NASCAR Picks for Atlanta
Length: 1.540 miles
Location: Hampton, Georgia
The Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, and while the track's 1.5-mile layout is the most common on the schedule, there is something about AMS that sets it apart from the other cookie-cutter ovals. Maybe it's the fact that the track is older and has built up multiple racing grooves or maybe it's the fact that the race is now held just before the Chase and the pressure is mounting, but from cut tires and engine issues to wrecks and pit road problems, there always seems to be plenty of action at Atlanta. In fact, no driver currently has more than two straight top-10s at the track. Granted, plenty of the big names have had their share of success at AMS, but it isn't uncommon for the top drivers to have a poor showing at Atlanta every now and then. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there is no way of knowing which drivers are going have issues. However, history says that the title contenders tend to dominate once the Chase begins. As a result, there is even more reason to roll with some sleeper options this weekend, especially in formats where starts per driver are limited.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he has never won at Atlanta, Kenseth has been the model of consistency at the track. He has reeled off 13 straight top-15 finishes at the 1.5-mile oval, collecting six top-five finishes during the stretch. Meanwhile, his 7.4 average finish in the last 10 races at Atlanta is the best in the series.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His 11.1 average finish is plenty impressive in its own right, but Johnson's ability to deliver elite finishes at Atlanta is what sets him apart from most other drivers. In 21 starts at the track, he has three wins and has finished in the top three an incredible 10 times. Two of those top-three finishes have come in his last three starts at Atlanta, including a second-place run in 2011.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Kahne has had some bad luck in his last few starts at Atlanta, but he is a proven winner at the track. In fact, he has a pair of victories and six top-five finishes at Atlanta in his career. Not to mention the fact that Kahne has always been excellent at 1.5-mile ovals, and seven of his 16 Cup wins have come at similar tracks.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He has been on a roll at Atlanta for a while, and Gordon seems to be getting better. He has finished in the top 15 in 12 of his last 13 starts at the track, including a win in 2011 and a second-place run last year. In fact, Gordon has four top-two finishes at Atlanta during his recent hot stretch.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While Edwards has had a few bad outings at Atlanta, his overall record speaks for itself. In 15 starts at the track, he has finished seventh or better 10 times. More importantly, Edwards is a three-time winner at Atlanta, and he has finished third or better on seven occasions.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Keselowski is definitely trending in the right direction at Atlanta. After finishing 36th and 25th in his first two starts at the track, including his infamous run-in with Carl Edwards, he has finished sixth and third in his last two outings. The sample size isn't huge, but Keselowski certainly has top-five potential this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He actually went through a long slump at Atlanta following his memorable win the year he replaced Dale Earnhardt, but Harvick has found his groove at the track once again. He has eight top-15 finishes in his last nine starts at Atlanta, including six top-10s. Meanwhile, Harvick has finished seventh and fifth at the track the past two seasons.
Kurt Busch, #78 Furniture Row, Furniture Row Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he gave away a potential win last weekend at Bristol by turning a cut tire into a total disaster, Busch might not have to wait long to get another chance at a victory. After all, he has 10 top-15s in his last 11 starts at Atlanta and has finished sixth or better five times in his last seven starts at the track. Busch also has a pair of victories at Atlanta during the stretch and is a three-time winner at the track overall.
Brian Vickers, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Atlanta has always been one of his better tracks regardless of what team he was driving for. In fact, Vickers has finished 11th or better in six of his last seven starts at the 1.5-mile oval and has three finishes of seventh or better during the stretch. After not having a ride for the 2012 Atlanta race, owners will want to take full advantage of him this weekend.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
After failing to crack the top 10 in his first seven starts at Atlanta, Busch has broken through with several strong runs lately. However, he remains inconsistent. In his last eight starts at the track, he has finished sixth or better four times, including a win. On the flip side, he has four finishes outside the top 10 during the same stretch, including three finishes outside the top 15.
Martin Truex, Jr., #56 NAPA Auto Parts, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While he has an unimpressive 21.5 average finish at Atlanta, Truex has been a much better driver at the track lately. He has reeled off three straight top-15s finishes at the 1.5-mile oval, including a career-best fourth-place effort last season. In addition, Truex has nine top-10s in the last 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks and leads all drivers in points scored during the stretch.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although Atlanta hasn't been his best intermediate oval, Biffle has been solid at the track in recent years. He has finished in the top 15 in six of his last eight starts at Atlanta and has four top-15s in his last five starts. On the flip side, he only has one top-five finish during the stretch, so don't expect anything too spectacular.