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July 7, 2023

What to Watch: 2023 Atlanta night race

Joey Logano does a burnout after his win at Atlanta.
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
(⏰ Sunday, 7 p.m. ET | 📺 USA, NBC Sports App | 📻 PRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Illinois, the 19th points-paying race of the 2023 Cup Series campaign.

Weekend schedule | TV schedule | Weather tracker | Atlanta 101

📍 Location: Hampton, Georgia
📐 Track length: 1.54 miles
🎟️ Buy tickets: Find weekend passes, seats for the race
💰 Cup Series race purse: $7,449,067
📏 Race distance: 400 miles | 260 laps
🔢 Stages: 60 | 160 | 260

🚪 Entry list: Cup Series drivers entered
📋 Starting lineup: Aric Almirola lands Busch Light Pole
🚗 Pit stall assignments:
Where drivers will pit on Sunday
🏆 Most recent winner: Joey Logano, spring 2022

Key things to watch 🔑

Saturday’s session

Fords dominate qualifying on Saturday. Led by an exceptional effort from Aric Almirola, Ford drivers swept the first three rows on the grid, anchored by Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick. Harvick is set to make his final start at the venue where he earned his iconic first Cup Series victory in 2001. Breaking up the Ford focus was Ty Gibbs in seventh and Kyle Larson in eighth, each in two very different scenarios heading into this weekend. Gibbs is still searching for his first career win while Larson aims for his third of the season — and to shake his misfortune on superspeedways. With no practice on the docket, a short session was implemented after qualifying for drivers and teams to get familiar with the new pit-road procedures going into effect on Sunday. | Read the full lineup, qualifying recap

Big story line

It’s time to make a playoff push. And no, that’s not a drafting pun. Drivers still needing a win to secure their ticket to the NASCAR Playoffs are simply running out of time. Sunday’s race at Atlanta is the first in a key seven-race stretch before the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway – and we know, you don’t want to have that pressure at one of the most difficult and unpredictable tracks on the circuit. While the new superspeedway-style revamping of Atlanta, with loads of passing and on-track action, makes it seem like a wild-card race, history suggests the opposite. In the three races since the reconfiguration and repave, the driver who has led the most laps has won all three times. So qualifying and early success in Stage 1 could be another key indicator of which driver will come out on top. But expect the underdogs to be hungrier than ever. | Check out the current playoff outlook

History tells us…

Chase Elliott will be a factor. Georgia native Elliott won at Atlanta last July and finished top seven in his other start on the new configuration (missed March 2023 due to broken leg). The Hendrick Motorsports driver has also won two of the last six races on drafting tracks, making him the only repeat winner in the last 14 races on the track type. Elliott and the No. 9 team head into Georgia on a scorching streak of three consecutive top-five finishes. Still on the outside looking in from a playoff perspective, their points surge up the standings has been exceptional. But expect them to be fully focused to punch their ticket this weekend with their first trip to Victory Lane this season.

He may not be the betting favorite to win, but watch out for…

Corey LaJoie. The Spire Motorsports driver has had incredible success on the new layout, with two top-five finishes and one finish of 21st tainted by an unfortunate wreck while racing for the win on the final lap last season. Building on his success here in March, resulting in a fourth-place finish, LaJoie should be in the mix to capitalize on a rare opportunity for him to reach Victory Lane. And despite his track record, he sits mid-pack with 35-1 opening odds, according to DraftKings — a reasonable pickup for fantasy and if you’re looking to claim your stake on a driver lower on the board. If you’re not convinced LaJoie is your man, take a look at Austin Hill. Hill is a back-to-back Atlanta winner in the Xfinity Series and has a chance to complete the trifecta on Saturday before strapping into the Cup Series car on Sunday. His opening line is 55-1.

Thank You, Fans ❤️

NASCAR is launching a new national campaign called “Thank You, Fans,” celebrating the millions of NASCAR’s dedicated followers.

Familiar favorites ⭐️

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

– Paint Scheme Preview: New designs for Atlanta and Mid-Ohio races | Pick a favorite
– Power Rankings: Joey Logano aiming to sweep the races at Atlanta | Latest driver rankings
– Fantasy Fastlane:
Can Corey LaJoie finally find his breakthrough win? | Best plays, Fantasy Live advice
– Betting odds: Favorites, long shots to win on Sunday | Top bets, underdog picks
– Stacking Pennies:
Looking back at Chicago and a massive win for SVG | Listen to the podcast

💎 NASCAR 75: Learn more about the history of the sport, from pioneers to current stars | Visit NASCAR 75 hub

Hot off the press 📰

Key stories and breaking news from the week leading up to the race.

– Pit-road procedures: NASCAR alters rules, speed limits for Sunday | Read more
– Safety updates:
New updates to Next Gen structure set to debut | Read more
– New-look Cindric:
Austin Cindric shifting to glasses Sunday night at Atlanta | Read more
– Chase Elliott:
Confidence in team, momentum growing with solid finishes | Read more
– Playoff bubble:
As weeks wind down, standings come into focus | Read more
– James Small on Chicago winner SVG:
‘An incredible, natural talent’ | Read more
– Dale Jr.:
Hall of Famer sets another Xfinity date at Homestead | Read more
– New sponsor:
Relay Payments signs on with No. 24, William Byron | Read more
– Untold Stories:
Cale Yarborough’s engine noises | Learn the story
NASCAR announces new partnership with Gen.G | Read more
– Daytona 500:
Tickets on sale for 2024 race | More info, buy tickets
– Trackhouse:
Big win for Project 91 highlights organization’s innovation | Read more
– Inside the Race:
Dissecting the Lap 49 pileup at Chicago | Watch the video

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy and Fan Rewards.

– Fantasy Live: Participate in interactive gameplay from week to week | Choose your lineup
– Fan Rewards: New in 2023, get rewarded for your participation | Learn more
– NASCAR BetCenter: Don’t miss your chance to make picks each week | Visit the BetCenter
– Going the distance:
2023 Cup Series championship odds | See them here
– The Action Network: Early betting favorites for Sunday’s race | Expert analysis

Georgia on my mind 🍑

From Richard Petty’s final start to both Elliotts finding Victory Lane, there’s plenty of incredible racing history in the Peach State.

– Party of two: Fraternity of Georgia-born winners at Atlanta is a small one | Read more
– Winner, winner:
All-time wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway | See the list
– Do you remember?:
Memorable moments at Atlanta | Relive them here
– Race Rewind:
Last-lap pass sends Logano to Victory Lane | Watch the highlights

Take some notes 📝

Five hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

This is the first time there will not be a scheduled 500-mile race at Atlanta in a season.
The driver leading the most laps won all three races at Atlanta since the reconfiguration.
Corey LaJoie and Ross Chastain are the only drivers with two top-five finishes at the “new” Atlanta.
Toyota is the only winless manufacturer on drafting tracks in the Next Gen era.
Ford drivers led 221 of the 260 laps at Atlanta in March, with Logano winning the race.

🔮 Advance to Victory Lane: Racing Insights projects Sunday’s finishing order