Everything you need to know about Sunday’s QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, in three minutes:
Three things to watch
1. The Cup series’ new low-downforce aerodynamic package is rolled out for the first time. With less downforce, the cars don’t have as much grip on the track, placing drivers’ skills at a premium. Atlanta’s bumpy track also hasn’t been resurfaced since 1997, which will make the cars more challenging to handle.
2. Kyle Busch had the top speed during Friday’s qualifying, but his time was disallowed later when he failed post-qualifying inspection. That means he’ll start at the rear of the field and his brother Kurt will be on the pole.
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3. Jimmie Johnson, who won last season last season at Atlanta, can tie Dale Earnhardt for seventh on NASCAR’s career victories list (76) with a win Sunday.
▪ Matt Kenseth is the only driver since 2000 to open the season with two victories. In 2009, Kenseth won Daytona and Fontana (then the season’s second race) and didn’t win again that season.
▪ Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin hinted Friday he wouldn’t qualify well for Sunday’s race (he’ll start 12th). But he had the fastest time in Saturday’s final practice (188.450 mph), ahead of Martin Truex Jr. (188.226) and Johnson (187.297).
▪ Hamlin’s margin of victory over Truex at Daytona last week (one-hundredth of a second) was the seventh closest in NASCAR history. Two others of the top-10 closest finishes ever came at Atlanta – Kevin Harvick over Jeff Gordon (0.0006, fifth, March 11, 2001) and Dale Earnhardt over Bobby Labonte (0.010, tied for seventh, March 12, 2000).
▪ Rookie Chase Elliott makes his first Cup start at Atlanta, just down the road from his Dawsonville, Ga., home. Elliott struggled last week at Daytona, wrecking on the 20th lap and finishing 37th.
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Kurt Busch: Starts on the pole after brother Kyle failed post-qualifying inspection..
Carl Edwards: Qualified well (sixth) and has three career victories at Atlanta.
Kasey Kahne: A darkhorse pick, Kahne was fast in practice, qualified 11th and has three career victories at Atlanta (his second most at any track).
He said it
“Atlanta is just fun. You really drive the race car here.” – Carl Edwards
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
Track type: 1.54-mile tri-oval.
Race distance: 500.5 miles, or 325 laps.
Green flag: 1:16 p.m.
Weather: Sunny, high of 68. Zero percent chance of rain.
Radio: Performance Racing Network.