The NASCAR Cup Series continues on today as it visits Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Ambetter Health 400. This 1.54 mile intermediate track is arguably the most unique oval on the schedule, with its 28 degrees of banking in the corners causing the track to race more like a superspeedway than a traditional intermediate track. Last year’s edition was won by William Byron, who led 111 laps and held off Ross Chastain, Kurt Busch, and Daniel Suarez on a late race restart to pick up the victory.
Driver to Fade:
2023 has not been very kind to rookie Noah Gragson, as he has had 4 straight finishes outside the top 20 to start off the season. Gragson has not had much speed so far racing for Legacy Motor Club, and has had even worse luck while racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, finishing 34th and 37th in both of his Cup starts here last year. Atlanta is a track that is extremely unpredictable, but with Gragson’s cold streak of late, we don’t expect him to be much of a threat today. Gragson’s first top 20 finish of the 2023 season will not be happening today.
The King of “Stacking Pennies,” Corey LaJoie has put together a solid start to the year, with 3 top 20 finishes in 4 starts. Driving for underdog team Spire Motorsports, LaJoie nearly stole the show at Atlanta twice last year, finishing 5th here last spring and finishing 21st here last summer after leading 19 laps late and wrecking on the last lap while making a move to take the lead. LaJoie is seemingly always in the hunt late in superspeedway races and we expect that today will be no different, as we predict that LaJoie will pick up his first top 12 finish of the season.
Chris Buescher started off the season strong with a top 5 finish at the Daytona 500 and has quietly raced well since, with 2 more top 15 finishes in his 3 starts since. Atlanta has been a solid track of late for Buescher, both before the track reconfiguration and since then, as he finished 7th here in the first race on the superspeedway version of Atlanta last spring and in the top 10 in 2 of the final 4 races on the traditional intermediate version of Atlanta. Like LaJoie, Buescher is seemingly always around at the end of superspeedway races as well and he has already shown this season that he is just one run away from walking away with a victory. Buescher will be a threat to win today, but a top 10 finish is certainly doable.
Driving the 99 car for Trackhouse Racing, Daniel Suarez has quietly put together a solid start to his season, as he kicked off the season with 3 straight top 10 finishes before a 22nd place finish last week at Phoenix. Having shown great speed early on this season, Suarez rides his momentum into Atlanta, where he had 2 strong runs last season, finishing 4th here last spring and 6th here last summer. Suarez didn’t have the best qualifying session yesterday, as he will start today’s race in 25th place. Even so, we predict that he will work his way to the front quickly and be a contender all day long as he extends the Chevrolet winning streak to 5 straight races to start the season and brings home his first victory of the season!