NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Atlanta Motor Speedway

Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway, located in Hampton Georgia. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta was on July 31, 1960 and won by Fireball Roberts from the pole position.

Over the years the track underwent several changes. It was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970. It was renamed Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990. And then the track layout was reversed, and the track was re-configured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997.

From 1960 – 2010, Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted multiple NASCAR Cup Series races during each season; starting in 2011 the series began only visiting Atlanta once a year (2011-2020). This season marks the first time since 2010, the series will visit the facility more than once a year as the series is scheduled compete this weekend (March 21, 2021) and later this season (July 11, 2021).

From 1987 to 2000 Atlanta Motor Speedway held the final championship race of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.  In total, there have been 113 NASCAR Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the first race there in 1960.

This weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be 325 laps (500.5 miles) and broken up into three stages. The first two stages are 105 laps each with the final stage being 115 laps.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will start from the pole and his teammate and last weekend’s winner Martin Truex Jr. will join him on the front row.

 

Next Race: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, March 21

The Time: 3 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 500.5 miles (325 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 105),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 210), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 325)

Streaking: Five different winners to start the 2021 Cup season

With Martin Truex Jr. taking the checkered flag last weekend, the 2021 season marks the 15th time in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) that the season schedule has opened with five different winners (2021, 2017, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1993, 1991, 1986, 1984, 1979). This weekend, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Atlanta Motor Speedway will have the chance to produce the sixth different NASCAR Cup Series winner of the 2021 season making it the eighth different season to start the year with six different drivers in Victory Lane; joining 2014, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1991, 1986, 1984.

The Modern Era record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10 set back in 2000. Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the streak winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond (Race No. 11).

Season Race No. Winners Track Date
2000 1 Dale Jarrett Daytona Sunday, February 20, 2000
2000 2 Bobby Labonte Rockingham Sunday, February 27, 2000
2000 3 Jeff Burton Las Vegas Sunday, March 5, 2000
2000 4 Dale Earnhardt Atlanta Sunday, March 12, 2000
2000 5 Ward Burton Darlington Sunday, March 19, 2000
2000 6 Rusty Wallace Bristol Sunday, March 26, 2000
2000 7 Dale Earnhardt Jr Texas Sunday, April 2, 2000
2000 8 Mark Martin Martinsville Sunday, April 9, 2000
2000 9 Jeff Gordon Talladega Sunday, April 16, 2000
2000 10 Jeremy Mayfield Auto Club Sunday, April 30, 2000

In the Modern Era (1972-2021), the record for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011. Last season the series produced 13 different winners.

There are five former NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta Motor Speedway winners entered this weekend looking for their first win of the 2021 season: Kevin Harvick (three wins), Kurt Busch (three), Brad Keselowski (two), Kyle Busch (two) and Denny Hamlin (one).

 

Denny Hamlin continues to hold points lead without a win

While still looking for his first win of the 2021, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin captured his fourth top-five finish in five races this season extending his NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead to 39 points over Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski in second last weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Now the points leader is looking to get his second career victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and lock himself into the Playoffs.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is a special place for the Toyota camp. Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, drove his Toyota Camry to Victory Lane in Atlanta on March 9, 2008, scoring Toyota’s first NASCAR Cup Series win. In total, Joe Gibbs Racing has won

Denny Hamlin has made 21 series starts at Atlanta putting up one win (2021), five top fives and eight top 10s. He finished fifth in the Atlanta Cup race last season.

Atlanta could be the place Harvick gets Stewart-Haas Racing back to Victory Lane

The winning tide that floats the Stewart-Haas Racing boats has yet to come in this season, but Kevin Harvick could change all that as the defending winner of this weekend’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Harvick (2001, 2018, 2020) is tied Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kurt Busch (2002, 2009, 2010) for the most NASCAR Cup Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway among active drivers with three wins each. Statistically, Atlanta is one of Kevin Harvick’s best tracks having won in all three NASCAR national series on the 1.54-mile track. Atlanta is also one of five tracks on the schedule he has led more than 1,000 laps at, and one of 12 tracks he has scored three or more wins at in the NASCAR Cup Series. Plus, at Atlanta Motor Speedway he leads all active drivers in starts (30), wins (three tied with Kurt Busch), top fives (nine), top 10s (15 tied with Kyle Busch) and laps led (1,348). Last season he led 151 laps en route to his win.

And if that wasn’t convincing enough to keep an eye out for Harvick this weekend, NASCAR pre-race Loop Data has him ranked in the top five of several key categories heading into Atlanta: Average Finish of 12.909, fourth-best, Average Running Position of 11.418, fourth-best

Driver Rating of 102.2, series-best, 594 Fastest Laps Run, series-best and 4,965 Laps in the Top 15 (69.0%), second-most.

Harvick could also extend Ford’s wins streak at Atlanta this weekend. The longest consecutive wins streak by a manufacturer in the NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway is four victories and both Ford and Chevrolet have accomplished the feat three times.

  • Ford
    • (1964 sweep-1965 sweep)
    • (Nov. 1991, 1992 sweep, Mar. 1993)
    • (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020).
  • Chevrolet
    • (1983 sweep-1984 sweep)
    • (1995 sweep-1996 sweep)
    • (2003 sweep-2004 sweep).

Ford has the opportunity to become the first manufacturer to win five straight at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend.

 

Martin Truex Jr. grabs first win of 2021 and adds name to Playoff & All-Star lists

Snapping a 29-race winless streak last weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. put every Cup competitor on notice for when they come back to the Valley of the Sun to settle the series championship in November. Truex not only locked himself into the postseason with the victory but also added his name to 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 13.

Truex joins fellow 2021 season winners, Front Row Motorsport’s Michael McDowell (Daytona 500), his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell (Daytona RC), Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron (Homestead-Miami) and Kyle Larson (Las Vegas) as the five drivers already with tickets to the Playoffs.

This weekend, the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, Truex, is looking to keep the momentum rolling at Atlanta and just like Phoenix add it to his win’s list. Truex has made 22 series starts at Atlanta posting five top fives and 10 top 10s. He finished third in the NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta race last season.

Georgia native and series champion Chase Elliott returns home

Returning home is always sweet, and this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion and Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott will do just that. Elliott also has the opportunity to become just the second driver in series history from the state of Georgia to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway; joining his father and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott a.k.a. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville with five Atlanta Cup wins.

Since the last time the Dawsonville, Georgia native, Chase Elliot, competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series title (2020) and claimed the Most Popular Driver of the Year award for the third consecutive season (2018-2020). Now, Elliott heads back to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend ranked sixth in the series driver standings after posting two top-five finishes in the first fives races of the year.

Elliott has made five series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway posting one top five and four top 10s. He finished eighth at in the NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta race last season.

NASCAR Cup Series Etc.

Jeff Foxworthy to bring the laughs to Atlanta Motor Speedway with pre-race show – Georgia native Jeff Foxworthy is bringing his popular comedy act to Atlanta Motor Speedway with a pre-race performance on Sunday, March 21. Fans in attendance for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will enjoy Foxworthy’s observations about the humor found in everyday life during his performance on the pre-race stage.

Admission to Foxworthy’s show is included with every grandstand ticket for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Foxworthy is the largest selling comedy-recording artist in history, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and best-selling author of more than 26 books.

Stewart Friesen to race #77 Spire Motorsports car in Cup career debut at Bristol Dirt – Spire Motorsports announced this week that Stewart Friesen will drive the No. 77 car on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 28, with Halmar International as the primary partner. The car will be adorned in Friesen’s traditional Halmar colors and will be prepared for competition by Spire and led by Crew Chief Kevin Bellicourt.

Friesen will have a full schedule on the Bristol dirt this Spring. In addition to the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race on March 28, Friesen will also be competing in the NASCAR Camping World Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt on March 27, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Bristol Bash on April 9 and 10, and the Super Dirt Car Series Big Block Modifieds on April 23 and 24.

Friesen, who has over 330 career wins in dirt modified racing, won the last time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced on dirt at Eldora Speedway in 2019.

“It’s a dream come true to compete in the Cup Series,” said Friesen. “It’s the pinnacle of motorsports in North America. As a race fan myself, it has always been something I’ve dreamed about doing.”

Milestone To Watch For: Truex, Busch are racing to 10,000 laps led – Two drivers are looking to become the 19th and 20th different drivers all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series to lead 10,000 laps in their career. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. currently has 9,963 laps led, just 37 laps shy of reaching the 10,000-lap led goal. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch is not far behind Truex with 9,904 laps led, 96 laps shy of 10,000. Below is the NASCAR Cup Series top 20 list of lap leaders:

Rank Drivers Led Completed % Led Races
1 Richard Petty 51,695 307,846 16.80% 1,185
2 Cale Yarborough 31,627 144,938 21.80% 562
3 Bobby Allison 27,344 197,438 13.80% 718
4 Dale Earnhardt 25,683 202,888 12.70% 676
5 David Pearson 25,159 135,021 18.60% 574
6 Jeff Gordon 24,936 231,223 10.80% 805
7 Darrell Waltrip 23,134 237,773 9.70% 822
8 Rusty Wallace 19,971 204,817 9.80% 706
9 Jimmie Johnson 18,941 194,170 9.80% 691
10 Kyle Busch 17,947 159,650 11.20% 583
11 Kevin Harvick 15,582 206,219 7.60% 728
12 Bobby Isaac 13,200 71,037 18.60% 309
13 Mark Martin 12,878 255,044 5.00% 882
14 Tony Stewart 12,819 176,404 7.30% 618
15 Junior Johnson 12,643 52,183 24.20% 313
16 Matt Kenseth 11,769 198,099 5.90% 698
17 Bill Elliott 11,419 238,923 4.80% 835
18 Denny Hamlin 11,411 154,363 7.40% 552
19 Martin Truex Jr 9,963 155,035 6.40% 560
20 Kurt Busch 9,904 203,433 4.90% 731

Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award nominations are open – Nominations opened at the beginning of March for The NASCAR Foundation’s 11th annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, a recognition that honors the philanthropic ideals and vision of Betty Jane France, The NASCAR Foundation’s late founder and chairperson.

The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is presented annually to a NASCAR fan who is a dedicated volunteer working on behalf of children’s causes. Since its inception, the award has given $1.8 million in donations to charities representing 40 finalists, impacting the lives of 354,647 children in need.

The nomination process includes an independent selection committee of NASCAR industry leaders who help identify the nominees to be voted on by The NASCAR Foundation’s Board of Directors. The four finalists are ultimately selected by the Board and set forth to an online fan vote in the fall. Each finalist will be guaranteed a $25,000 donation to the children’s charity they represent, with the overall winner receiving a $100,000 donation.

Nominations will close on Friday, March 19, at midnight. The nomination form and award rules can be accessed online at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. Completed forms can be submitted via email to bjfaward@nascarfoundation.org or via mail.

Speedway Children’s Charities to host Laps for Charity at Atlanta – Atlanta Motor Speedway is inviting fans to take the first laps of the NASCAR race weekend and help children in need. Speedway Children’s Charities Atlanta is hosting Laps for Charity on Atlanta’s famous 1.54-mile oval under the lights on Friday, March 19, as part of the NASCAR weekend festivities. Participants will get to drive their personal vehicle onto the 24-degree banked turns and make three laps around the historic speedway. Proceeds will benefit the Atlanta Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities and its ongoing mission to help children in need. With a donation of $40 per vehicle participants will drive three laps around the Speedway. Gates will open for the event at 4:30 p.m. Donations for admission must be made online; admission will not be sold on-site. Additionally, drivers will be required to complete a waiver and present it upon arrival. Seatbelts must be worn by all participants.

Attendees will access the event by entering the infield through the service tunnel located just off Richard Petty Boulevard and Lower Woolsey Road. Participants will then follow signage to check-in.

Throughout the event attendees will be required to remain inside their vehicles and observe guidelines for safety and social distancing. To learn more about Laps for Charity and to purchase tickets to the event, go to https://www.speedwaycharities.org/events/atlanta/laps-for-charity/.

 

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