The Quaker State 400 represents the first repeat track of the year. How similar to the first event will this one run? Let’s take a look.
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Last 10 Track Winners:
- Spring 2022: William Byron
- Fall 2021: Kurt Busch
- Spring 2021: Ryan Blaney
- Summer 2020: Kevin Harvick
- Spring 2019: Brad Keselowski
- Spring 2018: Kevin Harvick
- Spring 2017: Brad Keselowski
- Spring 2016: Jimmie Johnson
- Spring 2015: Jimmie Johnson
- Spring 2014: Kasey Kahne
Last 10 Track Winners by Model
- Chevrolet – 5
- Ford – 5
Race Day Preview
And then there were three.
Tyler Reddick became the 13th different driver to win a 2022 Cup Series race when he ran away from Chase Elliott at Road America last weekend. This narrows the available playoff spots to only three for those without a win. Ryan Blaney (+112), Martin Truex Jr. (+61), and Christopher Bell (+20) are clinging to their playoff positions, while Kevin Harvick got bounced with Reddick’s victory.
Blaney still has a shot at the overall points championship, trailing Chase Elliott by 33, but with eight races left, the viability of three more individual drivers winning their first race of the season remains in play.
Beyond him, the one-race winners also might have to watch their backs if we somehow get to 17. Currently, the only drivers assured of their playoff spots are two-time winners, Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and William Byron, who won in Atlanta earlier this season.
The scenarios could quickly reach NFL-tiebreaker levels where I feel like one tiebreak is “Whoever has eaten the most shrimp since Tuesday.”
Let’s take a gander at the 19th race of the season, the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart.
Fantasy Drivers: The Contenders
Martin Truex (#19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)
Truex has finished in the Top 10 in the past five Atlanta races and has the highest driver rating at 107.3. He has five stage wins in 2022 but has yet to run a complete race and find Victory Lane. Sunday seems like an excellent opportunity for him.
Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford, Team Penske)
I spent no fewer than two hours researching what happens in the playoffs if 16 different drivers win races, but Blaney wins the regular-season points standings without winning one. Therefore, I will need Blaney to win the Quaker State 400, allowing me to find peace and sleep again. (And it’s possible with a 106.7 driver rating in Atlanta.)
Kurt Busch (#45 Toyota, 23XI Racing)
The elder Busch Brother has finished in the Top 5 in three of the past five races in Atlanta with a 99.3 driver rating. He has been on a run of finishing in the top 10 and then mid-20s every other week, and he has raced quite well since his win in Kansas. He will probably be an affordable contender come Sunday.
Kyle Busch (#18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)
I have no idea how Kyle still has only his lucky, default win in Bristol on his resume. However, he has struggled in his last three with finishes of 29, 21, and 30. Atlanta may be exactly what he is looking for, carrying a 102.6 rating and three Top 5 finishes in his last five races into the Quaker State 400. He is a solid pick on Sunday.
Fantasy Drivers: The Accelerators
Christopher Bell (#20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)
When last on this track in March, there were 46 lead changes among 20 different drivers, and it is easy to forget that Bell finished second before being penalized for passing below the boundary line. My only hesitation with him this weekend is that Joe Gibbs Racing has swapped two pit crew members between Bell and Bubba Wallace.
Ross Chastain (#1 Chevrolet, Trackhouse Racing)
After Bell’s penalty, Chastain ended up second here in March and continues to be an amazingly consistent racer. Last time in Atlanta, he blew a tire, lost two laps, and still worked his way back to the front. With four Top 10 finishes in a row, he is an excellent play for the Quaker State 400.
Alex Bowman (#48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)
Over the past five races, Bowman has the second-best average finish, although he has yet to lead a lap in Georgia. He continues to drive well on different tracks but does exceptionally well in superspeedways. I could see him being the top Hendrick Motorsports car and possibly crossing the finish line with clean air in front of him.
Fantasy Drivers: The Brakes
Brad Keselowski (#6 Ford, Jack Roush Racing)
Keselowski finished tenth in Sonoma and ninth at Daytona but has otherwise not been in the Top 10 all year. He keeps looking like a value on paper, and I still can’t recommend him. He seems to be having the worst adjustment to the NextGen cars, and I continue to fade him without losing out every week. I say this while also having a sneaking suspicion that he will sneak a win somewhere in the next few weeks. Still, in fantasy formats, leave him on the wire.
I’ll be back Sunday morning for some picks and thoughts regarding the Quaker State 400. Make sure to check back then and if you have thoughts (or an answer to my Ryan Blaney hypothetical), hit me up on Twitter at @thewonkypenguin.