This past weekend was the Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, affectionately known as Hotlanta by fans and NASCAR alike.
Since the last Cup Series race at Atlanta in 2021, the track has undergone a complete repaving, and other major work such as increased banking in the turns. Last year’s winner was Kurt Busch, and this year the eldest Busch brother is racing for 23XI Racing in the 45 car. He would end this year’s FoHQT500 in third place.
It would be William Byron who would take the checkered flag after holding off the rest of the field for the final ten laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon.
The race featured a host of different race leaders, something not typically seen at Atlanta before the repave. Not to mention the uncharacteristically high number of cautions.
This particular Atlanta race was quite the expensive weekend for NASCAR Cup teams. Eleven of the thirty-seven car field Did Not Finish (DNF) and one team didn’t pass NASCAR’s Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP). Which means that particular team didn’t meet the five minute repair clock requirements.
The first stage of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 began with the sun high in the sky, shining down on Chase Briscoe and Ryan Blaney on the front row. In 2021, Denny Hamlin led all twenty-six laps before the competition caution came out while the same thing happened with Chase Elliott in 2020.
This year, there were at least eight lead changes in the first 25 laps before the caution came out for Noah Gragson’s hard contact with the wall. The young driver was driving for Kaulig Racing in the No. 16 car, but his day would be cut short there.
With 11 laps left in the first stage, Ross Chastain, who was leading at the time, made contact with the wall. On top of the damage from the wall, the team also suffered a penalty for pitting while pit road was still closed.
The top three at the end of the stage were William Byron, Denny Hamlin, and Daniel Suarez.
Stage two began with Christopher Bell leading the field to green. Tyler Reddick, who was running in third at the time, spun around, collecting some other cars in the field.
Unfortunately, Chastain and Reddick weren’t the only drivers to have problems upfront on Sunday. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading the race when he spun around, with Austin Cindric, Kevin Harvick and Erik Jones tangling in the process. The top three at the end of the first stage were Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.
With the way the rest of the race was going, the final stage was gearing up to be just as good. Chastain was able to overcome his damage from the first stage and took the lead once more.
On one particular restart, Aric Almirola got too hard of a push from behind that sent him spinning across the grass on the front stretch. As the final laps ticked down, the pack wrestled for the lead.
Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace traded paint, fighting for the first place position. William Byron sailed to the front, while Elliott dropped low in an attempt to take that spot.
But in the end, no one was able to stop Byron from crossing the finish line first with Ross Chastain and Kurt Busch behind him. Further back in the field, several cars crashed across the line. And Corey LaJoie, who finished in fifth place, scored his first top five of his career.
What do you all think of the new racing since Atlanta’s repave? Are you a fan of tighter pack racing at the cost of more wrecks? What kind of tracks and racing do you like to see?
Next weekend the NASCAR Cup Series takes on the first road course of the season at the Circuit of the America’s. Make sure not to miss the action and tune into Fox on Sunday, March 27th, at 3:30 PM EST.
1 William Byron
2 Ross Chastain
3 Kurt Busch
4 Daniel Suarez
5 Corey LaJoie
6 Chase Elliott
7 Chris Buescher
8 Martin Truex Jr.
9 Joey Logano
10 Alex Bowman