Matty’s Picks 2013 – Race 25 Advocare 500 – Atlanta Motor Speedway – September 1, 2013

This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to a fast, wide track this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with the two twins in the series to Atlanta being Charlotte and Texas with the familiar 24 degrees of banking in the corners and 5 degrees on the straightaway’s.

It is fast, but it’s really known for producing some of the closest finishes in NASCAR History, including that first career win for Kevin Harvick over Jeff Gordon just a couple weeks after Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001. That famous finish, 0.006 of a second margin of victory between the two Chevy’s.

The Advocare 500 is a long race, 325 laps totaling 501 miles and there have been 105 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta since the first race there in 1960 so a ton of data to pull from this week to make my picks.

As far as qualifying goes this week, for once we’re not looking at the pole as being the most proficient starting position like most other circuits we visit each year. Believe it or not the 5th starting position has produced more Atlanta winners than any other starting position spot at 15 race-winners all-time starting from that 5th spot.

26 of the 105 races all-time have been won from the front row, 60 of the 105 have been won from the top 5 starting spots, and 83 of the 105 races ever at Atlanta Motor Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position. Making a good lap yesterday in qualifying is very important, even more so recently with 19 of the last 20 races, the last 16 in a row, have been won from the top 11 starting spots.


Atlanta Picks

On Thursday when I previewed Sunday’s Advocare 500 with Greg on the Prime Sports Network, my picks were spread among 6 drivers, but have now been pared down to a winner pick and a dark horse based on the results of qualifying. A few guys I had picked to take home the crown on Sunday night could not put it all together Friday evening to start in those coveted top 10 starting spots, so I’ve scratched them off the list.
Two-time Atlanta winner and seven-time winner on the three twins (Atlanta, Charlotte, and Texas), Kasey Kahne split my number two spot on Thursday with the 2001 Spring Atlanta winner mentioned previously, Kevin Harvick. Well, both of which have qualified outside the top-10 spots, Kahne in 18th and Harvick in 30th so I’ve scratched those guys off my list this week.

As for my 4th pick, Brian Vickers, he came out and qualified 22nd so again, can’t go with him this week.

That leaves 3 guys from my preview Thursday with Greg that I still like for wins this week at Atlanta.


Winner Pick

This is a pick which I felt confident in on Thursday and solidified my confidence in him by qualifying 10th on Friday. Jimmie Johnson was the last guy to sweep the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta in 2007 which notched his second and third wins at the Hampton, Ga racetrack. It is really tough to not like Jimmie’s numbers at Atlanta because he leads the series in Average finish at 11.0, Average Running Position, Driver Rating at 108.3, Average Green Flag Speed, and Laps inside the top 15, so that’s 4 of the 6 loop categories, the other two, Fastest Laps and Quality Passes, Johnson second in both.

Here are my thoughts on Jimmie Johnson’s mentality going into this weekend’s Advocare 500. Matt Kenseth won last week at Bristol, so now Jimmie Johnson is not the top dog in the Chase anymore, so he’s got something to shoot for. I can’t go against the outstanding numbers this week, I have to go with Jimmie as my Winner and Top pick this week.


Dark Horse Pick

I had a few guys on Thursday who would have qualified as Dark Horses to win on Sunday. We’ve thrown Vickers out, so that still leaves two more picks which I consider solid sleeper picks this week.

The first is the guy sitting on the pole this weekend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He won the Nationwide series race here last season and finished 3rd in his rookie Nationwide season in 2011. He has never raced at Atlanta in the Cup series so not much to go off except what he’s done at Texas and Charlotte so far this season. He finished 40th at Texas so we’ll throw that out, but in Speedweeks in Charlotte, he finished 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Showdown, qualifying for the All-Star race and hung around the big boys for a 16th place finish. In the longest race of the year, Stenhouse managed to stay out of trouble and finish 14th after starting 30th, so I like that he’s put his Ford on the front row for tomorrow night’s race.

The other guy I had penciled in for a Dark Horse win was Martin Truex Jr., broken wrist and all. Truex has managed to qualify his Toyota in 7th, a solid spot considering last year’s race-winner started from the 7th position.

Truex has gotten progressively better since his first 2 starts at Atlanta where he finished 40th and 37th and the last 3 races have shown a bit of hope for Truex at Atlanta as he was 4th last season after starting 28th.

What I like about Truex this week is that he’s finished 9th or better in all the Intermediate Tri-Ovals this season, (including Kansas and Las Vegas) most notably his runner up finish he had at Texas back in April when he led 142 laps. Truex is showing a bit more promise not only at Atlanta recently but this year on the tri-ovals, he is going to split my Dark Horse pick this week with Rick Stenhouse Jr.

That’s all for this week, and be sure to stay tuned the next couple weeks as we roll on to the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, so until we head to the last regular-season race of the year…..You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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