HAMPTON, Ga. and CHARLOTTE, NC — Preview by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — John Bazemore/AP photo —
Race two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has quickly become a reality.
After Joey Logano shocked the world last Sunday and won the season opening Daytona 500, fans have been wondering what to expect this weekend at Atlanta. Will someone storm to the front late and score the win? Will one driver dominate and lock himself/herself into the Chase?
Let’s break it down.
TV: FOX (1 P.M. EST)
Radio: PRN (Performance Racing Network) 12 P.M. EST
Moving the race back to the spring was a risk for NASCAR and it seems like the risk could bite them back. There is a 50% chance of some freezing rain showers this afternoon, according to weather.com. Hopefully Mother Nature plays nice and gives the drivers a chance to hit one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR.
As we have seen over the past few seasons, the Goodyear tires wear a lot during the course of a run in Hampton. The end of the race always comes down to who put four tires on versus who put two tires on. Will the teams have enough sets if there are a lot of cautions? Who will use them most effectively?
NASCAR announced in the drivers’ meeting this morning that there will be a competition yellow at lap 25 after morning rain washed the rubber off of the race track. Due to that, teams will also be allowed one extra set of fresh Goodyear Eagles to use during the 500 miles, bringing their total to 13 sets for the afternoon.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy)
Johnson has been extremely strong at Atlanta in his career, but does that come as any surprise? His 11.52 average finish in 23 career starts at Atlanta is the best among NASCAR’s active drivers. Expect Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus to unload a car that is adjustable and able to be a contender late in the race.
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevy)
Kahne was extremely strong late in the going in August and scored the win that gave him a berth into NASCAR’s playoffs. Kahne always has had a knack for the 1.5 mile tracks that take the most out of both the driver and car.
Brad Keslowski (No. 2 Detriot Genuine Parts Ford)
Anytime the Sprint Cup Series travels to a 1.5 mile track, you have to watch out for Bad Brad. Paul Wolfe always seems to bring a setup extremely close and tweaks on it while the race goes to give him a shot at the end.
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy)
Truex Jr. comes off a solid finish to 2014 and a great start to 2015 at Daytona. His team has made gains in their 1.5 mile track program and he has run respectably at Atlanta in the past. Look for his success to continue.
Aric Armirola (No. 43 Flesh From Florida Ford)
The famous No. 43 has gone to victory lane at Atlanta before, but this Sunday could see a new driver take the checkers behind the wheel. Almirola was strong at the 1.5 mile tracks in the latter part of 2014 — especially Chicago to open the Chase before his motor went up in smoke. Watch for him to run inside the top ten during the day.
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevy)
When the tour went to Atlanta last fall, Harvick dominated the whole race until a late-race caution gave Kasey Kahne a chance to grab the point. Harvick ended up crashed with Paul Menard that night, but he was extremely strong on 1.5 mile tracks last season and his success should continue starting this weekend. (Oh by the way, did you see what he did in the XFINITY race yesterday? Exactly.)
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.