Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM
Best Bets - Atlanta
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, the second race of the 2019 season.
Last season it was Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (11/2) rolling from the No. 3 position to claim his second-ever victory at the track. It was his first win in Atlanta since the Cracker Barrel 500 in back in 2001, a season when the track hosted two races per year. After Chevrolet dominated from fall 2010 until 2016, claiming checkers in five of seven races, it is Ford claiming the past two races at the track. It's no surprise that qualifying matters, as the past two winners have come from the fifth spot or better, with all but two of the winners coming from the 11th starting spot or higher. That last nugget doesn't bode well for Harvick to repeat as champion, as he'll go off 18th. If anyone can buck that trend, it's Happy Harvick, the Closer. NASCAR's Loop Data shows him ranked first among all drivers over the past five starts in Atlanta with a Driver Rating of 135.1, leading 915 total laps while running 97.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (9/1) picked up the victory in Atlanta in 2017, running from the fifth position, and he was a runner-up last season to Harvick. He has made 10 starts at the venerable track, posting three Top 5 finishes and six Top 10s, but he also has three DNFs. Even with those three poor showings he has managed an impressive 16.5 Average-Finish Position (AFP). He'll go off from the 19th position, so he too will be looking to buck that trend of winners coming from the 11th starting spot or better. His teammate Joey Logano (7/1) will be searching for his first-ever win, although he certainly has come close in the past. He checks in third, right behind Keselowski, in Driver Rating over the past five seasons. Kes has run 95.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, and Logano is right there too with 89.9 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15. Logano has 12 starts all-time in Georgia, posting two Top 5s, four Top 10s and 163 laps led with a stellar 16.7 AFP and no DNFs.
The other part of the Penske trio who is often overlooked is Ryan Blaney (20/1) . He really struggled in qualifying, as he'll start from the 26th position in Sunday's grid. He has three MENCS starts under his belt at Atlanta, finishing 12th, 18th and 25th while failing to lead any laps. He's a contrarian play for DFS owners, and he is in a Ford, so he has that going for him.
Last week's Daytona champ, Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (16/1) , has posted an 88.9 Driver Rating over the past five seasons in Atlanta, leading a total of 77 laps. He won the Advocare 500 back in 2012 in Atlanta, and in 19 career starts he has four Top 5s and seven Top 10s while leading 392 laps with an 18.3 AFP. Teammate Erik Jones (20/1) has just two career MENCS starts under his belt at this track, but he has veeb a quick learner with finishes of 11th and 14th.
Kyle Busch (5/1) was right there in the mix last week, but he came up just short for a 500 championship. He will be dangerous again in the ATL, as Rowdy has two career wins with five Top 5s and 432 laps led in 20 starts while turning in a 14.8 AFP. Hamlin starts from the outside of Row 2, while Busch goes off sixth and Jones comes in at the 15th position in his DeWalt Toyota. Martin Truex Jr. (13/2) has never come away with checkers in Atlanta, but he is certainly due. Over the past five outings at the tri-oval in Atlanta he has managed a 99.5 Driver Rating with 88.0 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15. He has 20 career starts under his belt at the track, posting eight Top 10s with 282 laps led and a 17.7 AFP.
Don't sleep on the Hendrick Motorsports team this weekend, either. Chase Elliott (7/1) has been superb in his three career MENCS races in Atlanta, posting finishes of fifth, eighth and 10th. That means he'll be a highly coveted fantasy option, and a popular choice at the betting window, too. His partner in crime, Jimmie Johnson (14/1) had an eventful Speedweeks in Daytona, winning the Clash and challenging for the 500 title despite a severely damage back quarter panel from a wreck on Pit Road. He has managed 27 starts at this track with five victories and 14 Top 5 finishes, turning in an 11.6 AFP which leads all active drivers with at least four starts in Atlanta. Johnson starts from the 11th position, which Elliott struggled in qualifying and will look to tick off plenty of Place Differential points out of the 22nd starting spot.
SHR's Aric Almirola (22/1) is on the pole in the No. 10 Ford looking for his first-ever win in Atlanta. Over the years 'The Cuban Missile' hasn't had a ton of success, but he also has had some inferior equipment, too. He has eight career Atlanta starts, posting just one Top 10 while leading zero laps. He'll look to change that firing out of the gate from the inside of Row 1 to start.
Former SHR driver Kurt Busch (25/1) , now part of the Ganassi Racing family, has three career wins in Atlanta, but none since the 2010 season when he won the Kobalt Tools 500 in the spring installment. He won checkers from that magical 11th position, too. Only seven of his 27 career starts have resulted in finishes of 21st or worse, and he has a stellar 15.3 AFP. His new teammate Kyle Larson (8/1) doesn't have an extensive history at Atlanta, but he has been good in his five career runs at the track. He has one Top 5, three Top 10s and seven laps led in his five starts, posting a solid 14.2 AFP.
If you're looking for a sleeper, Roush Fenway Racing veteran driver Ryan Newman (100/1) certainly fits the bill with rather long odds to come away with a victory. He has never won in 26 starts at Atlanta, but he has a respectable 18.1 AFP with nine Top 10s, 16 Tops 20s and 195 laps led. His teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (80/1) also has some log odds, but he qualified well and starts on the outside of Row 1. In six career Atlanta starts he has just one Top 10, but a respectable 18.5 AFP.
For those you'll want to avoid, Matt DiBenedetto (200/1) has a 29.3 AFP in three career starts and David Ragan (200/1) , with his 25.9 AFP, shouldn't be on anyone's radar. Bubba Wallace (200/1) also struggled last season in his MENCS debut appearance in Atlanta, managing a 32nd-place showing. Rookie Ryan Preece (200/1) was the highest finishing rookie last week in the 500, but he is expected to take a step back in his first-ever Atlanta start.