The Cup Series will travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway this week. This is typically one of the easiest races to predict because the drivers are either really good at searching the track for grip and saving their tires over the long run or they are not. I hope it is easy to predict this year because the Driver Group Game picks have sucked (Thanks Kyle Busch). We really need a bounce-back race this week and I promise that I will work hard to get this sinking ship afloat (Thanks to those of you who decide to stick with me).
Stats for Atlanta
Before I get into the picks for Atlanta, I want to post some stats to help you determine which drivers will be the best for your teams. We have the two races using the 550 HP aero package on the 1.5-mile tracks this year (Homestead and Las Vegas) to use data from and the race last year at Atlanta. Here are the driver’s finishing positions in each race and how many Stage points they scored (sorted by average finishing position from all three races combined)
Here are my picks for the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Your pick for Group A comes down to a choice between Kevin Harvick or Martin Turex Jr. These two drivers are easily the best picks this week and it will be tough for any other drivers to dominate the race Sunday.
Group A Pick: Martin Truex Jr. will be my pick for a couple of reason. I need to gain some ground in my league standings and I cannot do that if I pick the same driver as everyone else. I know Kevin Harvick is going to be the most popular pick, but should he be? The No. 19 car has had a lot more speed than the No. 4 car this year. Last year Truex won both Stages, led 65 laps and finished 3rd in the race. His average finishing position in the current aero package at Atlanta is 3rd. Truex starts up front, will have a premium pit stall and a lot of practice time since he is running the Xfinity Series race Sunday. I will roll the dice with the No. 19 car Sunday.
Other Good Picks include: Kevin Harvick is the safest pick Sunday. He has a 2nd-place average finishing position at Atlanta in the current aero package. He has also led at least 115 laps in 6 of the last 7 races at Atlanta and Harvick has won 4 of the 8 Stages. The No. 4 car is the best pick on paper, but I like what I’ve seen from Joe Gibbs Racing this season and I need to be a bit contrarian with my picks. If you want to play it safe, use Harvick.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Martin Truex Jr. 2) Kevin Harvick 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Denny Hamlin 5) Chase Elliott 6) Ryan Blaney 7) Joey Logano
Driver Group Game B Picks
Group B Pick: Kyle Larson will be my pick for Group B. I had him scheduled for Group B last week but the No. 5 car failed inspection so I took Larson out of my lineup. That backfired, but at least I have an extra allocation with him. Larson is very good at searching the track for grip and saving his tires over the long runs. He did not compete in this race last year because he was suspended. Larson led a race-high 142 laps, won Stage 1, finished 2nd in Stage 2, but had a bad pit-stop and finished 12th in 2019 at Atlanta. That was in a Chip Ganassi Chevy. Larson should be able to smoke the field again this week in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.
Group B Pick: Kurt Busch needs to be one of your Group B picks this week. Atlanta is by far his best track. The No. 1 team failed inspection three times last year and Busch had to serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. Busch went two laps down and he rallied back to led a lap and finish 6th in the race. His average finishing position at Atlanta in the current aero package is 4.6. Busch has not finished outside the top-8 at Atlanta since 2014. That is a lot of consistency at this track.
Other Good Picks: Kyle Busch “should” be one of the best picks this week, but he “should” have been one of the best picks last week too. I am done with Rowdy for a while, but I cannot say he needs to be faded completely. Busch has finished 2nd, 6th and 7th in the current aero package at Atlanta. He is one of the best drivers in the field at managing his tires over the long run. Busch starts deep in the field, but Rowdy should have no problem making his way to the front Sunday.
Allocation Save: Christopher Bell has really improved this year in his new car for Joe Gibbs Racing. Bell finished 7th at Homestead and 9th at Las Vegas. Atlanta Motor Speedway races like a dirt track because the grooves come and go throughout the race, causing the drivers to search for grip. Bell will have a fast car and he has the talent to keep it in the top 10 Sunday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Larson 2) Kurt Busch 3) Kyle Busch 4) Christopher Bell 5) Alex Bowman 6) William Byron 7) Austin Dillon 8) Chris Buescher 9) Ryan Newman 10) Tyler Reddick
Driver Group Game C Picks
Group C Pick: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be my Group C pick this week. His top-three tracks are Talladega, Chicagoland and Atlanta. Since the Cup Series no longer competes in Chicago; Atlanta is now his best non-Superspeedway track. Stenhouse has some momentum after finishing 13th at Homestead, 11th at Las Vegas and 12th at Phoenix. He is a dirt track racer who is very good at searching the track for grip. Stenhouse has a 15th-place average finishing position at Atlanta in the current aero package. He is having one of his best seasons, so I expect Stenhouse to finish around the top-10 Sunday.
Other Good Picks: Austin Cindric will be driving the No. 33 car for Team Penske this week. Cindric will get 163 laps of practice to figure out how the tires wear in the Xfinity Series race Saturday and that should help him Sunday. If you are worried about allocation, Cindric is a good driver to use so you can save an allocation with your other Group C Drivers.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2) Austin Cindric 3) Ross Chastain 4) Chase Briscoe 5) Daniel Suarez
Driver Group Game Team
Good luck this week!
*Stats from Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Pro
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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