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Atlanta Motor Speedway 2021 vs. 2022: Driving through the key differences

Following a thrilling eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series race Tuesday at virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway, drivers discovered many differences between 2021 and 2022 on the aged and worn surface.

Within the iRacing sim the racing surface remained mostly identical and unmodified, providing a great deal of familiarity with the classic circuit. However, many have been curious about how the new Next Gen car would perform on the track.

Logan Clampitt, last year’s Atlanta race winner and William Byron eSports driver, said he noticed plenty of differences between the old iRacing car and the new chassis that NASCAR introduced for the 2022 season.

The car itself and the racing surface are where the distinctions reside as Atlanta Motor Speedway, a circuit with a reputation for biting drivers in its earlier years, remains old and battered but still fast and dangerous.

“The draft is insanely different compared to last year,” said Clampitt, who finished seventh in Tuesday’s race. “Last year you were able to pull away and spread out. This year it seems like everyone defends the top side so that they can stay in the train down the straightaways. It’s very hard to pass. The car is also a lot looser compared to last year and goes over the bumps rougher.”

Clampitt said he believes the car on iRacing is more aero dependent and will be looser in traffic, spelling a difficult combination for many drivers who are struggling with their setups.

“Throttle control and patience are key,” Clampitt said. “It’ll always be the best benefit if you can take care of your tires in this car.”

Another lesson learned at virtual Atlanta involved gear ratios. In the past, it was a given that a driver would go into Turn 4 on the first lap in fourth gear. With a fifth gear in the hands of these simulation racers, some found themselves with the shifter to find that optimal turning speed.

Learning more about how the new car handled at the classic Atlanta Motor Speedway configuration was a test platform of sorts for some of the elite iRacing drivers. Old Atlanta shares many similarities to Charlotte Motor Speedway and, in places, Texas Motor Speedway as well.

“I think it will serve as a decent test platform,” said Clampitt. “It’s almost the same, but it can be different in so many different ways with how the car is set up.”