Podium Preview: Quaker State 400 at Atlanta

Surely, Kyle Larson hopes for a better outcome in Sunday's Quaker State 400 at Atlanta. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Surely, Kyle Larson hopes for a better outcome in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

At last, Atlanta Motor Speedway hosts a second NASCAR Cup Series race with Sunday’s Quaker State 400. Indeed, this summertime special proves quite tough on even the elite of stock car racing.

Certainly, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson hope for another encore of their springtime soiree. However, Playoff bubble racers like Matt DiBenedetto and Ross Chastain look at Sunday’s race as a grand opportunity.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists preview each NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race. This weekend, Adam LucasAshley HobbsKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle RaynorTaylor KitchenTerra Jones and yours truly ponder about another Blaney versus Larson duel and the possibilities for DiBenedetto and Chastain.

Podium Preview: Quaker State 400 at Atlanta
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All things considered, another battle between Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney seems possible. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

All things considered, another battle between Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney seems possible. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Question 1
With hotter conditions for Sunday’s race versus the spring at Atlanta, how likely is another Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney battle in the Quaker State 400?

Hobbs : This is the prime type of track and weather for Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and drivers who love to ride that wall! Larson has always been good at Atlanta and with how strong he has been this season, I expect him to be almost unstoppable! Blaney might put up a good fight, and maybe Chase Elliott as well. It’s bound to be a tempered race.

Tiongson : In this case, I think we may see a battle between these two for track position. Will it be for the win? That all depends on how well the Nos. 5 and 12 teams adjust their cars. All things considered, a sequel of their spring race duel seems quite riveting. Certainly, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney don’t mind racing on the edge. In my opinion, Larson seems like a potent contender for the win on Sunday. Ultimately, I predict Sunday’s finish as a fight between the Hendrick quartet with Larson focused on his fifth win of the year.

Lambeth : Since NASCAR’s last visit to Atlanta, Hendrick Motorsports has separated themselves from the rest of the field. Team Penske is not performing at the same level we saw here back in the spring. Therefore, I do not think they will be in contention like they were last time around. However, I do think all four Hendrick cars should definitely be the favorites to win again, especially Kyle Larson and hometown favorite Chase Elliott, who enters Atlanta with some momentum after winning last weekend at Road America.

Sisoler: I have to wonder if we will see a battle between them. While I’d like to say we could see a battle between a Hendrick and Penske driver for the win, Hendrick’s four cars have seemingly found a new level, while Penske has kind of stagnated since that last Atlanta race. My guess is it’ll be a fight between two Hendrick cars for a win, again, but I’ve been proven wrong before.

Torres :  I doubt we’ll see a similar battle between them. Penske hasn’t hit that many strides since Blaney won and it’s a different time period. The later race time will make for a different race dynamic in my book. Larson should be in the mix, but the racing quality won’t be the same. I just don’t see it playing out the same, so I expect different contenders that’ll challenge Larson.

Question 2
On account of recent motivated drives, Ross Chastain seems like a possible Playoff entrant. (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

On account of recent motivated drives, Ross Chastain seems like a possible Playoff entrant. (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

The Playoff bubble battle continually heats up. Which driver outside of the top 16 has the most potential to burst their way into the Playoffs?

Raynor :  I feel like it could be Ross Chastain or Matty D. Ross has stepped out in the last few weeks and is driving his heart out right now. That race team has gone into another gear and shown the most improvement this year. Matty D is also one that could easily win a race. Especially at Daytona. I think it’s going to be a great battle between the two drivers on who can secure that last spot. Both are good at the remaining regular season tracks. We all know anyone can win at Daytona and those Fords are always fast. 

Shoppe : While Ross Chastain and Matt DiBenedetto have been making strong runs back into the playoff picture lately, I don’t expert much change unless someone gets a win. The only real shakeup I’d expect is if Kurt Busch has more trouble then the bubble battle can really get exciting!

Lucas : The majority of us panelist will go with Ross Chastain as the favorite to make it into the playoffs. I would be a fool and an outcast if I were to say someone else. Something has clicked with the Ganassi bunch, as Kurt Busch is, as of now, in a playoff position. I just feel that as the pressure continues to mount as the regular season winds down, Ross will be able to channel his aggressive style into consistency and might even be able to guarantee his way in via a win.

If there’s a time for the cream to rise, it is now. Daytona is only a few races away, I really would not want to make that my last chance race to qualify. Perhaps we could see a watermelon smash at a road course soon? I don’t think he can get the victory this weekend at Atlanta, but perhaps either at Watkins Glen or the Brickyard Road Course.

Jones : I feel it’s a toss up between Ross Chastain and Matt DiBenedetto. Chastain has made a lot of noise this season and would need that to continue to point his way in. Matty D could do the same. Additionally, with Daytona being the regular season finale, anything could happen and we could see the likes of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. or Ryan Newman get in with a win! 

With all the options though, I see Chastain having the advantage. 

Kitchen : I believe the driver with the most potential to make their way into the Round of 16 is Ross Chastain.

At 69 points below the cutoff line, I think it is still possible for Chastain to get into the playoffs on points. However, he would have extremely impressive finishes for the rest of the regular-season to make. Though that may be possible, a win for “The Watermelon Man” seems to be what is needed to secure his spot in the championship battle. Luckily, I feel this task is not out of Chastain’s reach.

Three of the six remaining regular-season races have tracks that benefit Chastain. We know he is good at road courses and could get a surprise win at either Watkins Glen or the IMS Road Course. However, if Chastain were to win to get in, we might as well count on the regular season closer at Daytona.

With a decent number of favorable tracks left in the schedule for Chastain, I would honestly be shocked if No. 42 did not make it to the Round of 16. And, frankly, I think that having Ross Chastain in the playoffs would provide an exciting twist to the current lineup.

Indeed, two laps around Atlanta proves memorable before the track’s anticipated reprofiling for 2022! Now, let’s rewind back to last Sunday’s Jockey Made in America 250 at Road Atlanta with our race and points reports!
Other than Michelle Raynor, last Sunday proved rather difficult for our field.

Other than Michelle Raynor, last Sunday proved rather difficult for our field.

On the other hand, Hobbs returns to the points lead!

On the other hand, Hobbs returns to the points lead!

Here, Ashley Hobbs crunches the numbers for Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta!
First, consider how your favorite team fares in the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta!

First, consider how your favorite team fares in the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta!

From 2004 to '10, the Quaker State 400 winner has an average starting spot of 5.4, led an average of 88.6 laps, started within the top five 57.14% of the time and started within the top 10 85.71% of the time.

From 2004 to ’10, the Quaker State 400 winner has an average starting spot of 5.4, led an average of 88.6 laps, started within the top five 57.14% of the time and started within the top 10 85.71% of the time.

Ehhhh....

Ehhhh….

Now, consider the trends for the Quaker State 400 from 2006 to '10.

Now, consider the trends for the Quaker State 400 from 2006 to ’10.

Whoa, the machine changes things up.

Whoa, the machine changes things up.

Next, let’s take a look at the top 10 starters for Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta!
Row 1
Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch (Photo: Mike Moore)

Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch (Photo: Mike Moore)

Row 2
Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

Row 3
Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Larson (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Larson (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

Row 4
Tyler Reddick and Kurt Busch (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

Tyler Reddick and Kurt Busch (Photo: Mike Moore/The Podium Finish)

Row 5
Ross Chastain and Joey Logano (Photo: Mike Moore and Michael Guariglia/The Podium Finish)

Ross Chastain and Joey Logano (Photo: Mike Moore and Michael Guariglia/The Podium Finish)

Last but not least, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta!

Tiongson : Perhaps a shorter race at Atlanta offers a golden opportunity for Kyle Larson with finally winning at Atlanta. He’s been a bridesmaid at Atlanta as many times as fans inquiring about George Russell going to Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team in 2022. At least we’ll take notice of Larson taking his fifth win of the season.

Lucas : He dominated back in the Spring here and is still the odds on favorite. I cannot go against picking “Yung Money” Kyle Larson for the win this weekend.

TPF Stats : While it has been quite some time since NASCAR went to Atlanta Motor Speedway twice in a way, it was earlier this year where Kyle Larson led the most laps and ended up second. This time around, and the track providing great speeds and high lines, Larson will walk away with his 5th victory of the season.

Hobbs : I mean, how can you ignore Kyle Larson this weekend? Hot surface, fast track, running by the wall – it is right in his wheelhouse. And given he has the best record on Intermediate tracks this year and led the most laps earlier this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway (only to finish second), Larson will be the one to beat.

Jones : I think the pieces are coming together for SHR and Kevin Harvick will be the one to right the ship this weekend. (Wait. Did I use that same thinking a few weeks back and it didn’t work out so hot? Well…count on it to happen this week!)

Shoppe : No longer in his well publicized slump, Kyle Busch has been very strong on mile and a half tracks lately! Also, Busch has been about the only one of late to reach victory lane not being a Hendrick driver!

Kitchen : The first race at Atlanta threw me off a bit. Those who I expected to do well struggled in the spring, leaving me confused. What I do know is that we saw a dominant run from Kyle Larson, and I really do think we could see it again… but there is another driver in his way this time.
With Kyle Busch’s growing strength and confidence, I think “Rowdy” will park his Toyota Camry in victory lane for the Quaker State 400 at AMS (this feels so odd to say and NOT put Kentucky Speedway down).

Lambeth : Hendrick Motorsports continues to enjoy such a impressive run of dominance in the NASCAR Cup Series. In recent weeks, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have all found victory lane except for one. William Byron is overdue for another win. so I’ll roll with the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet in Hotlanta!

Raynor : Going with Denny HamlinHe’s due to win. He’s been trying old things you change his luck around.

Sisoler : Seeing as my pick last week bit me majorly, I’m not going with another upset pick for a long time after Kaulig’s decision to pit Allemendinger with less than 5 to go (can’t tell I’m bitter can you?) Anyway, onto Atlanta. Going from a upset pick that Allmendinger would’ve been, I am going the full opposite this week, picking the polesitter for ATL, Georgia’s own Chase Elliott.

He’s got the top spot for Sunday’s race and the momentum after the win at Road America. I think he takes this one home in his home state, and the Dawsonville Pool Room’s siren will sound long into Sunday night after, to quote Mike Joy, “Engine, Engine No. 9, brings it to the finish line!”

Torres : Atlanta has been on of Martin Truex Jr‘s better tracks over the past few years. I can see him get his mojo going again and end up with the victory on what will be the final race under this current configuration.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta!

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Stay safe and wash your hands often. Help yourself, your family and friends by getting the COVID-19 vaccine! Also, thanks for reading our content throughout this season.

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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.

Presently, Ashley Hobbs challenges each of our fans to participate in the 38 Challenge for mental health awareness! In this case, join her challenge now by visiting this link!

Also, if you are shopping for NASCAR or racing die-casts, be sure to check out our friends at Circle B Diecast! If your order is $20 or more, be sure to use coupon code TPF2021 for free shipping! Tell them we sent you and buy some new die-casts now!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 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 his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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