By Cody Smith
Another week, another first-time winner in the Cup Series as Chase Briscoe earned his first ever win, becoming the 200th different driver to earn a Cup Series victory in the sport’s history. Briscoe joins Austin Cindric as first-time winners in the 2022 season.
Though the race as a whole wasn’t incredibly exciting, it was interesting to see three drivers that had never won before finish top-3 in the race. Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, and Tyler Reddick came home 1-2-3 and have shown promise in this young season. I expect Reddick to win at some point this season for sure, and I hope Chastain can too. The more different winners we get in the regular season, the more exciting things get during playoff crunch time later in the season.
Moving forward to Atlanta, I’m not going to have much to say because it can all be summed up into one word. Unknown.
In the offseason, Atlanta Motor Speedway repaved and reconfigured the track. Though the track remains the same relative shape, fresh asphalt and increased banking in the corners made the track incredibly fast and a bit too dangerous for they typical Cup Series mile and a half package.
NASCAR decided to use the superspeedway package typically seen at Daytona and Talladega for safety and to see if superspeedway racing can actually be replicated at a smaller track where handling and car control are typically what it takes to win.
So, will we see true pack racing or tandem drafts? Will the racing just look like a normal mile and a half track, just slower? I don’t think anyone really knows at the moment and neither do I. If I had to take a guess from what happened in testing – where only three cars took the track at the same time – I would expect it to look more like a true superspeedway race with pack racing on a narrower surface. Back in offseason testing cars picked up a full second worth of speed while drafting compared to driving around the track by themselves.
Unfortunately, this turn of events gives us absolutely no data to use as far as making picks for who may be good and who may struggle. Since I believe the track will race like a superspeedway, I’m going to use superspeedway data to put my predictions together. Let’s see if it pays off.
This weekend’s race – The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 – is a 500-mile (325 lap) race around the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Atlanta will be run twice this season and was run twice last season. Prior to that it had been run once per year, so there are four races worth of recent data to use since 2019. If you believe this newly paved surface will race like it has in the past – which I highly advise against – the guys to look for that have had recent success include Ryan Blaney and Kurt Busch who picked up victories at the track last season. Other recent winners include Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, but once again I highly doubt this track and the racing we’ll see this weekend is going to mirror the old Atlanta in any way. Read below to see who I like and don’t like this week.
Drivers I Like
Ryan Blaney (DK price: $10,700)
Blaney has had fast cars all season no matter the style of racetrack. He’s also an accomplished superspeedway racer, having picked up two career victories at Talladega as well as one at Daytona last season. He starts on the front row, so he may pick up some of those crucial lap-led points in DraftKings scoring this week. He’s hot right now and I feel like a win is right around the corner for YRB.
Joey Logano ($9,900)
Logano has perhaps been the most consistent driver this season based off the current Cup Series points standings. Despite not winning a race, Logano currently leads the points standings. Logano hasn’t won at a superspeedway in any of his last 13 attempts, but he has led the second-most laps among active drivers in that span (307). Logano does have four superspeedway wins throughout his career.
Brad Keselowski ($8,600)
Keselowski was a little bit of a wrecking ball a few weeks ago at Daytona, but his Ford Mustang was fast all weekend. Keselowski won his duel race and led 67 laps in the Daytona 500. Prior to this season’s 500, Keselowski has earned seven superspeedway victories, most among all active drivers. He has struggled since Daytona but returning to another “superspeedway” may be just what Brad needs for his newly minted RFK Racing team.
Bubba Wallace ($7,300)
Wallace has been incredible lately at superspeedways. He finished second in this season’s Daytona 500 and won the previous superspeedway race at Talladega last season. He always seems to run up front and lead a bunch of laps. Wallace has led 59 laps in 18 career superspeedway races. His career average finish of 15.61 on superspeedways is third best among active drivers, and best among drivers who have run more than five superspeedway races. I’m expecting Bubba to be fast this weekend.
Michael McDowell ($6,600)
McDowell is back in play this weekend as we head to a superspeedway event. The 2021 Daytona 500 winner has 10 top-20 finishes in his last 13 superspeedway races. He’ll start from the 29th position this week, so the opportunity to improve on his starting position is certainly there. McDowell finished second in his duel race at Daytona and seventh in the 2022 Daytona 500. He knows how to stay out of trouble and come away with solid finishes.
Drivers I’m Avoiding
Chase Elliott ($10,300)
Elliott makes my avoid list for the second week in a row due to his less-than-ideal superspeedway track record. Though he has won at Talladega, Chase has failed to finish seven of his 25 career superspeedway races. Elliott starts sixth this week, making it hard to earn and place differential points in DraftKings scoring. With everyone else in this range possessing more upside, Chase is the guy I’m fading this week.
Tyler Reddick ($9,000)
Reddick makes his return after proving me wrong last week, but superspeedways are not his cup of team. In 10 career superspeedway races, Reddick has carded just three top-10s while failing to finish 50 percent of the time, carding five DNFs. He’s been fast this season but finished 35th in the Daytona 500. He has struggled to stay out of trouble and I’m banking on that happening again.
Ross Chastain ($8,000)
Another driver that has been hot lately, Chastain’s superspeedway record is not very impressive. In 11 career races, Chastain holds an average finish of 21.18 and starts seventh this week. Chastain only has two top-10s in superspeedway races and three DNFs. Chastain’s aggressive driving style typically doesn’t mix well with superspeedway style racing, and it has shown in his past results. Chastain finished dead last in this year’s Daytona 500 after getting involved in a crash. I’m looking elsewhere this week.
Christopher Bell ($7,700)
Bell’s streak of spinning out in a race was extended to four straight to start the season last week. He seems to be struggling to get a grip on the new car so far as he finds himself mired back in 30th in the point standings. His luck may not turn around this week as we potentially head to a superspeedway style race. In nine career superspeedway races, Bell has crashed out four times and has an average finish of 22.89. He has just one top-10 finish in those nine races. The only upside for Bell this week is that he starts back in 27th position.
Daniel Suarez ($6,800)
Suarez has gotten better at superspeedway racing lately, but his numbers are still not impressive. With seven DNFs in 12 career tries, he crashes out nearly three quarters of the time. He did finish the Daytona 500 but ended up an unimpressive 18th. His average finish at superspeedways is 27.00 and he starts 13th this weekend. His best finish ever at a superspeedway is 12th, meaning he has never finished in the top-10 in 12 tries. I’m out on Suarez this week.
($50,000 budget, 6 driver lineup)
We just missed the money last week thanks to Martin Truex Jr. and his late-race accident. A flat tire that sent him into the wall and ended his day ended my day as well. Had he continued running, my lineup likely could have at least gotten its entry fee back, but things didn’t quite work out. We had two drivers that ended up in the perfect lineup in Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott, just need to do a better job picking the lower valued drivers.
Last week: 221.85 pts.
1. Chase Elliott ($10,700): 68.70 pts.
2. Martin Truex Jr. ($9,800): -9.00 pts.
3. Ryan Blaney ($9,600): 96.15 pts.
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,000): 22.00 pts.
5. Cole Custer ($6,200): 36.00 pts.
6. Harrison Burton ($5,700): 8.00 pts.
Remaining Budget: $1000
Last week’s perfect lineup: 422.45 pts.
1. Ryan Blaney ($9,600): 96.15 pts.
2. Chase Briscoe ($6,900) 93.25 pts.
3. Chase Elliott ($10,700): 68.70 pts.
4. Ross Chastain ($8,100): 64.65 pts.
5. Chris Buescher ($6,700): 50.00 pts.
6. Daniel Suarez ($6,600): 49.00 pts.
Remaining Budget: $1400
I thought we had a solid chance to win some money this week, but I probably should have put a little more down on Harvick’s top-10 finish. After wagering 11 units, we only won back 9.2 thanks to Harvick’s top-10 and Ryan Blaney out-pacing William Byron. When Kurt Busch finished fifth I thought he had a good chance to have won Group D, but unfortunately he was paired against Chase Briscoe and Ross Chastain who finished first and second.
Brad Keselowski to win (+2000, 0.5 units)
Bubba Wallace to win (+2000, 0.5 units)
Denny Hamlin Top-5 (+150, 1 unit)
Justin Haley Top-10 (+280, 1 unit)
DK Featured Matchup: Ryan Blaney over Kyle Larson (-115, 2 units)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. over Christopher Bell (-115, 2 units)
Denny Hamlin Top-10 (-230, 5 units)
One and Done
*Rules for One and Done: Each driver can only be picked one time over the course of the season, unless you pick the race winner, then that driver can be picked again. Driver’s finishing position is the number of “points” you score each week. Goal: Finish with as few points as possible. Feel free to play along!
Ty Dillon took care of business coming home with a 15th-place finish. I was hoping for a top-20 and Dillon delivered, remaining on the lead lap throughout the race and finishing even better than his prior average at Phoenix. Dillon ran a quiet race and stayed out of trouble all day. Exactly what you need when you’re picking someone that doesn’t really have much of a chance to win.
This week: David Ragan
This race is a huge unknown, so I’m using part-timer David Ragan. If this race is anything like a superspeedway race like some folks are saying it will be, Ragan presents some nice upside. Ragan has two top-10 finishes in his last seven superspeedway races including an eighth-place finish in this year’s Daytona 500. His ceiling is high, but his floor is also low in a Rick Ware Racing car. I’m hoping for a top-20 but won’t be shocked if he’s not in the top-30.
Race Driver Finish
Daytona 500 Greg Biffle 36th
Auto Club Kyle Busch 14th
Las Vegas Daniel Hemric 22nd
Phoenix Ty Dillon 15th