NASCAR Cup Series
By Sean Montgomery
Published: 19 Mar, 2022
8 Minute Read
Everything you need to know for Sunday’s first trip to the newly repaved speedway, the fifth regular-season NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2022 campaign.
Where: Hampton, Georgia
Approximate start time: 3 p.m. ET
TV/Radio: FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Sunny, with a high near 66 degrees.
Race distance: 325 laps | 500.5 miles
Stages: 105 | 310 | 225
Competition caution: Scheduled for Lap 45
Pit-road speed: 45 mph
Caution car speed: 55 mph
The Purse: $8,263,045
Atlanta 101: Get the full lowdown | Updated weekend schedule
Starting lineup: See how the field lines up for Sunday
Pit stalls: Assignments for Sunday | Expert pit analysis
Key things to watch 🔑
Practice and qualifying: Overall speeds in the 50-minute practice session shouldn’t tell us very much about how the track will race, especially as drivers and teams mixed up short runs in packs and long 30-lap runs. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, drivers emphasized how the track has a mix of superspeedway tendencies and traditional 1.5-mile characteristics. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. quickly found his groove in the lone Saturday Cup session and topped the overall charts. Two Toyotas, Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell, and two Fords, Harrison Burton and Joey Logano, rounded out the top five. Saturday’s qualifying session was canceled due to the need for practice after inclement weather adjusted the weekend schedule. The starting order for Sunday was determined by the NASCAR Rule Book. | Full Cup Series practice recap
Big story line: Aside from the season-opening Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, this is the Next Gen car’s first real test at an unfamiliar track. Atlanta Motor Speedway, famed for its rough surface and chaotic (at times) cracks, is now repaved and revamped for the 2022 season and beyond, bringing with it increased banking and faster speeds. Drivers have stated throughout the week that it’s hard to know what to expect or to prepare for. But the reward for the victor remains the same – a checkered flag, trophy and secured spot (if a new 2022 winner) in the first NASCAR Playoffs of the Next Gen era. Sunday’s race is also a chance to build a solid notebook for when the series returns to Georgia in July. So while there are many unknowns heading into the weekend, one thing is for certain: There is still a lot at stake. | See the incredible track transformation unfold
Who’s hot? Who’s not? Though 2022 brings a host of new challenges, Ryan Blaney can still find comfort in the fact he shines bright at the middle-Georgia track. Blaney has three consecutive top-five finishes at Atlanta, including a win in March. With as much success as he tends to have at superspeedways, this track change should be a welcome one for the No. 12 Team Penske wheelman. He has led laps in three of the last four Atlanta races and is the active leader with a 12.4 average finish. We’ve seen the speed from Blaney all season, Sunday might be the day he puts it all together. On the flip side, Ross Chastain is arguably the hottest driver in the series right now. Coming off a string of two races inside the top three, Chastian is increasingly eager for that elusive first Cup win. But he has struggled mightily at Atlanta. Chastain has never finished higher than 14th here and has never led a lap or scored a stage point. Can the Georgia heat keep the No. 1 team’s hot streak rolling? Or will it stall out Sunday?
Driving under the radar: Based on pre-season expectations, Chastain could be the easy pick here. But Trackhouse Racing has put the sport on notice early, so let’s lean into a driver getting less attention: Austin Dillon. The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet has flashed speed in multiple races this season, slotting in runner-up at Auto Club Speedway, 11th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and had a top-10 run going on the final lap at Phoenix Raceway before unfortunate contact with Daniel Suárez shuffled him back in the finishing order. While he doesn’t have the strongest results to show for it, the effort and pace have been there for a team that struggled throughout much of 2021. Don’t be surprised if you see him running near the front again Sunday.
Our biggest pieces of the week – get covered for race day from all angles.
– Power Rankings: Ross Chastain’s first Cup win imminent? | Updated driver rankings
– Paint Scheme Preview: Check out the art for Atlanta | See the schemes
– Fantasy Fastlane: Feeling a Kurt Busch use for Atlanta | Top plays, sleepers
– NASCAR betting: BetMGM odds for 2022 Atlanta spring race | Who is favored to win?
Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.
– Expect it: ‘Full-blown chaos’ anticipated for Cup Series’ first flight at new-look Atlanta | Full story
– Rain, rain, go away: Friday’s practice sessions canceled due to weather | Adjusted schedule
– Surface update: Next Gen AMS debuts this weekend with revamped racing | Details, track changes
– Five fast facts: Atlanta spring race | Dive into the details
– Tech corner: New Atlanta brings new challenges for teams and drivers | Bozi’s breakdown
– Le Mans: Hendrick Motorsports announce pursuit of Garage 56 entry | Full release | Steve Phelps speaks | Hear from Rick Hendrick
– Jim France: Thoughts on NASCAR competing in Le Mans | Hear what he said
– First look: Chase Elliott’s new No. 9 Kelley Blue Book scheme | See it here
– Next Gen stops: Stacking Pennies talks about what to expect from JGR’s new pit-stop method | Clip from LaJoie’s podcast
– Penalty upheld: Appeals panel upholds penalties, suspensions for two separate incidents | No. 7 team suspensions| Learn more
– Next Gen nuances: See how NASCAR is bringing the Next Gen cars to the track | Camaro | Mustang | Camry
– GEICO presents NASCAR Returns: Women leading the way | Celebrate Women’s History Month
– eNASCAR: Steven Wilson holds off drivers, wins at Atlanta | See exciting finish
Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.
– Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
– BetMGM: Betting the clean slate for new-look Atlanta |Expert insight
– Prices, lines: Value tough to find as oddsmakers price Atlanta like a superspeedway | Read more
– Fantasy: A lot of unknowns for Atlanta, save Kyle Larson | Watch the weekend breakdown
– Weekly props: Who scores more points at Atlanta – JGR or SHR? | Make your picks
– The Action Network: Best early bet for Atlanta | See who it is
– Make your pick: Better bet – Chase Briscoe or Tyler Reddick? | Compare and choose
– Going all the way: NASCAR betting: 2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here
Before we get a taste of the new Atlanta Motor Speedway, take a look back at the track’s storied history.
– Pace out front: Top 10 lap leaders at Atlanta Motor Speedway | Who’s led the most?
– Remember when: Memorable NASCAR moments at Atlanta Motor Speedway | Pick a favorite
– Earned, not given: All-time winners at Atlanta Motor Speedway | See who tops the list
– Repaved and ready: Atlanta Motor Speedway’s track reprofile journey | Transformation photos
– Memory lane: Ryan Blaney passes Kyle Larson down the stretch to win | 2021 race recap
Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.
– The last time Atlanta Motor Speedway was repaved was 1997.
– Kevin Harvick led the most laps in six of the last nine Atlanta races, but only went on to win twice.
– In the last three Atlanta races, the final green flag stretch has been 90 or more laps.
– Ford’s only 1.5-mile track win in the last 11 races came when Ryan Blaney won in March 2021.
– Eight of the last nine Atlanta winners got their first win of the season.
Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.
– “I think if you think about where NASCAR is, the momentum we had in ’20 and ’21, but for those of you who have been at the race track in ’22, there’s a new sense of energy and enthusiasm to the sport that the sport hasn’t had in a long, long time, as evidenced by what happened at the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. The centerpiece of that wasn’t just that amazing venue, it was the Next Gen car. If you think about the racing we’ve seen with the Next Gen car in these five races, there’s something special that’s happening here. We are, as a sport, trying to look at things that are unique and different, puts us apart. I think that’s exactly what we’re doing. That’s what this opportunity is.” — NASCAR President Steve Phelps on the start to the season and new opportunities to grow the sport.
– “I think the goal has been to try and find some fall off everywhere we’ve gone, and I think Goodyear has done a really good job of that at a lot of places. With new asphalt at Atlanta and speeds as high as they are and loads as high as they are, I don’t know what kind of box that puts them in. I would say that we ran through a bunch of different compounds, but I don’t know that we got a good read on what we’d expect for fall off or where the grip would go. I would say that bigger thing that came up across the three drivers that were there was not so much sliding tires as much as chattering. New asphalt, when it gives up, it goes to a chatter more than a slide and just trying to hang on.” — Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford, on tackling the unknowns at Atlanta this weekend.
– “We are heading to Atlanta blind with the new car and new track surface, none of our notes will apply. It is an intermediate track that is going to race like a superspeedway. We are going to go there and put our Daytona and Talladega hat on and see if we can make it to the end. The Toyota group has some notes from the test to look at so we’ll be using that a lot. The first practice will be interesting to see the grip level of the race track, especially with all three series there throughout the weekend.” — Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, on balancing expectations for Atlanta.