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NASCAR DFS: Ambetter Health 400 Preview

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Atlanta for the Ambetter Health 400. After a rainy weekend in Daytona, NASCAR hopes for clearer skies at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We’ve seen four races at Atlanta’s new configuration. All four have come in the NextGen car. Atlanta used to be a race where tire strategy played more of a role. The surface was older and would chew up tires. But with the re-pave came a new configuration. The new Atlanta Motor Speedway is like an intermediate tri-oval/superspeedway hybrid. There’s more drafting on a 1.5-mile track. So there is a little more variance to this track nowadays. However, we will emphasize dominator points a little more this week. So let’s dive into the Ambetter Health 400 preview with the drivers to build around on DraftKings and FanDuel this weekend.

As mentioned above, this track underwent a “re-profiling” ahead of the 2022 season. It still measures 1.5 miles in length. However, the banking was increased from 24 degrees to 28 degrees and the track was narrowed from 55 feet in width to 40 feet. The new layout has faced its share of criticism from drivers. Not everyone likes it. It hasn’t been a great product for television at times. If they opt for some single-file racing, that’s horrendously boring to watch. Unfortunately, it is what it is. So we have four races worth of data to dissect in addition to Daytona and Talladega. Let’s take a look at who I like for this week’s Ambetter Health 400 preview.

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Ambetter Health 400 Preview: The Top Picks

Joey Logano (#22 Ford)

Truth be told, I considered a few drivers to lead off the Ambetter Health 400 preview. William Byron has won here twice since this track was reconfigured ahead of the 2022 season. But he just won the Daytona 500 and is doing a lot of media currently. That may just lead to a bit of a Daytona hangover. Logano won the pole for Daytona and had the best pit stall. He arguably had the best running position of anyone in the field up until his wreck. But leading 45 laps in the Daytona 500 is still quite the accomplishment. Logano has won at Atlanta from the pole before and after last week’s qualifying effort, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he did it again for a second consecutive race. Unlike Daytona, we’re more comfortable playing the polesitter at Atlanta. Keep that in mind for whoever it is.

Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford)

Blaney certainly enjoys this style of racing. In the four races at the new layout for Atlanta, he has three top-10 finishes. Moreover, he’s managed to get to the front during each race with an average driver rating of 107.9 across those four performances. Blaney is a previous winner at Daytona and a three-time winner at Talladega. You can pretty much feel good about any Penske driver at Talladega. And since they have technical alliances with Front Row Motorsports and Wood Brothers Racing, we might also invest in Harrison Burton, Michael McDowell, and Todd Gilliland as long as they all aren’t starting too high.

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet)

Elliott missed this race last year after breaking his leg in a snowboarding incident. However, in last summer’s race, he did start P23 and finished 13th with six fastest laps. In the Spring race in 2022 he started and finished sixth leading 29 laps and then in the summer he won from the pole leading 96 laps. Obviously, he wants to have a good showing at this track. Elliott is originally from Dawsonville, GA so this race means a little more to him. He didn’t have a great showing in 2023. Between the injury and the one-race suspension, he didn’t log a win. He’s looking to bounce back and this is a good track to do so.

Ambetter Health 400 Preview: Wouldn’t Bet Against Them

Brad Keselowski (#6 Ford)

I promise I will take a week off from mentioning Kez after this week. But I can’t help that we start the season at two tracks that cater to his strengths as a driver. Brad is a drafter. And a good one at that. All in all, Keselowski led 66 laps between both Atlanta races in 2023. In fact, he was the runner-up in this race in the Spring. Per Ryan with iFantasyRace, he led 29 of the final 30 laps. Unfortunately, he didn’t lead the final lap. He would go on to finish sixth at Atlanta last July. Up until the wreck in stage three of the Daytona 500, Keselowski was having a strong race. He was drafting well. He moved up through the field with ease. But once again, he looks to bounce back and seek his first win with RFK Racing.

Ross Chastain (#1 Chevrolet)

Both Trackhouse drivers provide some intrigue this week. It was a rough weekend for Chastain, but he did find himself in the front of the Daytona 500 for 14 laps before wrecking on Monday. Even last year at Atlanta, Chastain didn’t have a ton of success. But let’s not forget, he was the runner-up in both Atlanta races in 2022 where he led a combined 74 laps between the two races. That same year, he also won at Talladega. So if he can keep the car clean and work with the heavy amount of Chevys in this race, he could fly under the radar as a contender to win this race.

Erik Jones (#43 Toyota)

Jones gets another acknowledgment after cracking last week’s Daytona 500 Preview. Last week we noted how Jones is a great drafter. But the results at Daytona weren’t always there, but he did grab a top 10 last week. Atlanta is a different story for Jones. In all four races at Atlanta, he’s gained at least nine spots of PD:

  • Spring 2022: Started P23, Finished 14th
  • Summer 2022: Started P25, Finished 4th
  • Spring 2023: Started P28, Finished 8th
  • Summer 2023: Started P25, Finished 11th

That’s the Erik Jones we should be accustomed to in races that incorporate drafting. We might even expect the Toyotas to take a similar strategy to Daytona. They opted more for handling than pure speed. However, they looked great in the draft and moved up through the field pretty well despite only having nine cars.

The Sleepers and Values

Austin Cindric (#2 Ford)

Let’s just write up every member of Team Penske, shall we? Last year he finished 11th and 12th at Atlanta in both races. Even in the summer of 2022, he finished third. One thing to note is that he typically has qualified well here. But knowing what we know about the Fords and Team Penske, we should expect him to draft well. Joey Logano won at Atlanta-2 last year and Ryan Blaney won at Talladega. One mild concern is that the playing field may have been leveled across the manufacturers in terms of drafting and pushing. The Toyotas and Chevys did look more sustainable at times with a bit of fall-off from the Fords. Overall, I still think Cindric is a fine value play.

Corey LaJoie (#7 Chevrolet)

Corey LaJoie once again flirted with victory on a drafting track last week. For the Daytona 500, he started P29 and finished fourth. It should come as no surprise that he appears in the Ambetter Health 400 preview. In the two Spring races at Atlanta since the reconfiguration, LaJoie has a pair of top-five finishes at Atlanta. He even came close to winning in the Summer of 2022 when he led 19 laps but was caught in a late incident that dropped him outside the top 20. This is one of the few tracks we’ll consider LaJoie as a potential contender. He won’t be much of a sleeper coming off his top-five finish last week.

Daniel Hemric (#31 Chevrolet)

Daniel Hemric is not a good driver by any means. In over 270 career races, he has just one win and it came in the Xfinity Series Championship a few years back. So, in fairness, he’s technically a series champion. I do think if you’re going to play Hemric it’s at a track like Daytona, Talladega, or Atlanta. In the four Xfinity Series races over the last two years at this track, Hemric has one wreck but he also finished top five in the other races. Not to mention, he was the runner-up in both races last year for Xfinity. He’s hardly a noteworthy drafter, but similar to last week at Daytona I don’t expect him to carry significant ownership. He also likely won’t qualify well. From a leverage perspective, he could easily provide value with a sneaky top 20 finish like last week.

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