Podium Preview: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Can pole winner Aric Almirola win Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta? (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Can pole winner Aric Almirola win Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta? (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

If Daytona broke hearts, Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta may be a chance at redemption.  After all, some view this race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway as the true start of the NASCAR season.  With a new package to consider at one of the most abrasive tracks in the Cup schedule, it’ll be a true test pitting driver versus the speedway!

Each week, The Podium Finish’s columnists, Adam LucasAmanda ShoopmanAshley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie CoopleKobe Lambeth, and Stephen Conley will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.  This weekend, we consider who felt most fortunate to leave Daytona.  Also, we’ll provide initial thoughts on the new racing package for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action in 2019!

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Question 1
Best to be lucky and good in NASCAR.

Best to be lucky and good in NASCAR.

Considering the craziness of Daytona, which driver and team has to be feeling quite lucky to have a good finish in anticipation of the race at Atlanta?

Bowman :  Realistically the entire top 10 at the end of Daytona was lucky to have the finishes they had. But, Ross Chastain came out with barely a scratch on his car! Now, I can’t say that his lack of dents and dings is purely luck. Clearly, that took talent and developed skill to make it through all that carnage and chaos.

I have to give an honorable mention to Matt DiBenedetto.His finish does not at all reflect the outstanding performance he put on and I look for him to take that positive momentum forward for great finishes this season. For me, Matt was the unmistakable hero and headline of Daytona.

Conley :  I’m gonna say William Byron. That team showed incredible stand alone speed all of Speedweeks. In the 500, they were one of the few teams that couple not only pull the draft, but at times pull away. I think that has to be a good song for the 24 team heading in to the mile and a half’s with the new aero package.

Hobbs :   Luck has a lot to do with Daytona, but also some skill. Matt DiBenedetto showed a lot of power all of Speedweeks and it will be interesting to see how that translates out of a restrictor plate track to a super fast intermediate track.

Lucas : I would say Michael McDowell and his No. 34 team. Front Row Motorsports (FRM) has always competed great at superspeedway events in the past. Hopefully, with the new racing package, it should benefit the mid-level outfit for a better season than in years past.

I’m anxious to see if the other Ford teams have stepped their game up this season, especially Roush Fenway, which has a technical alignment with FRM. The next three races will be critical to see if anything beneficial have sufficed over the offseason.

Shoopman :  I’m going to have to go with the more obvious answer and say that Denny Hamlin and his teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) are probably feeling pretty lucky this week. With Daytona’s top three all being from JGR, somehow all surviving the demolition derby that was Daytona, I’m sure they’re all feeling very lucky. Hamlin is going into Atlanta not only as the Daytona 500 winner but with a top-five finish from last seasons Atlanta race; put that all together and you know luck is on their side.

Tiongson :  After some heavy scrutinization from the press during Daytona Speedweeks, Jimmie Johnson has to feel lucky to leave the beach with a top-10 in a torn up car.  Of course, the real test for Johnson and crew chief Kevin Meendering will be at the upcoming races like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Fontana. The changes to the 48 team remind me of the ones that happened with Jeff Gordon in 2011.  I look for the 48 to convert their luck from Daytona into great finishes this spring.

Question 2
Will the new package allow David Ragan to contend as a consistent front runner? (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Will the new package allow David Ragan to contend as a consistent front runner? (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

With this new aero and engine package debuting at Atlanta, will we see closer racing that produces memorable and entertaining action?

Acero :  I believe everyone wants to see pack racing with the new rules package. Let’s tighten up the field and not let the cars get too strung out. I can see this working in an actual race (Atlanta) and not just in what we saw here in Vegas earlier this year.

Cassidy :  I believe it is too soon to tell. Yes, the testing videos looks great, however having a full field on the track can be completely different. After the first few races I believe NASCAR and fans will have a better understanding of what this new aero and engine package has to offer the 2019 season!

Copple :  It is way too soon to tell. I really hope that is the case. But, there are so many new drivers and new factors that I think it’s going to be a few weeks before we see any real indication that these changes are going to make any difference. But I am optimistic.

Conley : Kyle Busch said these races are going to be an even bigger chess match that Daytona and Talladega, I tend to to agree with him. The action will be closer through the field. However, no matter what aero package goes on these cars, clean air is still king.

Also, I’m not sure we’re going to see the action up front that we hoped for. This is one I’m looking forward to seeing and actually praying that I’m wrong.

Lambeth :  In my opinion, I believe that it is still too soon to tell. Yes, videos from the Las Vegas test a few weeks ago displayed some promising action. However, I think we need a full field of cars, in racing conditions before casting judgment. After a few races, with the new package, we will have a better understanding of what to expect for the remainder of the season.

Lucas : After watching Jeff Gluck’s Vegas test videos, I think we’ll see closer racing to an extent. We’re going to see close racing up front, but with long green flag runs, the field is still going to get strung out.

It’s the severity of how spread out they get that will be the tall tale sign of what works and what needs improving. I hope that we see early 2000’s type of racing again. Those were some good races!

Shoppe : All I can say at the moment is I sure hope so! It will take a few races to get an idea what this package is really going to be like. Closer racing is always the hope but at the same time isn’t competition in the form of lead changes, passes, side-by-side racing, and searching for lines to find an advantage all the real goal?

For example, look at the XFINITY race last weekend. That was a pack of cars pretty close together but nobody could make a single pass. Let’s all hope it’s not a mile and a half version of that!

Sisoler :  I think this could be interesting. NASCAR needed to rein in the Big Three at the front of the field, and this could help. However, we have to hope that we don’t just see a smaller version of Daytona play out at Atlanta where everyone is running single file for large sections of the race due to the fact that no one can pull out of the slipstream to pass someone. I am willing to give it a chance, however, NASCAR probably shouldn’t sink all of its eggs into one basket.

Well done, team!  Almost like steak well done.  Anyways, let’s look at last Sunday’s happenings in the neighborhood of TPF, Daytona 500 style!
Luck be with Christina last Sunday...

Luck be with a Michigander last Sunday…

...and as a result, Bowman enjoys her first ever points lead!

…and as a result, Bowman enjoys her first ever points lead!

Before we drop the hammer on a potential race win, it’s time for Ashley Hobbs, our master statistician guru and Managing Editor, to crunch the numbers for you, Atlanta style!
How does your favorite team fare at Atlanta?

How does your favorite team fare at Atlanta?

Atlanta tends to favor the bold.

Atlanta tends to favor the bold.

Strength in numbers.

Strength in numbers.

Interesting figures for past Cup champs at Atlanta.

Interesting figures for past Cup champs at Atlanta.

Friends, we’ve done a lot of talking for this weekend.  Now, let’s get to business and reveal our picks for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta!
A strong six pack for an Atlanta win?

A strong six pack for an Atlanta win?

Acero :  The newly formed dynamic duo starring Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Meendering will drive to Victory Lane in ATL.

Cassidy :  Jimmie Johnson.

Sisoler :  With how well the newly-minted No. 48 Ally Chevy Camaro ZL1 ran last weekend, even after getting torn up in that freak pit road entry accident, I’m doubling down. Jimmie Johnson will score his first win of the year at Atlanta!

TPF Stats :  The last win for this driver at this track came in 2016; and he happens to have the most wins at the track of active drivers. Look for Jimmie Johnson to set the tone this weekend.

Bowman :  Kyle Busch will keep the JGR streak going with a win at Atlanta.

Conley :  Kyle Busch tends to excel after saying how much he doesn’t like something.  With the new aero package in mind, Busch will give JGR back-to-back wins.

Copple :  Kyle Busch.

Hobbs :  A hot, slick track like Hotlanta plays into the hands of the likes of Kyle Larson.

Tiongson :  Did somebody say Kyle Larson?  Well, I did, and he has the makings to be a winner this Sunday (or Monday) at Atlanta. Sure, he’s not tested much with the new package. However, if the high line’s a factor, I look for Larson to wheel his McDonald’s ride to victory.

Shoopman :  Joey Logano! He came so close at Daytona, and with a top-10 finish from Atlanta last year, it would be no surprise to see the 22 in Victory Lane.

Shoppe :  Joey Logano, the reigning Cup champ, will win at ATL!

Lambeth :  I hope the Dawsonville Pool Room starts warming up the siren because their driver Chase Elliott is going to win in his home state.

Lucas :  It’s Miller Time! Brad Keselowski gets Mustang its first Cup series victory this weekend in Hotlanta.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019.  

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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