There was a lot of buzz surrounding the new racing surface for the Folds of Honors QuikTrip 500. Atlanta Motor Speedway’s race is happening this week and betting on the winning driver was as much of a guess as there could be.
The new surface had not been raced on yet, and laying down a groove on a new track was made more difficult for the drivers as the rain set in on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning, eliminating all practice sessions. The track hooked up very well as the day wore on, with some great pack racing two-wide for most of the day. The race saw its share of excitement as well, with 11 caution flags and a spectacular crash just before the finish line for the drivers in the middle of the pack.
The new track did not disappoint fans in its debut. Breaking records and featuring racing that’s never been seen before, the race saw 46 lead changes with 20 different drivers. The rear right tire came apart on three different cars, causing NASCAR to take a deeper look into the cause and setup of those vehicles to lessen the risk of a repeat incident in the fall when the series returns to Atlanta.
Taking the checkered flag was Hendrick Motorsports’ #24 car of William Byron. After leading many of the race’s closing laps, it came down to two-wide racing on the last lap, making it virtually impossible for anyone to pass and catch Byron.
The youth continued with their dominance so far this season. With the victory, Byron became the fifth racer in five races to win this season, all of them under the age of 30. Ross Chastain finished in second place and stepped on the podium for the third straight race with a third-place at Las Vegas and a second at Phoenix.
Next week takes the Cup Series to Austin, Texas, for the EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas for 68 laps around the 3.4-mile track for 231 miles.
Chase Elliott was the NASCAR betting odds favorite to win the first NASCAR race at COTA last season and followed through with a victory. As this year is only the second time NASCAR has visited Austin, predictability here is not as scientific as Atlanta Motor Speedway betting is. Still, the trends of Elliott on road courses certainly is a difference-maker.
Elliott took a seven-point lead in the standings after a sixth-place finish in Atlanta, all the while not having a top-five finish yet this season. The current Cup series odds for Elliott to win the championship have now diminished to +550, second only to defending series champ Kyle Larson (+300) in the points spreads.
As the youngsters continue to lead the pack this season so far, our NASCAR predictions this week have Chase Elliott (26 years old) taking the checkered flag for a second year in a row and extending his lead in the championship points race in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
The teams are staying competitive with parity among them thus far, with Hendrick Motorsports placing three drivers in the top 10 and Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing having two drivers each in the top 10. Joe Gibbs Racing, Trackhouse Racing, and 23XI Racing round out the top 10 with a win each.
Suppose Chase Elliott can impart his road-course wisdom to his teammates this week. In that case, Hendrick could move up in the overall team standings with Byron and Bowman taking advantage of their teammate’s success and defending series champion Kyle Larson, who is currently standing at 12th in the standings after a couple of disappointing finishes early in the season.