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Night and day.

It’s a phrase we hear all the time. At Phoenix International Raceway, it’s beyond appropriate.

Phoenix has two races which run like night and day. For starters, Phoenix’s first race runs at night. The second race runs in the afternoon. Also, Phoenix’s first race is 375 laps, 375 miles and 600 kilometers (I don’t know why the track uses kilometers either.) The second race is 312 laps, 312 miles and 500 kilometers.

More importantly, Phoenix repaved it track last year. This is the third race under the new, much faster surface. Many teams say this runs like a different track. Past success or failure simply doesn’t carry over to this raceway right now.

Because Phoenix is in the middle of a desert, cars get looser here than some of the other Chase tracks we’ve seen over the past two months. It’s also tough for teams to do specialized adjustments because the banking is different all across the track.

Even though Phoenix is a shorter track, there aren’t many cautions here, especially when compared to Martinsville or Bristol.
  
Now some random facts to impress your friends with as you watch ESPN begin its race coverage at 2 EST Sunday.   

  • The banking in turns one and two is eleven degrees. The banking in turns three and four is nine degrees.
  • The banking in the frontstretch is three degrees. On the backstretch, it’s  nine degrees.
  • The frontstretch is 1,179 feet, and the backstretch is 1,551 feet.
  • Kasey Kahne won this race last year with a team that doesn’t exist.
  • Denny Hamlin won the first Phoenix race.
  • Jimmie Johnson has the best average finish at Phoenix and has won here four times.
  • Mark Martin has the second best average finish.
  • Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart round out the top five average finishers among active drivers.
  • Martin, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have won at Phoenix twice.
  • Harvick only has the eleventh best average finish of active drivers at the track.
  • Arizona law prohibits fans from bringing alcohol to the track. 
  • The track also won’t let you bring umbrellas. 
  • They have a weather policy in case rain delays things in the desert.
  • The track opened in 1964. It hosted its first race in 1988. 

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Atlanta Motor Speedway runs Sunday night at 7:46 EDT for those really precise with their time. This weekend will offer an interesting test of how/if the excitement on the track has impacted the economics off the track.

Atlanta Motor Speedway lost a race this year, in large part because attendance and fan intrest was brutal. NASCAR is promoting the race as an event. Tickets are as cheap as $19; they’ve added a host of upgrades; Charlotte makes Memorial Day memorable. Can Atlanta do the same?

What’s strange is that for a race that has struggled drawing, fans and drivers seem to enjoy racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

For fans, the track is considered one of the best tailgating spots on tour. Most fan blogs and message boards also claim the site lines are really good compared to other spots on tour. Not to mention, Atlanta is built for speed. Even though the track doesn’t have the dimensions of Daytona or Talladega, qualifying speeds could top 200 miles an hour.  

For drivers, the track is known for close quarters, side-by-side racing and a robust amount of opportunities to go three and four wide. That’s because drivers have options in terms of where to run. If you have the choice of running low, high or middle, it’s fair to expect things bunching up quickly.  As always, when you run on a track where there is good grip, tire strategy will vary. A race spanning 500 miles, we’re also apt to see a fuel duel.  It’s also important to mention most of this race will occur either at dusk or totally in the dark. Compare that to the March sun and the successful setups we saw in March may not totally apply Sunday night.

Now some other facts to impress your friends while eating far too much red meat this holiday weekend, courtesy of the track’s website:

  • The race surface is about 50-60 feet wide. The 1.54 Mile Quad-Oval has banking of 24 degrees on the turns and five degrees on the straighaways.
  • The frontstretch is 2,332 feet, and the backstretch is 1,800 feet.
  • Jeff Gordon has five wins here, but only has the third best average finish among active drivers.
  • Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth have the top five average finishes among active drivers. 
  • Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte are multiple winners at the track, along with Gordon and Johnson, and Busch.
  • Labonte has the 500-mile race record on the track.
  • The track is located on  870 acres in Hampton, Ga., just 25 miles south of Atlanta. Depending on traffic, it can take you three days to get there (This is a joke. Atlanta traffic stinks, and it’s a holiday weekend.)
  • The track hosted its first race July 31, 1960.
  • Bring your ruler. Coolers are allowed if they are 14 inches or smaller on all sides.