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Since 1960, NASCAR has visited Atlanta International Speedway. With no restrictor plates holding cars back, this is one of the fastest venues in NASCAR. For more than 60 years, fans have flocked to this speedway — typically for two races. But in 2011, it was scaled back to just one. In 2021, things changed. We’re back to two visits to The Fastest Track in the South.
So what is going to happen this weekend? Take a look:
Kevin Harvick (+550)
Sometimes, it seems like we’re stuck on repeat when it comes to Kevin Harvick — but there’s good reason for it. The guy is good. He isn’t competing against the gauntlet of veterans he was for the first 15 years of his career, and the guy has dominated at certain tracks. Hey, what else can we say? He’s good.
This 1.5-mile track is known for its speed, and that will be in play this weekend. Harvick has been the best of the pack at taming the craziness of Atlanta, posting nine top-five finishes to go with his three career wins.
He’s actually been exceptionally good on the track since coming over to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, finishing with six top 10s in seven races with two poles and two wins. Harvick will start No. 7 on the grid based on the NASCAR’s lineup formula for weekend’s without practice or qualifying, but even with this being a standard intermediate 1.5-mile track, that shouldn’t be a problem for him if his car is good enough to push forward.
OTHERS: Brad Keselowski (+700) may be listed with the fourth-best NASCAR odds to win at Atlanta, but he has arguably the second-best resume. In 12 career Cup races at Atlanta, he has eight top-10 finishes, four top-fives, and two wins. Kyle Larson (+650) has one of the top average-finish marks among active drivers in NASCAR Cup and also had four top-five finishes in the Xfinity Series.
THE DARK HORSE THREAT
Kurt Busch (+2500)
Sometimes I get the feeling people are ruling Kurt Busch out as a serious competitor because he’s getting up there in age. But this guy can seriously race, and Atlanta is one of the hotspots. Among active drivers, Busch is tied with Harvick (above) with three career wins at the track.
The same goes for top-ten finishes with 15 apiece for the elder brother Busch and Harvick. Busch is still in good equipment with Chip Ganassi Racing, so don’t count out Kurt. He likes Atlanta, and his track record — pun intended — is pretty strong in the Peach State’s state capital city.
OTHERS: Are Joey Logano (+900) and Kyle Busch (+900) really ever “dark horses” in any race? That’s a good question. But in this race, they’re not considered top threats when it comes to NASCAR racing odds. So there may be an advantage here for a shrewd racing fan.
Logano not only dominated this track in his short time in the Xfinity Series, he has performed well in NASCAR Cup. And Kyle Busch? Come on, he’s Kyle Busch. He’s won twice — one of only four current drivers who’ve won NASCAR Cup races here — and he has one of the top average finishes here. He’s a threat anywhere he goes, but any diehard fan knows that.
THE INTRIGUING LONG SHOT
Christopher Bell (+2500)
Bell won one of his two Xfinity Series races at Atlanta but has only run once with the NASCAR Cup Series. Still, he’s been strong in 2021 and is turning heads. He’s a young talent with three top 10s already this year, a victory at the Daytona Road Course and he will start No. 8 on Sunday in his Joe Gibbs Racing machine.
Bell currently is eighth in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series standings. With his Daytona win, he’s already set up nicely for the postseason, but even if he didn’t have a victory, he’d be off to a great start.
OTHERS: Erik Jones (+15000) has an average finish of 15th in four career starts at Atlanta, and he performed rather well in the lower NASCAR series when he visited Atlanta. He’s an up-and-comer to keep an eye on and seems to enjoy racing at Atlanta.