We’re back to a more traditional schedule for the NASCAR Cup Series, as the drivers will get the weekdays off before convening at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. This past Sunday at Bristol ended a run of five races in 11 days and the week off is certainly a welcomed sight for the drivers who had to be dealing with some physical and mental fatigue.
The racing at Bristol was quite good on the short track. Chase Elliott and Joey Logano got together with three laps left, allowing Brad Keselowski to get his second win in three races. Elliott, who was second in the Coca-Cola 600 and first in the Alsco Uniforms 500, won the first and second stages at Bristol before finishing 22nd. Elliott sits third in points behind Logano and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski is fourth and Alex Bowman, who finished 37th at Bristol, is fifth. Bowman had won three stages over the previous two races.
Now we head to Atlanta for the only stop of the season in Hampton, Georgia. This is a 1.54-mile loop and the stage just might be set for Keselowski to pick up another win.
We’ll break it all down, right after we take a look at the odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook:
|Martin Truex Jr||+900|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||+11000|
|John Hunter Nemechek||+30000|
|Darrell Wallace Jr||+110000|
Kevin Harvick is the favorite at +550 in this one and a deserving one at that. He only has two wins here in his career, but he’s led the most laps five times and did that in five consecutive years from 2014-18. He’s finished outside the top 10 once since 2010, which is the last time Atlanta was a twice-a-year stop on the Cup Series circuit. His first career win came here all the way back in 2001 in just his third Cup Series race.
This isn’t a Phoenix-level track for Harvick, but it tends to be a very good one for him. He was 11th at Bristol for his first finish outside of the top 10 this season. He’s shown excellent speed nearly every week and isn’t the best short track racer, so the Bristol finish didn’t come as a big shock. He isn’t the only driver with speed this year, but he has been consistently solid.
Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott are next at +660. It would be fair to say that Busch, and really Joe Gibbs Racing in general, has been a disappointment this season. Busch does have five top-five finishes, but it feels like we’ve been talking about somebody else every week. He’s still in search of his first win in 2020. He’s a two-time winner here, with wins in 2008 and 2013. He only has two other top-five finishes otherwise. Right now, he doesn’t seem to worth the low prices being put on him.
Elliott, however, does. And in a big way. The 24-year-old with a royal name in racing circles as the son of Bill Elliott has been a factor in every race since the restart and was a factor in every race prior to that. He’s only got one win, but has five stage wins and three top-five finishes in races in which he didn’t win a stage. He also led the most laps at Phoenix before finishing seventh. He’s shown outstanding speed for the Hendrick Motorsports team. In his limited appearances, Atlanta has only yielded one top-five finish, but he’s a threat every day he’s behind the wheel. The +660 price will capture a lot of people, but we’ll be looking elsewhere.
Alex Bowman and Brad Keselowski are next up at +770. Admittedly, Keselowski was the first thought at Atlanta coming off of another win and with two wins in the last three years in the QuikTrip 500. Keselowski was second in 2018. His win at Bristol was very opportunistic, but he’s very good on 1.5-mile tracks and was running up with the front of the pack all race long last week anyway.
Bowman only made it 228 laps last week at Bristol, but ran extremely well on the 1.5-mile track at Charlotte. He won the first two stages in the 600 and the second stage in the 500. He won on the big track at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman and Elliott have shown excellent speed with Chevrolet this season and have really closed the gap with the other manufacturers.
No offense to Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, or Ryan Blaney, but we have to skip down to talk about Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has lost some zip on his fastball, so to speak, but he’s had some pretty good cars this season. He’s a four-time winner at Atlanta and just finished third at Bristol. He would have been a major factor in the Coca-Cola 600 had he not run into NASCAR’s version of a parked car by hitting the slow ride of Chris Buescher right before the end of the first stage.
Johnson is +1980 this week. Is the price point accurate? Probably not, given that he’s gone over 100 races without a win. He won this race in 2016 and hasn’t finished in the top 15 in the three years since. Maybe this is the week. It’s a hard bet to make because it is a leap of faith that he won’t mess something up, but he’s had worthy cars. Can he turn back the clock?
Alright, back to the guys we skipped over. Martin Truex Jr. has been extremely quiet this season. He’s +900 here with five straight top-10 finishes at Atlanta and four career top-five finishes. He has branched out from his reputation on 1.5-mile tracks with great showings at places like Richmond, Dover, and Martinsville, but these are still his sweet spot. On the other hand, he hasn’t finished in the top five yet and just doesn’t seem to have the same speed as last season. He could be a good fade in matchups at plus money if you aren’t a believer.
We’ll throw a long shot bomb up on the board here with a look at Clint Bowyer at +4750. Bowyer was in the thick of things last week at Bristol and has finished in the top five in this race in each of the last two years. The Stewart-Haas Racing team has been pretty strong since transitioning from Chevy to Ford. Just ask Kevin Harvick. Bowyer is mispriced at +4750 this week.
This is a clean race, averaging about five cautions per race over the last several years. That means that you don’t want to get overly creative. The best drivers and best cars tend to win here. Bowyer is the only long shot on the radar for this week.
As far as the short prices, Keselowski is on the list this week. He’s excellent at places like Atlanta and Kentucky on these 1.5-mile tracks with clean races and that Team Penske speed.
Some head-to-heads are out at time of writing, but not matchups. Kurt Busch at -105 over Ryan Blaney is a good grab at 5Dimes. Busch has four straight top-10 finishes here and two in the top five. He’s also got six top-10 finishes this season so far. Erik Jones at -115 over William Byron is also a nice grab.
Coverage of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will be on Sunday June 7 at 3 p.m. ET on Fox.