Race: Oral-B USA 500 Predictions
Date: Sunday August 31, 2014
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
The Penske drivers showed everyone up on Saturday at Bristol! Logano took the win with teammate Brad Keselowski in tow for 2nd place. Surprisingly, Jimmie Johnson came back from multiple speeding penalties on pit road to finish in 4th place. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had another good Bristol race in the 6th position, followed by Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, and Greg Biffle to round out the top 10. One of my favorite moments of the race, though, was when Danica Patrick clearly got upset at rookie Alex Bowman for spinning her out on lap 263. While she was 3 laps down and continuously hindered quite a few leaders throughout much o the race, she nitpicked the rookie and explained that all drivers have control of their own cars. I had to snicker a bit when she said that. I mean, really? I’m not trying to be a Danica-hater, but I can’t have much respect for a driver dogging a rookie when the so-called “veteran” is 3 laps down. She really should understand her place a little bit better. She doesn’t exactly have the respect of the veterans. She ought to show a little respect to the rookies. She may even learn something!
But, I digress. Logano is coming out a true championship contender this season as are several other drivers. This weekend, he’s going to have another good shot at a win as we head to Atlanta Motor Speedway. This place is fast! In fact, at only 1.5 miles, it’s a wonder that drivers can get to nearly 200 mph on this track. I wouldn’t be surprised to see records broken either. With the qualifying format and the speeds that these guys have gotten this year so far, I’d be willing to bet that someone will break a record or two. The banking here is 24 degrees in the turns. The straights are a slight 5 degrees. The frontstretch is 1415 feet while the backstretch is 1320 feet.
With Bristol, we saw that pit strategy was huge. Here at Atlanta, most teams will probably be on the same page with a few exceptions here and there. The most important thing about Atlanta is track position. With these intermediate tracks, the leaders tend to spread themselves out. It’s easy to get away from the rest of the field, so we will see guys trying to get up front and stay up front. Restarts will be important as well. The thing about restarts is that the bottom or top groove is not necessarily the choice here for all cars. This track has an old-school surface. There are several different grooves and rubber is laid down throughout the nights. The drivers will all have to figure out which groove is best for them. We will likely see some guys hugging the wall and others hugging the apron. Passing will be all over the track. With all of the passing and different grooves tires are certainly going to be something to take care of. They typically play a factor and wear quickly because of the surface of this place.
The guys who can pick a groove and run with it are going to be the ones to watch. Denny Hamlin, who had a disappointing wreck involving Kevin Harvick at Bristol, is going to be one to watch. He’s a previous winner and is coming in hungry this weekend. This is a good track for his team, and they tend to be able to set up their cars well for tracks like this. We also have to pay attention to Carl Edwards, who used to be the intermediate track king; however, he has struggled this year. Bristol served him well, so I’d expect that he will run strongly this weekend if he can maintain that momentum. Other guys to watch are the Penske kids, of course. Namely, Logano and Keselowski are on a mission this year. These guys are awesome at intermediate tracks too. Look for them to be competitive coming into this weekend. This is a tough week to pick a winner, but I am going to actually pull for Harvick. With his stats here, I’d expect to see him dominate a good portion of the race. He won his first race here as well, so look for Harivkc to be a strong contender. Here are the rest of your picks for this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Austin Dillon
Edwards is a strong pick as I mentioned before. He’s got a knack for these types of tracks, and he’d certainly like to rack up some more wins. Austin Dillon has horsepower on his side racing for Childress. With the speeds that I was talking about that we see here, that is an important component of winning this race. Harvick is really going to be the one to watch. He’s got horsepower and a lot of intermediate track success in his pocket. There are so many good drivers to consider, but these three are probably your best bets based on this year’s successes and their success at Atlanta and other similar tracks. Undoubtedly, we are going to see some aggressive driving from everyone as we head into the last 2 races before the Chase field is set.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Joey Logano
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Carl Edwards
9. Ryan Newman
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Greg Biffle
12. Kyle Larson
13. Kasey Kahne
14. Austin Dillon
15. Paul Menard
16. Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray moved up 3 spots to make his way into the top 16. There are few spots left for drivers without a win, so he’s going to have to walk the straight and narrow and run some strong races in these next 2 weeks. There is a lot at stake for quite a few drivers. This weekend is going to definitely be exciting as we watch these drivers race for the few spots left as we head closer and closer to that Chase for the Sprint Cup! Look for Atlanta to bring the speed, tempers, and personality out of a lot of these guys!