NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Quaker State 400 track trends, favorites, sleepers, fades

TRACK: Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-Mile, Dogleg Oval) 260 Laps (400 Miles). Stage 1: 80 Laps, Stage 2: 80 Laps, Stage 3: 100 Laps

Sunday will mark the 117th race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series. This is one of the most historic tracks on the schedule with a lot of rich history. Atlanta though, was also a popular track on the schedule due to the aged surface. See, when the track was reconfigured for 1997 and beyond, they also repaved it then. That was also the last time that the asphalt has been replaced. That stat made it the third oldest surface in NASCAR trailing only Dover (1995) and Fontana (1996). Now though, a repave and partial reconfiguration will make this race a brand new ball game. In fact, the spring race looked more like Daytona and Talladega than Atlanta of old.

Some key trends are as follows.

  • Ford has won every Cup race in Atlanta with the exception of one since 2017 and this past spring.
  • Don’t look for much out of the Toyota camp. They’ve won just twice in the Peachtree state and have failed to reach victory lane there since 2014.
  • Since stages began, the race winner scored stage points in every stage minus 1 race (2019). Last year, the eventual race winner finished in the top three in each stage. In fact, since 2017, the winner finished in the top 5 in 5 of the 6 Stage 1’s including 4 in the top 3 to go along with the top 7 in 5 of the 6 Stage 2’s.
  • The final green flag run to the checkered has been at least 43 laps in 4 of the last 5 races including 101 and 90 laps respectively last year and 108 laps in 2020. This past spring was only 13 laps to the finish.

TRACK COMPARISONS

Prior to the repave, this wasn’t your typical 1.5-mile either. It has a dogleg on the front stretch to make it most similar to the Texas Motor Speedway as well as the Charlotte Motor Speedway. But, while it may look similar to those two, it’s hard to compare in the sense that Texas had been repaved and the first and second corners vary from Atlanta.

That made maybe Charlotte the closest comparison in terms of shape but Darlington, Homestead and Fontana were the most closest in comparison in terms of how to setup the car to combat the aged surface. Fontana and Atlanta had two of the oldest racing surfaces in the sport today and Homestead is always abrasive on tries. That’s why for Atlanta, you had to compare this track to tracks with old surfaces and not other 1.5-milers.

In turn, it created a bumpy and aged track that produced high tire wear and multiple lanes to race in. Because of that, Atlanta had become one of the drivers’ favorite tracks to compete on.

Now, that’s all out the window. The repave and racing package makes this closely resembling Daytona/Talladega instead.

The track was supposed to go through a repave a few years ago, but due to the drivers’ input, they decided to patch some of the cracks and holes instead of fully repave it. They had no choice this time around.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 20: William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 20, 2022 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Quaker State 400 favorites

Chase Elliott

He’s never won on his hometrack but his teammate won back in the spring and Elliott has 3 top 10’s in as many races on superspeedway’s this season and has a pair of top 2 results in each of the last 2 weeks too.

Ryan Blaney

He was fourth in 2020, won this race in 2021 and fifth in the July race last year. Also, Blaney is as good as anyone now on superspeedway’s, so if this race runs like Daytona/Talladega again, you’ll be happy to snatch him up.

Denny Hamlin

He has three top fives in his last six in Atlanta as well as arguably being the top superspeedway racer in the game today. Combine all together and you get a potential race winner for these odds.

Kyle Busch

While he was 33rd back in March, he was 6th and 3rd respectively on the other 2 Superspeewday races this season. Busch, was runner-up in this very race last year too.

Ross Chastain

Kurt Busch won in this car last year while Chastain has finished 2nd here in March and won at Talladega a month later.

Sleepers

Kevin Harvick

At one point Atlanta was his playground but he’s since cooled. However, Harvick has been smart and there at the end of speedway races over the last couple of years and he’s no stranger to victory lane in Atltant too.

Kurt Busch

He is a former winner (2009, 2010, 2021) including this very race last year. While the package has changed, he still was 3rd back in March. Busch, has 7 top eight finishes in his last 8 starts on the track and won on another 1.5-mile track at Kansas back in May.

Daniel Suarez

He was 4th this spring so why not.

Michael McDowell

Won last year’s Daytona 500 and has 2 top 8 finishes in 3 superspeedway races run this season.

Bubba Wallace

He should have finished at the very minimal 2nd back in March, the same spot he finished in for last August’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 as well as this past year’s Daytona 500. He won at Talladega last Fall too.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 11: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 11, 2021 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Who To Fade?

Kyle Larson

Now that this race shifted to a speedway type of racing package, that negates Kyle Larson’s advantage. Larson has never won a superspeedway race and has just 1 top 5 in 32 starts on them at that. He was 30th back in March.

William Byron

He may have led 111 laps in his March win, but the last time someone swept both Atlanta races occurred back in 2007. Also, Byron has just 1 top 10 in his last 10 starts on the season with his last top five coming in his Martinsville win in April.

Alex Bowman

He has 2 top 10’s in 3 superspeedway races run this season but just 1 top 5 in 27 career starts on these types of tracks too.

Joey Logano

His last 5 Atlanta starts have seen him finish 23rd, 10th, 15th, 19th and 9th respectively. He was 21st (Daytona) and 32nd (Talladega) in the other 2 speedway races run this season.

Martin Truex Jr.

He’s 0-for-25 in Atlanta and while he does have 11 top 10’s since 2012 (12 starts) to go along with four top fives in his last six, this race will run like a superspeedway and those are arguably Truex’s worst tracks.

Aric Almirola

Only 2 top 10’s in 13 tries including 9 of which being 15th or worse.

Quaker State 400 preview

This race should look a lot like the one of the spring which featured action like Daytona and Talladega. Which is why with all the uncertainty we saw for the spring race, we have more data to base this weekend off of.

We’ve seen 3 superspeedway races run this season with 3 different drivers winning from 3 different teams. Austin Cindric (Team Penske) won the Daytona 500. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports) won here in March while Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Racing) won at Talladega in April.

That certainly opens the door.

William Byron (stats above) isn’t primed to be the 1st driver in well over a decade to sweep the Atlanta races. His teammates have all struggled on speedway tracks while Chase Elliott has never won on his hometrack before while Kyle Larson has 1 top 5 in 32 superspeedway starts. Team Penske was 9-17-32 this past spring themselves.

Does it open the door to Joe Gibbs Racing? They only went 8-23-29-33 here in March and features Martin Truex Jr. who’s 0-for-25 in Atlanta.

That’s why this could be a new team race. Trackhouse Racing (2nd, 4th in March) and 23XI Racing (3rd, 13th but Wallace was 2nd at the white flag and crashed) have my attention.

Quaker State 400 key stat

The Ford’s have won all but 2 Atlanta races since 2017. 1 of which though wasn’t in March. In saying that, Ford’s still have in my opinion the top speedway package. They went 1-2-3-4-5 in all four Daytona 500 practices, 1-2-3 (Duel 1), 1-2-3-4 (Duel 2) and 3 cars in the top 5 for the ‘500 itself.

However, Chevrolet is 2-for-3 on speedway tracks this season while Toyota hasn’t won on this track in any of the last 10 tries.

Live In Race Betting Trend To Watch

Since stages began, the race winner scored stage points in every stage minus 1 race (2019). In March, William Byron won the 1st stage and was 9th in the 2nd one. Last year, the eventual race winner finished in the top three in each stage. In fact, since 2017, the winner finished in the top 5 in 6 of the 7 Stage 1’s including 5 in the top 3 to go along with the top 7 in 5 of the 7 Stage 2’s.

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