A return to normalcy for the NASCAR Cup Series has been welcomed with open arms by some and others are wondering when chaos will return. The short answer is that chaos will probably return next week with NASCAR’s first dirt race since 1970. Before we get to that point, we have another standard-issue oval to check out.
That is the 1.54-mile loop at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is another one of those straightforward races, much like what we’ve seen the last three weeks at Homestead-Miami, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. The race winners at those stops have been William Byron, Kyle Larson, and Martin Truex Jr.
All seems right in the world when Truex wins a race, though it was his first on the slightly-more-than-a-mile loop in the desert. In that respect, we’re still looking for what we’re used to seeing in NASCAR. Just as it seems to be showing up, we’ll have a dirt race and short tracks before Talladega.
But, that is precisely what makes this NASCAR season fun. We’ll try to make it even more enjoyable for you here by picking out the winner and some props for Atlanta.
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Harvick The Favorite?
Has Kevin Harvick done anything this season to warrant being the favorite this week? Not really, but his performances at Atlanta are the reason why. Harvick has led 1,212 laps over the last 10 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In that span, he has two wins, five top-five finishes, and nine top-10 finishes. His average finish in the last 10 races is 6.3rd place.
The only driver to come close to that in the last 10 is Kurt Busch, who has only been involved in nine of them, but has four top-five finishes and seven top-10 results. His average finish is a nice 6.9th place in that span. The difference is that Harvick is +550 with a lot more of a reputation overall and Kurt is all the way down at +2200.
Martin Truex Jr. won last week at Phoenix and is priced here at +600, with Kyle Larson at +650, and then Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano priced at +700, +800, and +900, respectively. Price hunting is hard to do with 1.5-mile races.
A Sense of Urgency?
As mentioned in the intro, we’ve got a dirt race next week at Bristol, which will be a total crapshoot. Short track racing at Martinsville and Richmond comes next. Then Talladega, where we all know what can happen. The middle of the NASCAR calendar features road courses and new tracks and a lot of variety.
Five playoff spots are already claimed based on race winners, though we are on pace for 26 different race winners right now. The top 16 drivers get into the playoffs, either via a victory or points. This is only the sixth race of the season and a lot can happen going forward, but you have to think that guys like Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick are really feeling the heat.
Sure, they can win just about anywhere, but the longer ovals are their best chances at victories and there are a much smaller number of those races this year. Maybe you want to consider that in these 1+ mile races moving forward and factor that into your handicapping.
Awesome at Atlanta
Harvick has been the gold standard here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, at least over the last 10 races. His 1,212 laps led are more than the next nine drivers combined in that span. Joey Logano is second with 195, for what it’s worth. Logano hasn’t won in that span, with just two top-five finishes and five top 10s.
The others with wins are Brad Keselowski with two, Denny Hamlin with one, and Kyle Busch with one. The others belong to drivers that have since retired. Martin Truex Jr. is tied with Harvick with five top-five finishes, but he does not have a win in that span. Kurt, Keselowski, and Hamlin each have four.
Chase Elliott only has five starts here, but has averaged a top-10 finish.
Brad Keselowski seems to have the best value price of the short prices at +700. Keselowski has had a terrific car this season and has won two of the last four races at Atlanta. This is the first year that Atlanta will host two races since 2010. I’d expect Keselowski to win one of them, so why not look him up here.
The long shot is Kurt Busch at +2200. A top-three finish for Busch is +550 and as more odds get posted from DraftKings this week for prop betting, Kurt should be a good option in matchups and group action over guys like Christopher Bell, William Byron, and maybe even Ryan Blaney, though Ford has done really well here lately.
You could talk me into Joey Logano again. I was on Logano last week and he was second, led the most laps, and won Stage 2. He’s been right there. This track isn’t as strong for him as others. I have him circled for Talladega in about a month.
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will be overshadowed by March Madness, but you can check it out on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on Fox.