Did you know that there have already been 20 points races during the NASCAR Cup Series season? It seems like the year is just flying by as we get ready for the 21st race of the season on Sunday July 11.
We’re used to talking about the Quaker State 400 this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, but it will actually be held at Atlanta Motor Speedway this year instead. Kentucky lost its race and Atlanta picked it up, so there will be two stops at Atlanta for the first time since 2010.
Odds are posted at FanDuel Sportsbook for the Quaker State 400 and we’ll use those as a guide for this preview and take some positions at the end of the article for Sunday’s 260-lap feature in GA.
Quaker State 400 Betting Odds
Kyle Larson came into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with something to prove. He was suspended and lost his sponsorships after uttering a racial slur during an iRacing broadcast while the COVID-19 pandemic led to a stoppage of live racing. Larson latched on with Hendrick Motorsports this season and had six wins in 223 career races.
Well, Larson has won 20% of the races this season with four wins in 20 tries, plus he won $1 million in the All-Star Race for good measure. He is the +270 favorite to pick up his fifth win this weekend.
Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin are both +850 and Kyle Busch is +900 as we return to a more traditional racing format on the 1.54-mile quad-oval in Hampton, GA.
The fact that we are back on an oval track makes it rather interesting that drivers like Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. are +1000, that Brad Keselowski is +1200, that Kevin Harvick and Alex Bowman are +1400, that William Byron is +1700, and that Ryan Blaney, who won at Atlanta back in March, is +1900.
There seems to be some good betting value this week if you can pick the right driver.
All About Atlanta Motor Speedway
After running twice at Pocono, acclimating to new tracks at Road America, Circuit of the Americas, and Nashville, and also running at Sonoma recently, there are a lot of drivers that have to be excited about going back to a regular oval track.
Atlanta isn’t your standard, flat oval, though, as high-banked turns have led to a lot of cautions and a lot of mechanical programs. Most of the drivers that have a lot of starts here also have a lot of finishes in which they were not on the lead lap at the end.
This is a 1.54-mile quad-oval with 24-degree banking in the turns, which is pretty high for this sort of track.
Who has run well at Atlanta? The usual suspects that have done well in recent years are the guys that have pretty good career numbers here, but we’ve only had one race per year here over the last decade.
Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch are tied for the most wins with three, but are also among the guys that have the most starts. As the course and the cars have changed, we’re better off looking at what has happened more recently, especially with one race per year.
If we look at the last 10 races, we see a couple of wins for Brad Keselowski, who also has eight top-10 finishes. In his 13 races, he has eight lead-lap finishes, so he’s been a factor in all eight of those. As mentioned above, this track winds up with a lot more cautions than a regular oval, leading to more variance across the board.
That being said, Harvick still has more laps led here in the last 10 races than the next five guys combined with 1,212. It is hard to bet Harvick at any price with the season that he is having, but this has been one of his best tracks outside of Phoenix.
Harvick’s five top-five finishes are tied with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. within the last 10 starts. Kyle Busch has four and is the only other driver, alongside Harvick and Truex, to have averaged a top-10 finish here in the last 10 years.
Quaker State 400 Picks & Best Bets
Kevin Harvick being +1400 says all you need to know about the season that he is having and it might even be wise to fade him in matchups this week. Brad Keselowski is +1200 and the top pick on the card for me, as he’s run well here and has to be happy to get back to an oval track.
William Byron at +1700 is a major mispricing. While Byron doesn’t have the history here, he also has a better team now and has 12 top-10 finishes on oval tracks this season. He’s struggled a bit on road courses, but has done extremely well on ovals.
Keselowski and Byron are the straight up picks to win, but they also look like they will have some good matchup prices when FanDuel posts those closer to the weekend.