The last race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was in early June of 2020. The Cup Series usually competes at this high tire-wear track early in the season but the race was postponed until June because of the pandemic. The racing was pretty good with 22 lead changes and 8 drivers leading laps. There were only two cautions for wrecks (John H. Nemecheck spun out on lap 96 and Michael McDowell spun out on lap 203). Overall, it was a good race with a familiar name in Victory Lane. Kevin Harvick won for the third time at Atlanta.
Race Rewind Atlanta: Folds of Honor 500 (2020)
– The 10 drivers who looked the best in the race: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch
Stage / Race Results
|Stage 1||Stage 2||
|1. Martin Truex Jr.||1. Martin Truex Jr.||1. Kevin Harvick|
|2. Kyle Busch||2. Ryan Blaney||2. Kyle Busch|
|3. Clint Bowyer||3. Kyle Busch||3. Martin Truex Jr.|
|4. Denny Hamlin||4. Denny Hamlin||4. Ryan Blaney|
|5. Kevin Harvick||5. Chase Elliott||5. Denny Hamlin|
|6. Chase Elliott||6. Kevin Harvick||6. Kurt Busch|
|7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||7. Matt DiBenedetto||7. Jimmie Johnson|
|8. Erik Jones||8. Brad Keselowski||8. Chase Elliott|
|9. Jimmie Johnson||9. Clint Bowyer||9. Brad Keselowski|
|10. Ryan Blaney||10. Jimmie Johnson||10. Joey Logano|
– Martin Truex Jr. entered the race at Atlanta having never won a Stage at the track. That all changed in 2020. Truex had the second-best car in the race (behind Kevin Harvick). Truex started 11th and immediately went to the front. The No. 19 car won Stage 1, won Stage 2, led 65 laps (second most) and had a 2.51 average running position (series-best). He could not find the speed to catch the No. 4 car in the final 100 laps though. Truex finished 3rd. Truex is scheduled to return to the Xfinity Series this week and run the No. 54 car for Joe Gibbs Racing. This extra track time should help him Sunday.
– Kyle Busch was just as good as his teammate (Martin Truex Jr.) in the race. Rowdy started 4th and spent the entire race in the top 5. Busch finished 2nd in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, led 7 laps, had a 3.68 average running position (3rd best) and finished 2nd. Busch has finished 2nd, 6th and 7th in his last 3 trips to Atlanta. He is one of the best drivers in the field at managing his tires over the long run.
– Denny Hamlin has been good but not great at Atlanta in his career. The track ranks as his 23rd best track (out of 25 tracks on the schedule). He entered the race at Atlanta with a 21.4 average finishing position in his previous 4 races at the track. Joe Gibbs Racing brought a fast fleet of cars to the track last year and it allowed Hamlin to have one of his best races at the track. Hamlin started 5th, finished 4th in both Stages, had 6.36 average running position (5th best) and finished 5th. He looked good at Homestead and Las Vegas, so Hamlin should be fast Sunday.
– Christopher Bell had a lot of success at Atlanta in the Xfinity Series (He won the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta in 2019), but his success did not translate to success in the Cup Series race. Bell started 27th because his season got off to a rough start and he was one of the last drivers to draw for a starting position. Bell did not score any Stage points and finished 18th in the race. He did score 9 place differential points, so that is a positive for his fantasy value this week. Bell should have more speed in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
– Brad Keselowski has a history of running well at Atlanta. His 3.25 average finishing position in the last 4 races at Atlanta is a series-best. He was good but not great last year. Keselowski started 6th and it took the No. 2 car a long time to find speed. Keselowski did not score any Stage points in Stage 1, finished 8th in Stage 2, led 5 laps, had a 9.85 average running position (9th best) and finished 9th in the race. Keselowski finished 9th, 1st, 2nd and 1st in his last 4 races at Atlanta so last year’s finish could have been a fluke.
– Joey Logano has only been “OK” at Atlanta in his career. The track ranks as his 15th-best track (out of 25 on the schedule). Logano started 3rd, did not score any Stage points, was able to lead 10 laps, had a 12.47 average running position (11th best) and finished 10th. Logano has finished 10th, 23rd, 6th and 6th in his last 4 races at Atlanta. He should finish in the top-10, but the No. 22 team is going to need to find a lot more speed to compete for the win.
– Ryan Blaney entered the race at Atlanta without ever finishing in the top 10 at the track. His average finishing position at Atlanta before last year’s race was 19.25. Blaney had by far his best race at the track in 2020. Blaney started 7th, finished 10th in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, led 2 laps, had a 9.07 average running position (8th best) and finished 4th in the race. He said after the race that crew chief Todd Gordon gave him the best car he has ever had at Atlanta.
– Matt DiBenedetto has not had any luck at Atlanta in his career. The track ranks as his second-worst on the schedule. His average finishing position at Atlanta is 27.8. DiBenedetto started 21st and scored 4 Stage points last year. He was running 13th with 2 laps to go when DiBenedetto had a tire go down. He had to come to the pits and it caused the No. 21 car to finish 25th. His car was a lot faster than the results suggest.
– Kevin Harvick is by far the best driver at Atlanta. When people refer to the fastest way around the track as “Harvicking”, you know you are good. Harvick has won 2 of the last 3 races at Atlanta and has averaged 158 laps led in his last 7 races at Atlanta…Outstanding! Harvick started 9th, finished 5th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2, led a race-high 151 laps, had a 3.2 average running position (2nd best) and went to Victory Lane. He should be the favorite to win again this week.
– Chase Briscoe did not compete in the Cup Series race at Atlanta last year. He did finish 9th in the Xfinity Series race. The track actually ranks as his 4th worst in the Xfinity Series. He should have a fast car though. Briscoe will be driving the No. 14 car this week. Clint Bowyer had some of his best races in the No. 14 car at Atlanta. Briscoe should get a lot of information from Kevin Harvick this week to help him run in the top 20.
– Aric Almirola is good at starting up front at Atlanta but he is not very good at finishing up front at the track. Almirola has started the last 2 races at Atlanta on the front row. His average finishing position at the track is only 17.3. Last year Almirola started 2nd and fell back in the field early in the race. Almirola did not score any Stage points, had a 17.12 average running position (17th best) and finished 17th. That is not good when you start the race with the best track position.
– Cole Custer finished 2nd in the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta in 2019. That success did not translate into a strong run in the Cup Series race last year. Custer got a poor draw to start the race and it put the No. 41 car in a hole. Custer started 31st, did not score any Stage points, had a 21.91 average running position (23rd best) and he finished 19th. The good news for fantasy players is that Custer scored 12 place differential points.
– Chase Elliott has made it known that winning at his home track is very high on his bucket list. He keeps improving at the track so it is just a matter of time before he finds his way to Victory Lane and they ring the siren in Dawsonville, Georgia. Last year Elliott started on the pole, led 26 laps to start the race, finished 6th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2, had a 6.19 average running position (4th best) and finished 8th in the race. The No. 9 car should compete with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. for the win Sunday.
– Kyle Larson did not compete in the Cup Series race at Atlanta last year because he was suspended from NASCAR. The track ranks as his 5th best on the schedule. That should not surprise anyone though because Larson is one of the best in the field at searching the track for grip. His average finishing position in his last 3 races at Atlanta is 7.6. He will be driving for the team that helped Jimmie Johnson finish 7th in this race last year. Larson won at Las Vegas this year and I would not be surprised if he added another win to his 2021 resume Sunday.
– William Byron finished 17th and 18th in his first 2 races at Atlanta. He did not have any luck in the race last year. Byron started 20th, did not score any Stage points, had problems with his tires going flat (he was probably overdriving the car and wearing out the tires). He had a 35.8 average running and finished 33rd. Not very good.
– Alex Bowman has a history of running well at tracks were tire management is very important (see his results at Chicagoland Speedway and Auto Club Speedway). Bowman had a good but not great race at Atlanta last year. He started 8th, did not score any Stage points, had an 11.98 average running position (10th best) and finished 12th. It was his 2nd consecutive top-15 finish at Atlanta. Bowman finished 9th at Homestead this year so that speed should translate into a top-10 finish Sunday.
– Kurt Busch has a history of running well at Atlanta. He has not finished outside the top 8 at Atlanta since 2014. Busch got off to a rough start at Atlanta last year. The No. 1 car failed inspection 3 times so Busch had to serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. This caused Busch to start the race a lap down. It took him a while to gain track position. Busch did not score any Stage points but he had one of the fastest cars at the end of the race. Busch finished 6th despite starting a lap down. Just think what he could have done if Busch would have started from his original position (6th).
– Ross Chastain did not compete in the Cup Series race at Atlanta last year. His “drive it 110% on every lap” attitude does not translate into success at a track where managing tire wear is the name of the game. Chastain has a 19th place average finishing position in his 6 Xfinity Series races at Atlanta. It is hard to imagine he will be much better in the Cup Series. Chastain will be driving the No. 42 car this week. Matt Kenseth finished 15th in this car at Atlanta last year and Kenseth is one of the best at managing tires. It is hard to imagine Chastain can out-perform Kenseth.
– Ryan Newman used to be really good at Atlanta but he has only been “OK” at the track in his recent races. Newman has driven the No. 6 car for Roush Fenway Racing in the last 2 races at Atlanta. He started 13th and finished 13th in 2019. Last year Newman started 17th, did not score any Stage points, had a 19.79 average running position (21st best), but used fresh tires at the end of the race to finish 14th.
– Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has been decent at Atlanta in his career. The track ranks as his 3rd-best on the schedule. Stenhouse has a 14th-place average finishing position at Atlanta since 2015 (Not bad for him). Last year Stenhouse started 22nd, finished 7th in Stage 1, had a 14th-place average running position (13th best) and finished 13th. This is not a bad race to use Stenhouse in DFS and in season-long games.
– Chris Buescher has not been very good at Atlanta. His average finishing position at the track is 21.6. Last year Buescher started 13th and quickly fell back in the field. He did not score any Stage points, had a 22.37 average running position (24th best) and finished 22nd. Buescher will only have value in DFS if he starts deep in the field.
– Austin Dillon had his best ever finish at Atlanta last year. Richard Childress Racing found some speed in 2020 so many of the races for Dillon was his career best. Dillon started 16th, did not score any Stage points, had a 17.8 average running position (18th best) and finished 11th. Dillon should have a good chance to finish in the top 15 again this week.
– Tyler Reddick had a good race for a rookie at Atlanta. Reddick started 24th. He did not score any Stage points or lead any laps but Reddick had a 15.24 average running position (15th best) and finished 16th. Reddick is a quick learner so he should be able to finish inside the top 15 this week.
– Erik Jones entered the race at Atlanta with finishes of 7th, 11th and 14th in his first 3 races at the track. Jones had a lot of problems at the track last year. The No. 20 had a problem with his throttle sticking. They spent a lot of time in the pits trying to fix the problem. Once they had that problem taken care of, Jones had a flat tire at the end of Stage 2. He finished the race in 28th position. He will be driving the No. 43 car this week. Bubba Wallace finished 21st in this car at Atlanta last year.
– Bubba Wallace has never finished inside the top 20 at Atlanta. It will be interesting to see how he can run with Joe Gibbs Racing affiliated equipment this week. Wallace started 23rd, did not score any Stage points, had a 21.01 average running position (22nd best) and finished 21st last year at Atlanta.
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