HAMPTON, GA – After one round of practice and three rounds of qualifying on Friday from the Atlanta Motor Speedway, one thing still shows – Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is wide open.
The drivers still don’t know what to expect. No one was able to do any group running on Friday as they found that running around the 1.54-mile Georgia race track is still quicker by yourself than it is with a drafting partner.
See, this year’s aero package was supposed to add downforce, which in turn allows for more time on the throttle. They also took away horsepower (750 to 550) which also allowed the cars to slow down more.
The pole speed was down over 3 mph from 184.652 to 181.473 mph.
With the track being so abrasive on the Goodyear tires still, drivers said that they lost time as the laps went on, but not as much as last year. So, that likely means clean air up front will be key.
The middle of the pack will be crazy, so will the restarts. Bu, it appears that up front will be more difficult to pass because of the clean air.
In saying that, most of the normal heavy hitters will start mid pack on back. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski have combined to win the last two Cup races in Atlanta but will start 18th and 19th respectively.
Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano will roll off 26th and 27th respectively.
Combined, they have three of the top four odds to win according to most oddsmakers.
Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are also favorites but they’ll start seventh and 22nd respectively.
So, who are the favorites to win now then?
78.4-percent of the race winners have come from a top 10 starting spot.
Harvick’s 18th place starting spot has only won once. That’s 0.9-percent odds. Keselowski’s 19th starting spot has won twice, or 1.8-percent of the time. Blaney or Logano’s starting spots have never won. Elliott’s 22nd starting spot as won once, so he has the same odds 0.9%) as Harvick.
This has a chance to be a big pay day.
Kevin Harvick (+450)
I’m not ready to give up on him yet. I know the odds are stacked against him but he’s led 101 or more laps in six of his last seven Atlanta starts. He won last year and was runner-up in 2017. If they can get his car steering right, the speed will be there. Just look at his teammates who start 1-3-5.
You can’t overlook him.
Kyle Busch (+550)
He’s a former winner (2013) and has four top seven finishes in his last six starts in Atlanta. He also finished runner-up last week in Daytona too. While he crashed in final practice and as a result will have to go to a backup car and start last, he still was eighth and second in the two practice sessions and initially qualified sixth.
Martin Truex Jr. (+850)
He’s going to be quiet here but don’t overlook him. He has four straight top eight finishes in Atlanta and six in his last seven starts on the Georgia track overall. He even qualified 9th too. He was also sixth and 10th respectively in practice.
Clint Bowyer (+1600)
He has struggled at Atlanta in the past but this is a new package. Bowyer, was fastest in both practice sessions as well as the first two rounds of qualifying. He starts third on Sunday.
Kurt Busch (+2000)
He too is a former winner (2009, 2010) and has had a ton of success lately in Atlanta. Busch, has three straight top eight finishes on the track and seven in his last nine starts. His worst finish since 2010 in Atlanta is 13th. He will start eighth on Sunday in his No. 1 Chevrolet. Furthermore, he was fourth and sixth respectively in practice this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson (+2000)
He has five career Atlanta wins, four runner-ups, 14 top five finishes and 16 top 10’s. His average finishing position is second among active drivers. He won back-to-back races in Atlanta in 2015 and 2016. Don’t count him out, especially given these odds.
Aric Almirola (+2500)
While he has one career top 10 finish in Atlanta, he starts on the pole and has a fast car. With a new restricted air flow package, this could suit Almirola. He’s always at his best on plate tracks. Why not?
Austin Dillon (+5000)
Again, why not? Dillon, was fast in practice (3rd in both sessions) and will roll off 10th in his No. 3 Chevrolet. He’s had past success in Atlanta in the XFINITY Series and most say this package is most similar to that.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+6600)
He starts second. He has a fast race car and is good in drafting package races. Last week at Daytona, he was +1400. That’s because of the package. Atlanta, has a similar package. Now, his odds are +6600). His front row qualifying spot says enough. Plus, Stenhouse has finishes of 10th, 13th and 16th respectively his last three years on the old package in Atlanta.
Michael McDowell (+12500)
He finished fifth last weekend in Daytona. He was fourth fastest in final practice. He will start 12th. Need I say more?