HAMPTON, Ga. --- A new right-side tire should make racing better today for the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The race at the 1.54-mile track in March was marred by a rock-hard tire that kept drivers from racing side-by-side. Complaints were rampant after the race, prompting the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. to conduct a couple of test sessions and make changes in time for today's main event.
"Obviously, what we had in the spring wasn't anything that any one of us wanted," Tony Stewart said. "The great thing about it is that Goodyear was active about it. They said, 'OK, we have to do something about this.'
"They came and did not one, but two tests here to make it better. That's all you can ask for. It sounded like from the comments we heard from the drivers that came and did the test that we have a lot better tire."
Atlanta has a reputation for dramatic two- and three-wide racing and last-lap passes. There was a sense some of that may return with a softer tire.
"This track is so abrasive and in the first 20 minutes of practice, it really eats up the tire," Jimmie Johnson said. "Then, after that, it seems to come into its own. I guess we did have some explosions here in the spring."
Stewart was extremely vocal about the tires in March. He said those complaints may have helped Goodyear make changes.
"If nobody said anything, nothing would've got done," he said. "... If it makes it safer for us and makes us all more comfortable as drivers out there, isn't that -- at the end of the day -- what's going to put on a better show for everybody?"
WHAT A CROCK: Carl Edwards just can't seem to shake Johnson.
Edwards put his name on a line of crock pots, but there's a picture of Johnson on the side looking over Edwards' shoulder.
"On the crock pot, there's a picture of us in Victory Lane in Atlanta in 2005, and it's like a Where's Waldo?" Edwards said. "There's this little Jimmie Johnson head sticking out from behind my shoulder, where he's coming up to pour his drink over my head and congratulate me."
ANOTHER DOUBLE-DIP: Edwards wants to race full-time in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series again next year for Roush Fenway Racing, while David Ragan will focus more on his Sprint Cup ride.
"For me right now, there's really no question whether I was going to run the full season or not," Edwards said. "We have such a good time racing that as long as we can do it, I'm going to do it."
Truck racer Erik Darnell will share driving duties with Ragan in the No. 6 Ford next year.
MILESTONE: Today's race will mark the 1,000th start for Michael Waltrip in NASCAR. Waltrip will be making his 722nd Sprint Cup start. He also has 270 Nationwide starts and eight Craftsman Truck Series starts.