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Last Updated Jul 13, 2022, 8:57 PM

NASCAR Quaker State 400 Picks, Preview, Odds

Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s newly reconfigured 1.54-mile quad-oval is going to be one of the best races of the year as we start the second half of the 2022 NASCAR Cup season. The new asphalt and 28 degrees of banking in the turns jacked up the speeds so high on the cars that NASCAR mandated the slower superspeedway race package be used as it does at Talladega and Daytona.

The end result with the new NextGen car, new asphalt, steeper banking, and using the superspeedway package made the first Atlanta race in March one of the most action-filled races of the season with 46 lead changes among 20 different drivers. The Daytona 500 had 35 lead changes among 13 drivers and Talladega had 41 lead changes among just 16 drivers. 

This will be the first time this season the NextGen car is visiting a track for the second time so the teams that did well will review their notes with hopes of recreating success while those that did poorly can try something different here. What makes this race even more intriguing is that it’s 100 miles less than the March race. There is a better sense of urgency from the outset.

QUAKER STATE 400 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Think about the idea that 20 different drivers led laps at Atlanta in March. At some point in the race, I had one of my drivers bet to win actually lead. It gave my bets hope. It gave me entertainment. I felt I was given a great shot to win. William Byron would win after leading eight times for a race-high 111 laps. He’d be followed by Ross Chastain, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez, and Corey LaJoie. That is one of the sickest top-fives I’ve ever seen. 

I was sold on Trackhouse Racing and Ross Chastain from that moment and here is now leading the Cup Series with nine top-fives and tied with four others with two wins.     
"It's full superspeedway style, think of Daytona and Talladega,” Chastain said of Atlanta’s new layout. “We need our car to be very efficient in the air and the least amount of drag and still have grip, and not be too loose or tight.”

Chastain is listed at 10-to-1 odds to win along with four other drivers at Caesars sportsbooks behind favored Kyle Larson at 9-to-1 and just before Byron and Joey Logano at 11-to-1 odds. The odds look different this week with no one too low or no one too high because like Daytona or Talladega, anyone can win. Yes, Lajoie finished fifth in a Cup race.

Bubba Wallace is anywhere from 200-to 500-to-1 to win weekly on a regular track, but with solid superspeedway skills, he’s listed at 12-to-1 by Caesars. The odds board looks almost identical to the Daytona or Talladega odds board which means we have our best superspeedway drivers listed near the top like Denny Hamlin (10/1), Ryan Blaney, and Joey Logano (11/1).    

“I think you’re going to see a lot of what you saw the first time,” said Hamlin who won at the old Atlanta in 2012. “But it’s not as simple as just bringing a superspeedway car like you’d take to Daytona or Talladega. You’ve got to handle good, especially with how hot it is going to be Sunday. I feel good about how strong our car was in the spring. We didn’t get the result we would have liked, but I was able to make moves on the top and bottom, so that gives me a lot of confidence that we can be a real contender on Sunday.”

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QUAKER STATE 400 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, July 10, 2022
  • Venue: Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • Location: Hampton, Georgia
  • Distance: 400 miles
  • Laps: 260
  • Network-Time: USA - 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Defending Champion: Cole Custer (2020 - Kentucky)

I’m going over the drivers I like and it’s a list of almost 20 drivers. What the hell is that? I can’t bet 20 drivers. How do I widdle it down to maybe eight drivers? Obviously, drivers that understand the air and how to manipulate it to propel speed are at the top of the list. My goal is to have five of my eight drivers in the lead pack of the draft with a chance to win. All of the superspeedway races had a mad dash to the finish. Austin Cindric won at Daytona, Byron at Atlanta, and Chastain at Talladega. 

I love desperate drivers. There are eight races left to make the playoffs and there are quite a few who know they have no shot at winning a race except using the superspeedway race package. Drivers that immediately come to mind are Erik Jones (50/1), Ricky Stenhouse Jr (50/1), Michael McDowell (60/1), Austin Dillon (40/1) Chris Buescher (40/1), and Brad Keselowski (35/1).

“This race was obviously an experience back in the spring, and I think in some ways was a lot of folks expected, but in some way surprised us, as well,” Keselowski said. “It’s definitely fast and racy, but it’s challenging with the new surface and figuring out how to navigate it as a Superspeedway. Excited to have our friends at Solomon Plumbing back on the car, and can’t wait to put on a great show for those folks and everyone come Sunday.”

The best runs that RFK Racing co-owner and driver Brad Keselowski has had this season have come with the superspeedway race package beginning with a ninth-place finish at Daytona after leading a race-high 67 laps. Only one other top-10 on the season for him, but he was 12th at Atlanta in March. This is where he can win which would be his third Atlanta win. I think his crew knows this as well and they work harder to get the best version of the No. 6 Mustang out there and I think it’s true for a lot of these long shots including his teammate Buescher.

(Getty)

“The new asphalt is right on a razor’s edge, and the spring race was so tense the whole race,” Buescher said.“We’ve learned some stuff that will make it more comfortable going back, but it’ll still be tough with both the surface and the temperatures. As we say all the time, momentum is huge in our sport, and we’ve been up and down with it, so it’s time to turn it up and keep the solid finishes coming as we progress through the summer.” 

Buescher was seventh at Atlanta in March, and he reminds me to remind you that it’s supposed to be 87 degrees in Atlanta on Sunday by green flag time with 73% humidity with a 58% chance of rain. Hot and sticky.

Austin Dillon sits 94-points behind 16th-place in the standings and needs a win bad and he can get it here with the superspeedway package. Most of his best races over his career have come at Talladega or Daytona, including a Daytona 500 win, and the last time I saw him on one he was nosed out for the win at Talladega with a runner-up. Plus, he’s had to stew all week after his teammate Tyler Reddick won to get the automatic invite into the playoffs. Dillon was surely happy for RCR as an organization winning, but he wants the win. He’s the perfect kind of desperate right now and knows this is his shot. 

QUAKER STATE 400 BETTING ANALYSIS

I’m still not sure what to expect out of the Toyota gang, but it’s hard not to be impressed by what Martin Truex Jr did in the three superspeedway package races with a 13th at Daytona leading three times for 11 laps, eighth at Atlanta leading five laps, and fifth at Talladega. He’s 18-to-1 to win this week. 

“I think the race will be pretty similar because we’re going to run pretty much flat out,” Truex said. “Handling may come into a play a little more this time just because it’s going to be a lot hotter. Overall, I think everyone has a better handle on the car and you have an idea what worked and what didn’t work in that first race. It was pretty hard to pass the first time because everybody got side by side and there wasn’t much room to go anywhere, so qualifying is going to be very important to start up front up  this yaeand try to stay up front all day.”

Let’s not forget about Michael McDowell, last season's Daytona 500 winner who is having the best season of his career with seven top-10s through 18 races but he still sits 115-points out of 16th place. Damn right he can win this week, his seventh at Daytona in February and eighth at Talladega in April say he can win.

You may notice that I’m not talking much about past history at Atlanta or including other data from other 1.5-mile tracks, but that’s only because it’s not important here anymore. Different race package and 28 degrees of banking put this in its own class associated more with Daytona and Talladega.

QUAKER STATE 400 CONTENDERS

Kurt Busch (18/1) leads active drivers with four wins at Atlanta, the last coming last season when he drove the No. 1 Camaro, but what’s more important in betting this week is his third place at Atlanta in March.

His brother Kyle Busch (10/1) is a two-time Atlanta winner and has also been one of the best with the superspeedway package this season with a sixth at Daytona after leading 28 laps and a third at Talladega. He was in an accident early at Atlanta after leading twice for 21 laps. His success might lead to a good day for Toyota.

And then there’s Chase Elliott, the local kid for Dawsonville, who watched his Daddy win at Atlanta but has yet to win on it in eight Cup tries. He has the best average finish among active drivers at 12.6, but only one top-five. He was sixth in the March Atlanta race after leading a crowd roaring approval for 29 laps.

"For me, I want to try to get to the end,” Elliott said. “Five hundred miles at Atlanta was one of the longest races of the year in March from my seat. That being said, when you’re in a bit of a marathon event like that, you’ve got to survive. You want to be around there at the end. So, if you can be on the lead lap and not have any damage to your car, you’re probably going to have a shot at it at the end of the event. So for me, I’m just like, 'man, let’s get to the end and we’ll run then for the win hopefully.' You never know. You try to take each circumstance for what it is and make the best decision you can."

(Getty)

That’s advice that every driver should try to apply in a race like this with everyone bunched up and positions constantly moving. You can’t win it if you’re not in it. Foolish wrecks early are for the dumb birds. The new car has taken away his dominance on the road courses as he’s gone winless in the last six on them, including the three this season, but it’s also given him two wins on concrete ovals at Dover and Nashville. 

The angle I like most about Elliott this week is that he’s the only driver with top-10s in all three races at Daytona, Atlanta, and Talladega. 

We can expect William Byron to be tough again and I like what his crew chief Randy Fugle was talking about this week regarding Atlanta and the differences between this week and the March race.

"Obviously, we had a good showing at Atlanta in March and some of those notes will definitely transfer over for this weekend,” Fugle said. “However, the track has been sitting in the sun and baking since we were there last. It’s almost a similar situation as when we run the Daytona 500 to then racing 400 miles in August in that it’s much cooler the first time we race at Daytona and then handling becomes a bigger factor in the summer race.

“We’ll still be drafting this weekend, but track grip will be down and handling will play a bigger role. Since we don’t have practice this time around, I think more guys will show up guessing a little bit on their handling to start the race. I think there will be more ebbs and flows of who is good at the start and then who is good at the end once they have some time to work on their cars. It’s going to be more about who can keep up with track conditions while being around at the end of the race to give yourself a shot."

We’ve got lots to think about this week and lots of drivers with a legitimate shot at winning. Good luck in picking the right combination, and enjoy the race.

QUAKER STATE 400 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #9 Chase Elliott (10/1)
  2. #3 Austin Dillon (40/1)
  3. #6 Brad Keselowski (35/1)
  4. #1 Ross Chastain (10/1)
  5. #24 William Byron (11/1)

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