without swapping the front and back straightaways as in the original configuration).

There also is speculation about whether a repave could include reconfiguring Atlanta as a new NASCAR short track (as has been proposed for 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California).

Smith said Atlanta “probably still will be a mile and a half,” but is hinting that an upcoming repave also would include the “reprofiling” of its layout after vetting some proposed changes with iRacing (which also was done with Fontana and a similar type of modeling occurred with Homestead in 2003).

“We’re definitely going to make some pretty cool improvements,” Smith said. “We’re going to be making an announcement about that. We have our ideas together, and now we’re doing some testing of those ideas working with iRacing on modeling and that sort of thing. When we’re done and ready to tell the story properly, I think people will be really excited about it.”

NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

HAMPTON, GEORGIA - JUNE 07: A general view of the track during the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 07, 2020 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Getty Images

An aerial view of Atlanta Motor Speedway.

An aerial view of Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Universal Images Group via Getty