Race: Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 Predictions to Win
Date: Sunday March 1, 2015
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Joey Logano sure got his 2015 season off on the right foot by taking the checkers in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. The last half of the race was some awesome racing. We saw a ton of 3 wide racing and racing that was clean! Unfortunately, Jeff Gordon suffered a fatal blow in the closing laps when getting loose and involved in a major wreck. He finished 33rd, but your honestly would have no idea based on his post-race interview. Other notables during the race were Dale Jr., who probably had the best car of the day, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin. All of those guys really had some good strategy and set-ups for the day and made the race really exciting to watch.
This weekend, we are headed to Atlanta. Yes, that’s right. I said Atlanta! We are used to going to Atlanta in the heat of the summer, but NASCAR is shaking things up and bringing the drivers here to a much cooler track than they are used to. Atlanta is a fast track no matter what. This place is a 1.54 mile quad-oval. The turns have 24 degree banking and the straights come in with 5 degrees. The frontstretch is 2332 feet and the backstretch is 1800 feet. To put that in perspective, the frontstretch at Daytona is 3800 feet, 2000 feet longer than Atlanta’s backstretch.
With the race happening under much cooler conditions than usual, you may be wondering what difference that is going to make to the drivers and teams overall. Ultimately, Atlanta is a track that eats tires. It’s always been that way; however, with the colder temperatures, I’d anticipate much more tire wear than we are used to seeing. This means that the track is also going to run faster. Keep in mind, though, that this is the first race of 2015 where NASCAR is cutting back horsepower and down force on the cars. That being said, it will be interesting to see if the speeds stay the same, increase because of the cooler weather, or decrease because of the new package.
With all of these factors coming into play and after the finish of the Daytona 500, I’m putting my money on Kevin Harvick this week. Harvick was strong last week. He had a great car and put himself in a position to win towards the second half of the race. His stats at Atlanta are phenomenal. He led a good portion of the race last year before getting involved in a green-white-checkered wreck. He’s going to be the one to beat. Others to keep your eyes on include Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and last week’s winner, Joey Logano. Here’s the full rundown of your potential winners as we head into Atlanta:
My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Danica Patrick
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Because of her success on fast tracks, Patrick should have a strong run this weekend. This is really one of her best tracks in the Sprint Cup series. She finished 21st in the 500 and is probably looking to improve that stat as we head into this weekend’s race. Another dark horse will be Matt Crafton if he jumps in for Kyle Busch again on Sunday. He raced the 500 and finished 18th. Having great success in the truck series and also performing very well at Atlanta, Matt Crafton certainly has the ability to be competitive in this series if he runs again. Carl Edwards is the mid-pick this week. This is a track that was as much dominated by Edwards as Charlotte was by Johnson. Edwards ran very well at Daytona and would like to continue that momentum as we move into one of his best tracks. Look for him to be at the front when it matters most on Sunday. The points aren’t very telling right now after only 1 race, especially a super speedway race, but let’s take a look at where everyone is standing after the 500.
Here are your current top 12 after last week’s race:
1. Joey Logano
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Casey Mears
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Kasey Kahne
10. Greg Biffle
11. David Gilliland
12. Sam Hornish Jr.
Atlanta is a great race. It’s a fast track that will only get faster with the cooler temperatures. We are definitely going to have to see how the decrease in horsepower and down force will affect the cars, though. Although the 500 is pretty unpredictable, I do think that we saw a good indication of how strong some drivers are this year. We had a solid mix of Gibbs, Hendricks, and Penske drivers at the top of the board. Let’s see how well they hold up after we race at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday!