Here are five drivers to watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
After the season opening Daytona 500 produced a surprise winner in Austin Dillon, NASCAR now heads to the first of many 1.5-mile speedways, where unpredictability isn’t the norm.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, however, is unlike any of the other 1.5-mile speedways on the schedule. Tires play a huge factor at Atlanta. Over the course of just a few circuits around the bumpy speedway, lap times begin to slow down quickly.
Tire management and navigating lap traffic will be the name of the game for 325 laps. Here are five drivers to watch at Atlanta.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick has led 539 laps in the last three races at Atlanta. That’s 393 laps more than the next closest driver. Harvick hasn’t visited victory lane in those three starts, but has three top-ten finishes and a best finish of second.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski is the defending race winner and has finished inside the top-ten in his last three starts at Atlanta. That being said, Keselowski was 29th quickest in final practice, well behind his Team Penske teammates who were in the top-ten. He was also only 15th best on the 10-lap consecutive averages.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. will start last at Atlanta after his team was unable to clear inspection for qualifying after three tries. His car chief was ejected and to avoid losing crew chief Cole Pearn for the next three races, the team decided against trying a fourth time. Will Truex pick up where he left off last season on the 1.5-mile speedways? He will have 325 laps to find the front.
Kyle Busch: Busch is another driver who’s not at the top of the speed charts after final practice, but that doesn’t matter here at Atlanta. Busch was second best in final practice when looking at the 10-lap consecutive averages, which means more for his potential performance.
Paul Menard: Menard was third quickest in final practice and also third best in the 10-lap consecutive averages. Driving for Wood Brothers Racing this season, this is the first real opportunity to see how Menard will perform with a team that reached the playoffs a year ago.