NASCAR REPORT

Quick Trip Folds of Honor 500 preview

credit to https://outlawnation.com/nascar-atlanta/ for the photo

The Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds Of Honor Quiktrip 500.

Since 2015, this track has played host to the second race of the season and after all the smoke cleared last week at Daytona, these drivers will now face a new challenge. As mentioned last week, the sport will be using a new rules package here at Atlanta which has caused much intrigue among spectators and drivers alike. There have been many questions regarding this such as, Will there be pack racing like we saw at Daytona? Will the cars be tremendously slower than they have been? How will it effect the drivers ability to pass? All of these questions should be answered come first practice on Friday when the drivers go out and get a feel for the new set-ups.

Last Week Denny Hamlin captured his second Daytona 500 victory. It was a sentimental win for him and his owner Joe Gibbs after the loss of Joe's son JD. Over the course of the team's history, JD was a major part of the team and its success. His career in racing began in 1998 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He found most of his success when he left racing to become the president of the team in 2007 as his dad went back to coaching the Redskins. Over the years following JD would help shape one of NASCAR's most prestigious teams, in fact Hamlin was quoted in a Racingnews.CO article by Shane Walters as saying "JD was instrumental in bringing me to JGR. He is essentially the reason I got hired." Not only was the win huge for Denny but for the whole company as well. When the checkered flag flew, Joe Gibbs Racing finished 1-2-3 with Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finishing second and third. At the end of the day, I am sure somewhere JD was looking down and smiling ear to ear.

Another big story-line was the dispute between Joey Logano and Michael McDowell. In the closing laps, Logano appeared to have a big run on the leader and needed drafting help from McDowell. After the race Joey assumed that because both drivers drove for Ford, McDowell and his Front Row Racing team would be willing to help him win but instead McDowell chose to draft with Kyle Busch instead. When confronted McDowell replied "My team doesn't pay me to push Joey Logano to a win." Overall, what McDowell was saying makes a lot of sense for a team that does nothing for Front Row Motorsports why should McDowell and his team do anything for Logano? Over time NASCAR drivers have become more vocal about things like this and while this isn't anything new, Joey was wrong to go and confront McDowell for something he would have probably done if roles were reversed. I wish McDowell luck this season in his situation because I think that he is a good race-car driver and I commend him on not caving to Logano and the Penske elites.

The favorite coming into this week's race at Atlanta has to be Kevin Harvick. He enters this race at 4/1 odds of winning on Sunday and he also holds the third highest average finishing position here. Despite last week's disappointing 26th place finish, this is a track where Harvick absolutely shines. Another good reason is that Harvick is the only driver who won in anything remotely close to the aero package they are running on Sunday, Harvick won last year's famous All-star race. He should be tough to beat come Sunday. It should be quite the race as no one really knows what we are going to see but overall it will be intriguing to watch.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets his first win of 2019.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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