For the first time since 2010, NASCAR will hold two Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway with the running of the Quaker State 400. Sunday’s event (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) also marks the first scheduled 400-mile race at this 1.54-mile quad-oval since 1966.
Handling is key at this facility that gives drivers plenty of room for racing. Multiple grooves can leave you successful running high or running low; drivers can run side-by-side here without fear of banging fenders and blowing a tire. The key is finding a setup that limits wear over the long green-flag runs often the norm at a facility which also provides fantastic finishes.
We saw one of those back in March, when Ryan Blaney ran down Kyle Larson down the stretch and snuck past to earn a victory in the last 10 laps. Expect another competitive race as Larson and Chevrolet look to end Ford’s five-race win streak here.
As NASCAR still operates under COVID-19 protocols, there will be no practice or qualifying. The first lap these drivers take on the track this weekend will be when the green flag flies this Sunday. Instead, the starting lineup was set using an off-track qualifying metric described below.
50% of the metric is based on 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 based on the team’s fastest lap during the previous race.
The team with the lowest total starts on the pole, then the next lowest, etc. until all available spots are filled. It’s the best compromise NASCAR could make while attempting to limit each team’s at-track time and respecting COVID-19 restrictions still in place.
Only 37 cars entered the race at Atlanta, leaving the 40-car grid three short. It’s tied for the smallest field of the season, as only the 36 teams who have guaranteed spots are entered along with the “open” car of JTG Daugherty Racing (Ryan Preece, No. 37).
1. Chase Elliott
2. Kyle Busch
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Christopher Bell
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Kyle Larson
7. Tyler Reddick
8. Kurt Busch
9. Ross Chastain
10. Joey Logano
11. Chase Briscoe (R)
12. Matt DiBenedetto
13. Austin Dillon
14. Brad Keselowski
15. Ryan Blaney
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17. Alex Bowman
18. Chris Buescher
19. William Byron
20. Aric Almirola
21. Kevin Harvick
22. Erik Jones
23. Cole Custer
24. Bubba Wallace
25. Michael McDowell
26. Corey LaJoie
27. Daniel Suarez
28. Justin Haley (i)
29. Ryan Newman
30. Josh Bilicki
31. Cody Ware (i)
32. Anthony Alfredo (R)
33. Bayley Currey (i)
34. Ryan Preece
35. Quin Houff
36. BJ McLeod (i)
37. Garrett Smithley (i)
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Chase Elliott (pole) starts up front for the second time this season. Atlanta is the hometown track for NASCAR’s three-time Most Popular Driver who’s from nearby Dawsonville, Georgia.
- Kyle Busch (2nd) is the highest-qualifying Toyota.- Denny Hamlin (3rd) remains the Cup Series point leader by three over Kyle Larson. He had yet to win a race this season.
- Christopher Bell (4th) is coming off his first top-5 finish (2nd at Road America) since April at Richmond Raceway.
- Kyle Larson (6th) won the last intermediate track race at Nashville Superspeedway in June. He led 269 laps here in March before Ryan Blaney passed him for the victory.
- Joey Logano (10th) is the highest-qualifying Ford.
- Chase Briscoe (11th) is the highest-qualifying rookie. He scored his best career Cup finish (sixth) last week at Road America.
- Ryan Blaney (15th) won at Atlanta back in March.
- Bayley Currey (34th) replaces James Davison this week in the Rick Ware Racing No. 15 Chevrolet. Currey is making his first Cup start of the season.
- BJ McLeod (36th) is back behind the wheel of his Live Fast Motorsports No. 78 Ford. Road course specialist Kyle Tilley drove the car last weekend at Road America.
- Garrett Smithley (37th) replaces road course ace Ryan Eversley behind the wheel of the Rick Ware Racing No. 53 Chevrolet. Smithley is running a limited schedule for RWR this season.
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: Quaker State 400
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (Hampton, Ga.)
Date: Sunday, July 11
TV: NBCSN, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 260 laps (400 miles)
Stage 1: 80 Laps
Stage 2: 80 Laps
Final Stage: 100 Laps
Ross Chastain stops by the Frontstretch podcast to talk about his uncertain future after Chip Ganassi Racing was sold to Trackhouse Racing for 2022. Then, host Davey Segal and company preview the upcoming weekend of racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.