We’re one race into the season following the Daytona 500, onto the first of the “intermediate” tracks which make up a good portion of the schedule. Tomorrow’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 takes place at Atlanta, down to one date each year. They’ve settled into a permanent “Spring” Week 2 placement after formerly being slotted in Week 4 and Week 33 on the calendar for years, and most recently in a “Fall” Week 25 race. Here’s what to look for this time around:
–Kyle Busch won the Pole on Friday, starting 1st on Sunday. He came home 16th last year, which is a little bit worse than his average finish on the 1.5-miler. He’ll try to better that number this time around. Rowdy’s last win here was 2015, and 3 of his last 5 attempts have yielded a trio of Top 6’s.
–Ryan Newman narrowly missed setting the record for career Poles at this track..again. He’s tied with NASCAR 2018 Hall of Fame nominee Buddy Baker (7), and came up just short in qualifying. He’ll start 2nd, after another 2nd last year, for his 12th front-row effort at this track. He had a string of 6 straight Poles from Spring 2003 to Fall 2005. Newman’s finishes as of late have left a little to be desired, but the effects of clean air up front can’t be discounted. His Friday speed carried into Saturday’s “Happy Hour” (Final Practice session); top of the chart for the “Rocket Man.”
–Brad Keselowski won last year after starting 5th, and he starts 5th this year as well. Unlike the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt,” when in NASCAR, familiarity breeds consistency.
-No, Bill Elliott hasn’t come out of retirement, but his son Chase Elliott is back at his home track of Atlanta, now driving the #9 car. NASCAR is pretty superstitious with a myriad of things (unlucky green cars, for example, among others), but the cozy feeling of a special number has a confidence-boosting effect, like a worn-in pair of sneakers. Chase had an exceptional effort last year, finishing 5th; he rolls off 27th tomorrow and has some work to do. After a pile of 2nd place finishes through his first two full seasons, he’s yet to score a victory in a Cup points race. This would be — without question — the most meaningful place for him to get off the schneid.
–Austin Dillon, last week’s winner in a thrilling Daytona 500 finish, will start deep in the field, 25th. “A humbling sport,” as mentioned during Friday’s Qualifying session; finish 1st one week, start in the rear the next. Defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. didn’t even make it through inspection and will roll off 35th as a result. The ebb and flow of auto racing, in living color.
Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 1:00pm, green flag scheduled for 1:16pm.