NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Denny Hamlin starts on pole as NASCAR's March Madness heads to Georgia

NASCAR's version of March Madness makes its way down to Georgia for the running of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. It's one of two dates for Atlanta Motor Speedway this year, doubling its presence on the Cup Series schedule for the first time since 2010.

 

To be a Cinderella here, drivers must master the aging asphalt on this 1.54-mile quad oval, one of the few to eat up tires with NASCAR's low-horsepower, high-downforce package for intermediates. Track position and handling are key for a facility where long green-flag runs often reign supreme.

 

It's not surprising with this setup the cream often rises to the top by the finish: 10 of the last 12 races here have been won by former Cup champions, including each of the last six. Qualifying at or near the front has been nearly as important, with 19 of the last 24 Atlanta winners starting inside the top 10.

 

That puts pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, himself a former Atlanta winner (2012), in a better spot than usual. He leads a top-heavy lead pack of drivers starting near the front due to the sport's qualifying metric being used for the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, there will be no on-track practice or qualifying before the race as drivers were instead given a number based on the formula below.

 

50% of the metric is their finishing position from the previous race (split between driver and owner).

35% of the metric is the team’s current position in the NASCAR Cup Series owner point standings.

15% of the metric is their fastest lap during the previous race.

 

The team whose driver has the best metric starts on the pole, then the next best, etc. until all available spots are filled. The end result is limited track time during the pandemic, minimizing risk as much as possible.

 

Thirty-nine cars showed up to battle for 40 spots on the grid at AMS, leaving the Cup Series one short of a full field. Team Penske entered an "open" car, the No. 33 Team Penske Ford for NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Austin Cindric to go along with the No. 37 of JTG Daugherty Racing (Ryan Preece) and the No. 66 of MBM Motorsports (Timmy Hill).

 

1. Denny Hamlin

2. Martin Truex Jr.

3. Joey Logano

4. Brad Keselowski

5. Chase Elliott

6. Kyle Larson

7. Kevin Harvick

8. Christopher Bell

9. William Byron

10. Ryan Blaney

11. Kurt Busch

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13. Austin Dillon

14. Alex Bowman

15. Bubba Wallace

16. Aric Almirola

17. Chris Buescher

18. Michael McDowell

19. Kyle Busch

20. Matt DiBenedetto

21. Ross Chastain

22. Erik Jones

23. Ryan Preece

24. Chase Briscoe (R)

25. Daniel Suarez

26. Justin Haley (i)

27. Cole Custer

28. Ryan Newman

29. Tyler Reddick

30. Corey LaJoie

31. BJ McLeod (i)

32. Anthony Alfredo (R)

33. Cody Ware (i)

34. James Davison

35. Quin Houff

36. Joey Gase

37. Josh Bilicki

38. Timmy Hill (i)

39. Austin Cindric (i)

 

(R) – Rookie

(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points

 

QUALIFYING NOTES

  • Denny Hamlin (pole) starts up front with his No. 11 Toyota for the second time in 2021. He hasn’t started worse than sixth in the past five races.
  • Last week’s winner Martin Truex Jr. will start second.
  • Joey Logano (3rd) has the highest-qualifying Ford.
  • Chase Elliott (5th) has the highest-qualifying Chevrolet.
  • Kevin Harvick (7th) is the defending winner of this race. He led 151 of 325 laps in a dominant performance last June.
  • Chase Briscoe (24th) leads all 2021 Rookie of the Year contenders.
  • Joey Gase (36th) replaces Garrett Smithley this week in the No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.
  • Austin Cindric (39th) makes his second career Cup start in the No. 33 Pirtek Ford for Team Penske. The reigning NXS champion is running a limited schedule in preparation for a full-time Cup promotion in 2022.

NASCAR RACE BREAKDOWN

Race: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (Hampton, Ga.)

Date: Sunday, March 21

TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 325 laps (500 miles)

Stage 1: 105 Laps

Stage 2: 105 Laps

Final Stage: 115 Laps

 

PRE-RACE PREVIEW

Ryan Vargas dishes on how he scored his first full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series ride with JD Motorsports before Frontstretch podcast host Davey Segal and company turn their attention to Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

 

Don't forget about Athlon Sports' 2021 Racing magazine. With 144 pages of racing content, it's the most complete preview available today. Click here to get your copy.

Event Date: 
Sunday, March 21, 2021 - 15:00
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