This weekend, NASCAR Cup Series drivers delve into the unknown. It's not just the Next Gen chassis they'll be learning; instead, the newly repaved and reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway takes center stage. Let Joy Tomlinson of Frontstretch.com prep your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings rosters for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
There's no denying that Atlanta needed a repave, but now it's a much different racetrack, with higher banking, a wider frontstretch, and a thinner backstretch. It's built more like a superspeedway but still 1.5 miles in length. No one really knows for sure how the racing will go come Sunday, although the lone practice session had the drivers racing in big packs like Daytona International Speedway last month.
Even some drivers like Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez don't know exactly what to expect. There were a few who tested tires there after the repave: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain. But that's far less than the amount of cars that'll be on track Sunday.
This week, I'm hit with similar vibes as I had last year before the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race. Expect the unexpected; your roster is going to be defined more by luck than past experience.
Even though there are a lot of unknowns, you can still look at stats from Daytona (and maybe Talladega Superspeedway, though it's a bit wider) to help you make your DraftKings lineups. And though the racing will be different from past Atlanta events, some drivers who have performed well there could still get a good finish this week.
But the best thing you can look at is practice, which was moved to Saturday in place of qualifying. Look to see not only who was fastest, but also who started a bit slower only to gain speed later in the session. Also, take note of drivers who were fastest among those who run 10 or more consecutive laps.
Before I share my picks for Atlanta, here are the results from last week's race at Phoenix Raceway:
Martin Truex Jr.
Note: These scores and salaries are from the original contests DraftKings made before qualifying.
Martin Truex Jr. was running inside the top 15 when he blew a tire and crashed with less than 100 laps left in the race. Shortly thereafter, Kyle Larson suffered a broken valve spring and had to retire early as well. These issues put Larson and Truex 34th and 35th, respectively, which sunk this DraftKings lineup.
In the $10,000 Quarter Jukebox tournament, 233.45 fantasy points earned $0.34. The top score was 415.5 and had Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Phoenix winner Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer.
As far as DraftKings scoring, the rules are the same as last season: 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap led. Additionally, drivers can earn a point for each position they gain on the track (relative to where they start). They can also lose a point for each spot lost, so keep this fact in mind if you decide to play the pole sitter.
The DraftKings setup is bigger and better for 2022. Here are their rules for the road this season.
By the way, there’s a free Formula 1 contest on DraftKings this week. Contests lock at 11 a.m. ET.
Now, on to my picks!
Note: The following drivers are part of a sample NASCAR DraftKings lineup; you can use this info to make your own.
NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Ryan Blaney ($10,700)
Career at Atlanta: 7 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 12.4
Blaney is one of the favorites to win on Sunday, and for good reason. For one, he won this race a year ago (albeit on the old configuration), passing Kyle Larson for the lead late in the final stage. He followed that up with a fifth place in July, his third straight top 10 at Atlanta.
Plus, the No. 12 Team Penske driver won last summer’s regular-season finale at Daytona and was key to Austin Cindric’s 2022 Daytona 500 victory. Additionally, Blaney won back-to-back Talladega races in fall 2019 and spring 2020, so he knows his way around superspeedways.
He’ll start out on the front row, and as long as practice goes well for him, he’ll be a good play on DraftKings.
Kyle Busch ($9,800)
Career at Atlanta: 24 starts, 2 wins, 8 top fives, 11 top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 13.0
Busch starts right behind Ryan Blaney in fourth, so be very cautious with this one. Make sure he doesn’t crash in practice, because he’ll drop to the rear on the pace laps if the team doesn’t fix his car and would be scored on DraftKings from fourth place.
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing pilot does have a few things going for him, though. He won at the Georgia track in 2008 and 2013 and is currently on a five-race top-10 streak. Busch also has earned three straight top fives: a second in 2020 and July 2021 and a fifth last spring.
Busch wheeled his battered and bruised Toyota to sixth in this year’s Daytona 500 after leading 28 laps. Then, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch led 98 circuits and nearly won the race before Erik Jones crashed and spun back on the track. He’s shown resilience this year, and a victory could come at any time, even at Atlanta.
Austin Cindric ($7,800)
Career at Atlanta: 1 start, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 22.0
Now why am I placing Cindric in this lineup when he’s progressively scored worse on DraftKings in each race since his Daytona 500 win? Well, partly because I want to pair him with his Penske teammate who helped him get the checkered flag, as they could work together at Atlanta if the draft works well.
He also won the NASCAR Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona in 2021 after leading 28 laps. Plus, at Atlanta in 2020 he was out front for 68 circuits, though he ended up 16th.
Since Cindric’s starting 16th on Sunday, he could earn some position differential points for each spot he gains on the track. Hopefully, he’ll avoid trouble and get up front.
Bubba Wallace ($7,300)
Career at Atlanta: 5 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 22.0
Wallace has a couple of finishes in the teens at Atlanta, both of which came last year. But I’m mostly eyeing him for the speed and skill he showed during the 2022 Daytona 500.
Somehow the 23XI Racing driver avoided most of the crashes and worked with Busch to get near the front of the pack. He led 12 laps, notched seven fastest laps and just missed out on getting his first Daytona 500 victory. He’s grown a lot as a superspeedway racer and could adapt quickly to the renovated Atlanta racetrack.
Dark Horse Performers
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100)
Career at Atlanta: 10 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Atlanta: 19.1
Stenhouse could be popular this week since he’s starting 28th. However, his results this season might deter people away from the JTG Daugherty Racing pilot. He snagged a top 10 at Auto Club Speedway but ended in the 20s at Daytona, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Stenhouse likely would’ve had a good result last week if he didn’t speed during the last pit stop.
He is pretty good on the superspeedways, as he’s earned victories at Daytona and Talladega in 2017. But since that victory at Daytona, he hasn’t really done well.
Still, Stenhouse was 12th in this race last year and could have a good result this week if he keeps his car clean.
Chris Buescher ($6,700)
Career at Atlanta: 7 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 18.7
I was a bit wary about playing Buescher, as he starts 14th on Sunday. One thing I like about him is that he tested there with Kurt Busch and Chastain, so he knows a little bit about what might happen in the race.
Besides that, he has a couple of top 10s at the 1.5-mile track: a ninth in 2019 and a seventh last spring. And he has four top 10s at Daytona, including both races in 2020. His new Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing teammate Brad Keselowski struggled a bit with pushing too hard in this year’s season opener, but he’s still a good drafter and could work with Buescher this week.
Don't forget about Athlon Sports' 2022 Racing magazine. With 144 pages of racing content, it's the most complete preview available today. Click here to get your copy or purchase the digital edition for instant access.