The NASCAR Cup Series continues tonight as it visits Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400 available at Walmart. The 1.54 mile, intermediate was originally built in 1960, but a reconfiguration following the 2021 season has turned this track into an intermediate/superspeedway love child, with 28 degrees of banking in the turns and 5 degrees of banking on the straights. Qualifying alone showed us that Atlanta can be just as unpredictable as Daytona and Talladega. I’m sure we all had 8 Fords qualifying in the top 10, including Aric Almirola, Todd Gilliland, and Harrison Burton, am I right? With names like Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, and Bubba Wallace all starting 30th or worse, there will be a lot of comers and goers all night long. With Chase Elliott being the defending champion and desperately in need of a win, will he call his shot and punch his playoff ticket in his home state? Let’s see what we predict will happen after the dust is all settled.
Driver to Fade:
Don’t get me wrong, Kyle Larson is one of the best wheelman on the planet, but he has yet to find success at Atlanta sine they reconfigured it, with 2 finishes of 30th or worse and no top 10’s in 3 starts. Larson’s best finish on a drafting track this season is 18th, which doesn’t sound promising heading into tonight. Larson seems to get caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time on superspeedways and we predict that that trend will continue tonight, with Larson finishing outside the top 20.
The King of “Stacking Pennies,” Corey LaJoie has found himself a groove at the new Atlanta, contending here late in all 3 races and has 2 top 5 finishes to show for it, including a career best 4th place finish during this year’s spring race. Despite that being his lone top 5 finish this year, LaJoie sits in 23rd place in the point standings due to an average finish of 19.06, his best average finishing position to date in his career and is 5 positions better than last year. With an outside chance of making the playoffs on points, LaJoie would like to punch his ticket with a victory at what has been arguably his best track. Anything can happen tonight, but a top 10 finish for LaJoie is certainly within reach.
Ryan Blaney has had a solid season to date, with 1 win, 4 top 5’s, and 9 top 10 finishes, including top 10’s at all 3 drafting tracks. Blaney has had solid success at Atlanta since the reconfiguration, with 1 top 5, 2 top 10’s, and laps led in all 3 races. Blaney does very well on drafting tracks and is going to roll off the grid from the 2nd position tonight, with teammate Joey Logano right behind him in the 4th position. We expect that Penske will have a stranglehold on things early in this race with all 3 of their drivers starting in the top 10, but we predict that Blaney is seemingly a lock to finish in the top 10 at race end.
In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, I call him… Golden Boy. Despite missing 7 races due to injury/suspension, Chase Elliott finds himself sitting 24th in point standings and just 55 points below the cut line with 8 races to go in the regular season, thanks to his 5 top 5’s and 7 top 10’s in 11 starts. Elliott missed the spring race during his injury timeout, but finished 6th here last spring and is the defending champion of the summer race, as he led 96 laps and held off a hard fighting Corey LaJoie here last July. Of all the tracks on the schedule, Elliott would love nothing more than to punch his ticket into the playoffs in front of the fans at his home track. Elliott is coming off of 3 straight top 5 finishes and is firing on all cylinders coming into Atlanta. We predict that the stars will align tonight for the Dawsonville, Georgia, native, as Chase Elliott will successfully defend his title in the Quaker State 400 available at Walmart!