HAMPTON, GA- The second race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is upon us. On Sunday, 37 drivers will take to the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Here’s everything you need to know all in one place.
Radio – PRN
Green Flag – 2:16 p.m. ET
Distance – 325 Laps/500.5 Miles
Stage Lengths – 85/85/155
Track – Atlanta Motor Speedway
New Rules Package
No one still knows what to expect for Sunday’s race. This year’s race in Atlanta will be nothing like the previous 111 run on the 1.54-mile Georgia race track. See, we have a tapered spacer which reduces the horsepower (750 to 550). We also have a bigger spoiler which increases drag which as a result, also allows for cars behind to draft up closer to the ones in front.
Will this create for closer racing on Sunday?
That’s still TBD.
Clean air is going to be key as one thing we’ve learned this weekend is that one car is still faster than two cars in a draft at Atlanta.
Conserving your tires is still one of the biggest keys in Atlanta. Despite all the changes made this offseason to the car, the aged surface is still very abrasive on the Goodyear tires.
At most tracks, Goodyear has said that they don’t see a ton of tire fall off coming. While the fall off isn’t as big as in years past, it’s still there.
Big Names Coming From The Back
Between them, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick have combined to win three of the last six Cup races in Atlanta, including two in-a-row. On Sunday, they’ll have to make their ways forward from the back.
Busch, originally qualified sixth but he crashed his primary car in final practice. He’ll now start last in 37th. Harvick, has struggled all weekend, dealing with a steering issue on Friday. He qualified 18th as a result of that. He wasn’t any quicker in practice on Saturday.
Keselowski, qualified 19th but is under the weather. He missed nearly all of final practice on Saturday due to flu like symptoms. Austin Cindric is on standby for him on Sunday.
The Penske cars in general aren’t up to par. They’re flat out but obviously don’t have the speed compared to everyone else. Ryan Blaney (26th) and Joey Logano (27th) didn’t even make it out of the first round of qualifying.
In final practice, they were seventh (Logano), 12th (Blaney) and 28th (Keselowski).
Harvick, has led 100 or more laps in six of his last seven Atlanta starts, I don’t see that happening again on Sunday now.
This opens the door for others.
Numbers Not On Harvick’s Side
Only 11 drivers have ever won back-to-back races in Atlanta before. It’s only happened once since 2008. That doesn’t bode well for Harvick. Plus, 78-percent of the races have been won by a driver that started in the top 10. Harvick’s 18th starting position has only won one time in Atlanta too. That gives him just a 0.9-percent chance.
I don’t like his odds.
Hamlin’s Odds Aren’t Likely To Win Either
Since the Daytona 500 became the first race of the Cup season in 1981, only twice has the winner gone on to win the second race of the year too. Matt Kenseth did so in 2009 and Jeff Gordon in 1997.
Hamlin, ended his winless streak last weekend in Daytona but those odds aren’t on his side this Sunday though either. Hamlin, won the 2016 Daytona 500 but finished 16th in Atlanta. He has two top 10 finishes in Atlanta since 2013. He qualified fourth but was only 26th in final practice.
1st Time Winner Not Likely
Out of the 111 Cup races in Atlanta, just seven times has a driver that won the race won their first Cup win in general. While it’s happened three times this century (2000, 2001, 2005) it hasn’t happened more than that since 1967.
Michael McDowell has been strong this weekend in qualifying 12th and being fourth fastest in final practice, his odds because of this stat isn’t good.
Daniel Hemric, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Corey LaJoie and Daniel Suarez fall under this too.
Can Drivers End Winless Droughts?
Hamlin ended a 47 race winless streak last weekend in Daytona. Can someone else do so on Sunday?
Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won in 60 races but he’s been good so far this weekend. He qualified 11th. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has two wins in the last four years in Atlanta to go with five wins overall, four runner-ups and 14 top five finishes.
Kyle Larson hasn’t won in 47 races but qualified seventh. He looks to have a really good race car this weekend too.
Austin Dillon hasn’t won in 36 starts but was third in both practices and will start 10th on Sunday.
Clint Bowyer hasn’t won in 22 races but was fastest in both practice sessions this weekend, quickest in the first two rounds of qualifying on Friday afternoon and will start third.
Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t won in 18 races but has four straight top seven finishes in Atlanta and six in his last seven starts to go along with qualifying ninth. He was also sixth and 10th respectively in practice.
A few of those guys above would be a surprise but there are a few more that could be too. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified second and has two top 13 finishes in his last three Atlanta starts.
McDowell is strong too. What about Kurt Busch? His betting odds are long but Busch will start eighth and was fourth and sixth respectively in practice. He also is a former winner (2009, 2010) and has three straight top eight finishes in Atlanta. Furthermore, Busch has never finished worse than 13th since 2010.
Kurt and Kyle Busch will make milestone starts. Kurt will be making his 650th start becoming just the 23rd driver to ever do so. Kyle, will become the 41st driver to make 500 or more starts.
Kurt could also move up the win ranks too. If he wins, Busch will tie Denny Hamlin for 25th on the all-time wins list.
If Hamlin wins, he will tie Fireball Roberts for 23rd on the all time wins list.
Those aren’t the only two.
If Kevin Harvick wins, he will tie Buck Baker for 16th on the all-time wins list. Finally, if Johnson wins, he will tie Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the all time wins list.
Who Stands Out After All Of This?
It appears that Larson, Kurt Busch, Truex, Bowyer and Dillon are the ones to win when taking all these factors in. Will that happen?