NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Atlanta's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500


With his win last Sunday Martin Truex Jr. became the fifth different winner in the 2021 Cup Series season, and at the age of 40, the oldest winner this year. It’s only the 15th time in the Cup Series Modern Era (1972-present) that the season has opened with five different winners. Meanwhile Martin was busy making some of his own records, most notably breaking his 29-race winless streak and earning his first win at the track in 31 attempts. With five former NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta Motor Speedway winners in the field this weekend, could we keep the streak going? Kevin Harvick (three wins), Kurt Busch (three), Brad Keselowski (two), Kyle Busch (two) and Denny Hamlin (one) sure hope so.
This Week's Pick Strategy:  
Atlanta Motor Speedway is a tough track. It eats up tires and championship level drivers with some patience and/or great strategy are most competitive. Think veteran drivers. I'm also going to focus on Fords, perhaps the No. 4 and the fifth position on the grid.

Ford has the opportunity to become the first manufacturer to win five straight at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is arguably one of Kevin Harvick’s best tracks. Kevin leads all active drivers in starts (30), wins (three tied with Kurt Busch), Top 5s (nine), Top 10s (15 tied with Kyle Busch) and laps led (1,348). Last season he led 151 laps in the race. And last but not least, the fifth starting position has produced more wins (16) than any other starting position. This week Chase Elliott is fifth on the grid.
Drivers with Most Top 10s:
By Race (From 2015 to 2019)
All with 5: Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
Both with 4 - Chase Elliott and Joey Logano

By Track (From 2011 to 2020)
Kevin Harvick - 9
All with 8: Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.
Both with 5: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano 
Chase Elliott - 4

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Atlanta

Kevin Harvick........................... 102.2

Brad Keselowski......................... 96.9

Martin Truex Jr........................... 96.9

Kurt Busch................................. 96.7

Denny Hamlin............................. 94.7

Kyle Busch................................. 94.0

Chase Elliott............................... 93.1

Kyle Larson................................ 90.2

Joey Logano.............................. 83.6

Ryan Blaney............................... 83.6

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2020 races (22 total) among active drivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway.


Last Year's Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

The Likely Suspects: My Atlanta go-tos are Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott,  Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch. 

My No-Brainer Pick: Kevin Harvick

My Final Four: Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Erik Jones. Erik seems to have a knack for this track. Maybe it's the rough surface or the fact that you really have to be a wheelman to be successful here. Erik has the seventh best average finish among active drivers, the 11th best driver rating and has earned one Top 10. "I feel like the balance is a little bit more finicky with this package now than what it was in the past with the lower downforce package. So, you really have to hit it right and make sure your car is working good. When you have to start getting up and running the top, I feel like that’s kind of a Band-Aid and it’s not really where you want your car to be running. So, if you can get it running good on the bottom and hooking the line well, you’re going to have a pretty good day.” We'll see if Erik's predcitions come to fruition.
Last week's second-look driver Matt DiBenedetto finished the race in 14th at Phoenix. He was supposed to start 20th on the grid, but moved up three rows due to the plethora of cars having to start from the back due to rule infractions. Matty certainly didn't have the fastest car on the track, but in true Matty D fashion he got as much as he could out of the car and even earned a Stage point in the first Stage.


Points to Ponder:

  • The most proficient starting position in the field at Atlanta Motor Speedway is the fifth starting position – it has produced more wins (16) than any other starting position.
  • The Hendrick Motorsports organization has the most wins at Atlanta in the NASCAR Cup Series with 14 victories.
  • Nine different manufacturers have won in the NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta; led by Chevrolet with 40 victories; followed by Ford (33).
  • Ford has the opportunity this weekend to become the first manufacturer to win five straight at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series
  • Kevin Harvick (2001, 2018, 2020) and Kurt Busch (2002, 2009, 2010) lead all active series winners at Atlanta with three victories each.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers with two runner-up finishes at Atlanta Motor Speedway and in Top 5s finishes with nine. Harvick is tied with Kurt Busch for Top 10s with 15.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in laps led at Atlanta with 1,197 in 29 starts.
  • Chase Elliott leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a 10.0 in five starts. 

 If you're playing Driver Group Game, remember to make your final picks by 3 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, March 21st. 

Enjoy the race!


Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 15 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pours through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.
When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Atlanta's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Atlanta's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Friday, March 19, 2021 Rating: 5