NASCAR DFS: Atlanta
The era of stage racing has officially begun, and the trend continues this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, our second race of the season. We got maybe a few too many wreck at Daytona, but after some initial hesitance, stage racing has received a mostly positive response.
Race: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
Laps: 325, split into two stages of 85 laps each and a final stages of 155 laps
Venue: Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54 miles)
Hotlanta is known for its high speeds, though restrictor plates are not required. The speeds are mostly thanks to a 1997 renovating project. Atlanta has had interesting spots in NASCAR history. From 1997-2001, it served as the season finale, before it was later moved to a Labor Day Weekend spot. Now the follow-up to the Daytona 500, the race will have a lot to live up to following last week’s exciting finish.
Three to Start
Kyle Busch (Starting 3rd)-Right now, Kurt probably has Busch brother bragging rights, having earned a last lap victory in the Daytona 500 last week. Since 2015, Kyle has the best average finish at intermediate tracks, an excellent 7.7, starting when you consider how many intermediate courses are on the circuit (meaning an oval that is more than one mile long, but less than two). Over his past four Atlanta races, Kyle has finish in at least the top six three times. He also has two wins, the last coming in 2013. Last season, Kyle gained 36 spots from the start, finish 3rd despite starting in the final row.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Starting 12th)-Another victim of one of Daytona's many wrecks, it was a bit of a rude welcome back for Junior. Little E, however has had tremendous success at Atlanta, despite not winning at the track since 2004. What's perhaps most impressive about Earnhardt's recent treks in Hotlanta is the fact that Earnhardt has completed ever single lap, last failing to complete the entire race back in 2007, and that was only due to a late race accident. If Junior is looking to officially signal his return to the track, what better place to do than Atlanta?
Jimmie Johnson (Starting 18th)-Don't let the mediocre starting position fool you. Johnson has taken the past couple of Atlanta races, from starting spots of 37th and 19th, leading just under 22 percent of all laps in the past pair. It's one of several reasons Johnson has a record-tying seven titles under his belt, Johnson can get back on track in earning an eighth this week. Involved in one of the many wrecks at Daytona, Johnson finished a dismal 34th.
Three to Park
Brad Keselowski (Starting 5th)-Back-to-back 9th places finishes notwithstanding, Keselowski has had trouble at Atlanta. His first race at the course was marred by a run-in with Carl Edwards, in which he flipped over in a tough wreck. Overall, Keselowski has just one top five finish at the track in eight starts, and only four top 20 results. If anyone's happy to see Atlanta lose its second date, it's him.
Kyle Larson (Starting 8th)-Larson got off to a good start at Atlanta, finishing 8th in his first event in 2014. However, his past two trips have brought him nothing but trouble, tallying equal finishes of 26th, failing to finish on the lead lap in races he was never really competitive. His Gannasi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray isn't much better at AMS, posting just four Top 10's in 23 races.
Clint Bowyer (Starting 25th)-Back to running in elite equipment, taking over Tony Stewart's spot in the #14 car, it was nice see to Bowyer running with the big boys again at Daytona, even if he, again, became a victim of the Mad Max style racing. However, no matter what car he has driven, Atlanta has annually been a struggle for him. Over his past six Atlanta visits, Bowyer's best finish has been 24th, and he has failed to finish on the lead lap in that same stretch.
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