NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Atlanta

Last week it appeared to be inevitable that Kevin Harvick would get his first win of the season and his 10th victory at Phoenix Raceway. With only 15 laps to go, Harvick had taken close to a four-second lead over Kyle Larson and William Byron. But a spin by the No. 21 of Harrison Burton brought out the caution, and the No. 4 team opted for a four-tire stop. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron, who each took two tires, battled it out, but Byron scored the victory after another caution took the race into overtime. It was Byron's second consecutive win of the season and also his second consecutive overtime win this year. 
Harvick finished the race in fifth place. Interestingly enough, he now sits atop the driver's standings as a result of the shuffle that took place after the hefty fines and penalties slapped on Hendrick Motorsports due to modified hood louvers that were confiscated during pre-race inspection, as well as penalties administered to two other race teams due to different infractions. Will this weekend's race be redemption for Harvick? After all, he leads all active Cup Series drivers in Top-5 finishes at Atlanta with nine as well as Top 10s and ranks No.1 in laps led among active drivers here with 1,359 in 34 starts. Stay tuned.
This Week's Pick Strategy:  
This weekend's race is shaping up to be another Chevy/Ford match up, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some Toyotas in the mix at the end. Martin Truex Jr. who is currently tied with Kyle Busch for fifth place in the standings is pretty decent at Atlanta. In his 26 starts at Atlanta, Truex Jr. has earned six Top 5s, 13 Top 10s, one pole, and has led 29 laps in last years' two Atlanta races. He has an average finish of 14.080, the sixth-best among active drivers.
Drivers with Most Top 10s:
By Race and Track (From 2018 to 2022; includes 7 races)
Martin Truex Jr. - 6
Both with 5: Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott 
All with 4 - Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski


Most Top 5s Among Active Drivers

Last week's Pole Winner: Chase Briscoe (Qualifying Cancelled; Set by metric qualifying)
Last Year's Race Winner: William Byron

The Likely Suspects: My Atlanta elite drivers include Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick,  Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, William Byron and Denny Hamlin.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is Kevin Harvick. My next picks are Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Justin Haley, and Brad Keselowski. I will complete my roster with Corey LaJoie and BJ McLeod.

My Final Four: Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, and Corey LaJoie.

Second-Look Driver: This week's sleeper pick is Justin Haley. Justin's No. 31 team of Kaulig Racing was among the teams penalized by NASCAR for unapproved parts modifications to the hood louvers last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. His record here at Atlanta and additional motivation to bounce back may prove to be a dangerous combination to the field. Sunday's race will only be Haley's fourth Cup start here, but he had impressive runs at last year's Atlanta races, scoring an 11th place finish in March and a seventh place finish in July.
Points to Ponder:
  • Wood Brothers Racing and Team Penske lead the series in poles at Atlanta with nine each.
  • A total of nine different manufacturers have won a NASCAR Cup Series pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway, led by Ford with 30 poles followed by Chevrolet  with 25.
  • The most prolific starting position in the field is fifth – it has produced more wins (16) than any other starting position. 
  • Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Ross Chastain lead all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers with two runner-up finishes each at Atlanta.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active Cup Series drivers in Top-5 finishes at Atlanta with nine, as well as Top 10s with 16.He also leads all active Cup Series drivers in laps led at Atlanta with 1,359 in 34 starts.
  • The Hendrick Motorsports organization has the most wins at Atlanta in the NASCAR Cup Series with 16 victories, followed by Wood Brothers Racing with 12, and Joe Gibbs Racing with 11.
  • Nine different manufacturers have won in the NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta, led by Chevrolet with 41 victories and followed by Ford with 34.
  • Ryan Blaney leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a 12.111 in nine starts.
If you're playing Driver Group Game, remember to make your initial picks by 11:05 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 18th and your final picks by 3 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, March 19th. 

Enjoy the race!
Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores 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 NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Atlanta Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Thursday, March 16, 2023 Rating: 5