Sunday will mark the 118th race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Cup Series there. 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 once again make this race a brand new ball game. In fact, the spring race and summer race looked more like Daytona and Talladega than Atlanta of old.
Some key trends are as follows.
- 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. They’re 2-for-the-last-17 in Talladega and 1 for the last 8 at Daytona.
- The final green flag run to the checkered had been at least 43 laps in 3 of the last 4 races entering last season including 101 and 90 laps respectively in 2021 and 108 laps in 2020. Last past spring, it was only 13 laps to the finish with last summer being overtime finishes.
- This race was shortened from 500 miles to 400 miles which could look more like the summer race than the spring.
- Hendrick Motorsports swept both races last year.
- Chevrolet is 4-for-4 in race wins this season and 7-for-8 in stage wins. They also won both Atlanta races last year, both Talladega races as well as the summer Daytona race for five straight drafting track victories.
- Since stages began, the race winner scored stage points in every stage minus 1 race (2019). In 2021, 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 8 in 6 of the 7 Stage 2’s.
- Chase Elliott swept both stages in his July race win last season. William Byron won the first stage of the spring race and was ninth in Stage 2.
William Byron (+1000)
Byron is going for the turkey this weekend. He’s won in each of the last two weeks and did so in overtime finishes. It just so happens that Byron won last year’s spring race here after leading 111 laps in the process. He’s not finished worse than second in any of the last four stages on the season either. Why not roll in his direction again? Hendrick Motorsports swept Atlanta last year and with Chase Elliott out and Kyle Larson struggling on these types of tracks, Byron could pick up the baton and take it to his third victory of the 2023 season.
Ross Chastain (+1200)
Kurt Busch won here in this car in 2021 while Chastain was runner-up in both Atlanta races in 2022. With Chevrolet being the preferred manufacturer here last season and Trackhouse being among the top teams in that camp, this is a no brainer pick for Sunday’s race. Chastain also won on a drafting track at Talladega last spring too and is off to a great start to the 2023 season.
Ryan Blaney (+1200)
Blaney made a statement last weekend in his runner-up finish at Phoenix. He had to. Kyle Petty called Blaney out heading into last weekend’s race and while Blaney failed to lead a lap, he did finish second. Now, it’s to Atlanta to where he was fourth in 2020, won this race in 2021 and fifth in the July race of 2021. He was also 17th and 5th respectively in the pair of Atlanta races 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.
Brad Keselowski (+1800)
12th and 18th a year ago but a vastly improved car this time around and on a drafting style track that Keselowski has 7 career wins on these types of races.
Bubba Wallace (+2000)
Was in the top two across the white flag last spring and 14th in the summer race. Wallace is at his best on these drafting tracks and while he has Toyota power, I wouldn’t count him out.
Alex Bowman (+2000)
While he was only 10th and 32nd respectively here last year, Bowman also nabbed a top 5 in the season opening Daytona 500 and with Hendrick winning both races in Atlanta last season, why not for these odds? He’s the current points leader on the efforts of being the only driver to have a Top-10 finish in all four races run this season.
Daniel Suarez (+2500)
He was 4th and 6th respectively a year ago in Atlanta while also finishing in the top 10 this past February at Daytona. He’s had a Top-10 in three of the first four weeks this season.
Chris Buescher (+2500)
Had a top 10 last spring (7th) and driving a car capable of pulling an upset. He was in the top 10 this past February for the Daytona 500.
Austin Cindric (+3000)
While he was 32nd in this very race last spring, he backed that up with a third place result last summer too. Cindric was also 1st and 3rd respectively in a pair of Daytona starts in 2022 and 9th in the Fall Talladega race as well.
Erik Jones (+3000)
Was 14th last spring but an impressive 4th last summer.
Justin Haley (+5000)
11th and 7th were his pair of finishes last year. 5 of Haley’s 8 career NASCAR wins have come on superspeedway’s. So watch out here.
Corey LaJoie (+5000)
Was in the top five for much of the final stage of this race last year and was 5th in this very race last spring too. He’s off to a better start this time around. Can LaJoie pull off the upset?
Josh Berry (+5000)
Was runner-up here last July and taking over a car that also won the Cup race last July too. Berry enters on the heels of a Top-10 finish last weekend as well.
Kyle Larson (+1000)
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 36 starts on them at that. He was 30th and 13th last year.
Kyle Busch (+1200)
While he was 33rd back in March of last year and 20th in the spring race. However, he’s with RCR now. Reddick though was only 28th and 29th respectively here in this very car in 2022.
Joey Logano (+1200)
His last 6 Atlanta starts have seen him finish 23rd, 10th, 15th, 19th, 9th and 26th respectively. His last three finishes on the season are: 10th, 36th and 11th respectively too.
Denny Hamlin (+1200)
Toyota has struggled in Atlanta and Hamlin was only 29th and 25th respectively in his pair of Atlanta starts a year ago. Three of his four finishes this season have been 11th or worse too.
Christopher Bell (+1200)
Why not here? Well let me tell you. Bell, was third and first respectively on this very race track in his two Xfinity Series starts on it. He won the Truck Series race in 2017 too to go along with being eighth here last July. That’s all great. However, he has no top fives in Atlanta in Cup action with being 23rd and 19th here last season.
Tyler Reddick (+1800)
No top 25’s in this race last year and a crash at Daytona this year gives me pause to take him on Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. (+2000)
He’s 0-for-26 in Atlanta and while he does have 11 top 10’s since 2012 (13 starts) to go along with four top fives in his last seven, this race will run like a superspeedway and those are arguably Truex’s worst tracks. Like Hamlin, three of his four finishes this year were 11th or worse.
Kevin Harvick (+2500)
Was only 21st and 12th here a year ago. This used to be his playground, but since this new configuration, Harvick could struggle once again.
Aric Almirola (+2500)
Only 3 top 10’s in 14 tries including 9 of which being 15th or worse.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+3000)
While the Daytona win is nice, being 31st in both races last year isn’t.
Chase Briscoe (+3500)
Only 15th and 16th here last year.
Austin Dillon (+4000)
Finished 35th in both races a season ago…