The NASCAR Cup Series faces Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 11, wrapping up a packed racing weekend. Ahead of the weekend, the sanctioning body established the starting lineup using its unique formula partially based on the July 4th race at Road America. Race winner Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green as pole winner Busch while Kyle Busch will join him in the front row.
The two Cup Series champions will lead the field shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) as they strive for extra points for the playoffs. Two of Busch’s teammates, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell, will line up on the second row while Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson will line up on the third row. Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain and Joey Logano will complete the top 10.
A surprising name in the first half of the squad is rookie Chase Briscoe. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver struggled in his debut Cup Series season, finishing outside the top 20 in 13 of the first 20 races. However, he put in a strong performance at Road America, finishing sixth and recording his second top 10 of the season. Now he will line up on the sixth row next to Matt DiBenedetto.
Playoff drivers need to catch up in Atlanta
While some of the top drivers of the 2021 season will line up near the front of the field, others will need to regain ground early depending on their final position at Road America. William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start at rank 10 and 11 respectively, while Michael McDowell will start at rank 13.
Harvick put on the best of the Stewart-Haas drivers in the 2021 season, vying for a playoff spot with six top five and 14 top 10. He seemed to be on his way to another after finishing the stage. 2 in seventh place, but two factors played a role in his 27th place.
The driver of the # 4 Ford Mustang SHR told his crew chief on the last leg that his car was too loose. He headed for the pit lane for adjustments and returned to the track in 15th position. Harvick dropped to 21st place near the end of the race when he saw two cars involved in an incident.
Anticipating a warning flag, Harvick headed for the pit lane for fuel and four tires. However, the race remained green, leaving the veteran in 29th place towards the end of the race. Harvick gained ground in the final laps and gained two spots, but the green flag pit stop played a role in his exit.
Likewise, Alex Bowman will start on the ninth row after a late incident with Larson disrupted their two days. He appeared to be on his way to another top 10 on the Wisconsin road course, but lost control of his stock as he made a turn. Bowman struck the rear of Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro and spun it. The collision also damaged his No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro Ally Racing. Bowman finally finished 22nd.
Defending Atlanta Champion to start at Rank 8
There will be several Cup Series drivers with favorable winning odds to participate in the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ryan Blaney will be part of that group after capturing the checkered flag in the first race on the 1.54 mile oval. Although he will have to navigate through the crowded field.
Blaney will start the afternoon race in the eighth row next to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The team driver Penske has just finished in 20th place at Road America, a setback after two top 10s in the doubles program of the Pocono Raceway.
Although he ended his day in the middle of the field, Blaney will move closer to the top 10 due to a consistent season overall. He has one win under his belt, three top five and nine top 10. Now he will be looking to win his second race of the season in Atlanta and earn points in the playoffs.
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