The NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second time this season for Sunday’s Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Ryan Blaney netted the win down in Georgia when the series made its first visit of the season back in March. Will the No. 12 team find a way to repeat or will someone else make the trip to Victory Lane in Hotlanta?
GEORGIAN ROOTS EARN TOP STARTING SPOT
Chase Elliott, a native of Dawsonville, Georgia, will start from the pole on Sunday via the performance formula after claiming the win last weekend at Road America.
Starting directly behind Elliott is the entirety of Joe Gibbs Racing, as Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. round out the top five. Check out the whole starting lineup here.
After a limited 35% capacity crowd was permitted in March, Atlanta Motor Speedway will be completely open to fans this weekend.
Fans will also be permitted to bring one clear bag and one soft-sided cooler no larger than 14” X 14” X 14” to bring food and beverages into the grandstands, although glass is prohibited.
More fan information for Atlanta Motor Speedway can be found here.
Because Atlanta Motor Speedway sits at 1.54 miles, the NASCAR Cup Series will utilize the 550-horsepower, high-downforce package this weekend. This package features taller spoilers and longer splitters to increase drag and downforce.
Atlanta’s surface is one of if not the most abrasive on the Cup Series circuit. Its rough, aggregate asphalt tears tires to shreds, wearing tires as much as three seconds per lap, according to Goodyear.
Teams will have 10 sets of tires to use this weekend, made of the same compounds used during the March race weekend, and it’s fair to expect them to utilize a new set every chance they get.
“It is well known that Atlanta’s abrasive surface really wears tires very aggressively,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “It’s also a track where the pit crews play almost as big a part in the race as the drivers. For the drivers, ‘tire management’ will be the phrase of the day. Those that are smoother on and off the throttle and don’t slide their tires will be able to save more of their tires’ performance for the end of a run.
“As a result, some guys will be able to run several tenths of a second quicker over the second half of a run and make up a lot of positions over those that were aggressive early.”
NASCAR HISTORY AT ATLANTA
— NASCAR has been visiting Atlanta Motor Speedway since 1960, one year after its scheduled debut was delayed due to inclement weather delaying construction.
— This season marks the first since 2010 that Atlanta will host two Cup Series races as it did since 1960. The Hampton, Georgia, track hosted just one race yearly between 2011-2020.
— Last paved and reconfigured in 1997, Atlanta’s surface is the second-oldest in the series, only behind the concrete at Dover International Speedway.
— On Tuesday, Atlanta announced it would again be resurfacing and reconfiguring the mile-and-a-half track, this time creating 28 degrees of banking in the corners while also narrowing the racing surface.
— Ryan Blaney’s March victory was Ford’s fifth in a row, the longest manufacturer streak in track history.
Source: Racing Insights
MONEY ON THE LINE
Despite finishing outside the top 10 last week at Road America for the first time in nine races, Kyle Larson is Las Vegas’ No. 1 man. BetMGM lists Larson at 9-4 odds entering Sunday’s contest at Atlanta, a fitting estimation considering the No. 5 car dominated the day at the same track in March, leading 269 laps and winning both stages before getting passed by Ryan Blaney with nine laps to go.
Larson is the favorite by a lot. The next best odds go to Kyle Busch at 15-2 and Chase Elliott at 8-1.
If you’re looking to gain some cash, though, perhaps consider William Byron at 12-1. Byron finished eighth at Atlanta in the spring and finished in the top 10 in both stages, plus he’s yet to finish outside the top 10 in any of the five 1.5-mile races this season.
HOTLANTA STORY LINES
– Hendrick Motorsports, the winningest team in track history with 14, led 271 of 325 laps in March, with Kyle Larson finishing second, Alex Bowman third and William Byron eighth.
– Kyle Larson holds the best average finish among average drivers at Atlanta, averaging 12.14 in seven starts, bettering Kyle Busch’s 13.48 in 23 starts.
– Bill Elliott is the only Georgia-born driver to win at Atlanta and did so five times.
– Kyle Larson led the most laps in the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks, tying the Cup record held by Richard Petty and David Pearson. No one has ever led the most laps in five straight races on 1.5-mile tracks.
– Kyle Busch and William Byron are the only two drivers who have finished inside the top 10 in each of the five races held at mile-and-a-half facilities this season.
– Toyota’s last Atlanta win came from Kyle Busch in August 2013. Since that victory, Toyotas have gone to Victory Lane 98 times on 23 tracks, including eight triumphs at Pocono Raceway alone.
– The last seven Atlanta races have only produced four total winners: Brad Keselowski (2), Jimmie Johnson (2), Kevin Harvick (2) and Ryan Blaney (1).
– Kevin Harvick has led the most laps in six of the last eight Atlanta races, including 151 laps in 2020. The March race marked the first Atlanta event in which Harvick didn’t lead a lap since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
Source: Racing Insights
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts. It’s not too late to join in on the competition.
The 2021 Fantasy Live points leaders are Denny Hamlin (794), Kyle Larson (781) and William Byron (704).
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
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