The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is off and running and taking shape with its own headlines. Whether it’s Jeff Gordon’s farewell tour, domestic violence in the sport, driver safety, stolen race cars, or the qualifying fiascoes, the 2015 is quickly creating its own identity just two weeks into the eleven-month racing season.
This week, we’re at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a race that was moved from the end of August/early September to the number two slot in the series schedule. The never-ending winter this year may have it’s way with the scheduling of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Sunday, however, with a 50 percent chance of rain and temperatures expected to be in the mid 40’s on Sunday. As the most recent winter weather system moves across the Midwest and into the Southeast, the teams have more to compete with than just the weather this weekend in Atlanta, like thieves, and passing inspection.
Before we get into the weekend at Atlanta, I promised to recap the week prior, so here goes. Kevin Harvick was my top point-earner last week after starting 11th and finishing second – not leading any laps. David Ragan moved up eleven spots from 41st, finishing 17th in the Great American Race, netting me 38 points, and Paul Menard dropped four spots, finishing 25th and netting me 19 points towards my quest for the championship. The other two drivers on my roster last week, had engine trouble, and were caught up in an accident, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth finishing 41st and 35th, respectively. I sit seventh in my 14-team group and 37,008th among all Fox Sports Fantasy Auto players.
Its the first time since 2010 the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits the Atlanta Motor Speedway in the “springtime”, but the past two spring races at Atlanta have produced green-white-checker finishes. Lets also not forget that two of the eight closest finishes in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history have taken place at Atlanta Motor Speedway, both of which happened in the spring race at the 1.5-mile quad-oval. One of the most famous finishes in NASCAR history took place in 2001 when Kevin Harvick edged out Jeff Gordon by 0.006 seconds on March 11, just three races into his Sprint Cup career. So much history at this track, and with some of the favorites starting at the rear of the field, we’re in for some excitement this weekend. Without further ado, here is my roster for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500:
1. Kevin Harvick – $12,900 – 6/1 odds
This is a simple pick for me. Nearly a quarter of the 107 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway have been won from the first two starting spots, and with Harvick’s 2014 performance on 1.5 mile tracks (two wins, both in the last 10 races of the season), Harvick is well worth the price tag this week.
2. Carl Edwards – $9,400 – 10/1 odds
Three wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10’s, and a Driver Rating of 100.1 (third best) is the story here. Add in the fact he’s starting fifth and over half of the races at Atlanta have been won from a top-five starting position, a back flip this weekend seems more likely than not.
3. Kasey Kahne – $9,300 – 12/1 odds
Kahne won in August of last year at Atlanta, his third win since 2005 at the track. In 18 starts, he’s got nine top 10s at the track and sits aboard a Hendrick Motorsports machine which qualified 10th on Friday.
4. Sam Hornish Jr. – $5,000 – 100/1 odds
A value pick here, primarily because of his qualifying efforts this week. He’ll roll off eighth on Sunday, and considering nearly 80 percent of the races at Atlanta Motor Speedway have been won from a starting spot inside the top-10, this value pick may be more generous than you think.
5. Jimmie Johnson – $10,500 – 7/1 odds
It isn’t often that I consider Jimmie Johnson a dark horse or longshot pick, but due to the fiasco in the inspection line prior to qualifying on Friday, Johnson didn’t make it to the racing surface, and will start the race Sunday according to the rulebook. Unfortunately for Johnson, the rulebook may take the back seat to the stats book this week because just seven of the 107 races run at Atlanta Motor Speedway have been won from outside the top 20 starting spots. I won’t be wagering on Johnson this week because of the enormous stats against his starting position, but due to the position differential scoring on Fox Sports, Johnson has the potential to pick up a ton of spots, and in turn, a ton of points.
That’ll do it for this week, so until we head west, You Stay Classy NASCAR Nation!