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NASCAR odds, picks and long shots: A reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway throws everything into chaos – The Athletic

NASCAR odds, picks and long shots: A reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway throws everything into chaos – The Athletic

The Cup Series moves east — to the Atlanta Motor Speedway — for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3pm ET, FOX). Jordan Bianchi is fresh off a big call last week — suggesting would-be wagerers throw a little bit of money on 66-to-1 long shot (and eventual winner) Chase Briscoe. He and Jeff Gluck are back for this week’s race, which will be surrounded by an air of mystery, as the track has been dug up and repaved since we were last here…

1. Last week, Jordan told us all to bet on 66-1 (and 100-1 at some sportsbooks!) long shot Chase Briscoe… now do it again! Who is a long shot pick you like this week?

Jordan: Um, wow, no pressure or anything. And it’s not like this is a reconfigured track with a radically different layout where we know exactly what to expect. This will be easy to figure out. No problem.

One name that immediately jumps out is Ross Chastain (22-to-1). This is surprisingly long odds for a driver who’s nearly won each of the past two races and whose team, Trackhouse Racing, has brought some of the fastest cars to the track this season. And if Atlanta ends being a superspeedway‐esque race, Chastain has shown he knows how to work the draft to his advantage and find his way to the front.

Jeff: Ha! A driver at 22-1 is your longshot, Jordan? There are so many unknowns for this race that even the favorites are unusually low (9-1). I’ll pick Erik Jones (50-1) because he’s had speed every week, even if the finishes haven’t been there. Plus, if it actually does turn out to be a superspeedway-style race, he knows how to win those.

2. Atlanta Motor Speedway was torn down and repaved since the last Cup Series race here, with some modifications done to curves and banking, and wider asphalt to encourage more passing. Is this another race where we can throw out data from previous races this season? And even past winners here?

Jordan: There is nothing you can take away from previous Atlanta races that is applicable to what’s going to transpire this weekend. It’s two entirely different configurations with two entirely different kinds of surfaces. Basically, the NASCAR version of comparing apples to oranges. This is a complete unknown. Bettors beware.

Jeff: No one knows what to expect with this race. At all. There’s a good chance the changes may not work as intended (personally, I’m skeptical it will look like a Daytona-style race). NASCAR has never attempted something quite this drastic on a 1.5-mile track before. If you put money on this one, you’re taking more of a risk than usual (even once you have practice data).

3. Who do you like to win this race?

Jordan: When in doubt it’s best not to overthink, just keep things simple. That means going with the guys who typically run up front most weeks and have shown to have a grasp on this new car. Sure, you’re not going to get great value by picking Kyle Larson or Ryan Blaney, but at least you have a better chance of getting some return on your investment (albeit small) than nothing at all.

Jeff: I feel less confident about forecasting this race than any in recent memory. Might as well go with someone who knows how to block and defend in both a superspeedway race and the old 550 hp package races: Joey Logano at 12-1.

4. There seemed to be some frustration coming from drivers on the Toyota team during the Phoenix race last week. Is this something that’ll be fixed immediately, or is it them getting used to the Next Gen cars?

Jordan: These are the growing pains associated with racing a brand‐new car amid a time when practice is limited. Eventually, Toyota is going to find more speed out of its car where it can better compete versus Chevrolet and Ford. But while Phoenix was disappointing for Toyota and they’re the only manufacturer without a win this season, it’s not as if they’ve been completely stuck in left field. The carmaker nearly finished first and second at Las Vegas, and had fast cars at both Daytona and Fontana ⁠— though any success in the latter race was undermined by persistent overheating issues. Which brand is strongest and which one is weakest can flip quickly, and that will likely be the case with so many variables brought about by the new car.

NASCAR odds, picks and long shots: A reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway throws everything into chaos – The Athletic

Jeff: If it gets fixed, I wouldn’t look to Atlanta as the place to make it happen. This race is going to be more about engines than anything, because they’ll all be so choked down. That seemed to favor the Fords at Daytona, if you’re looking for any pattern or history to judge from. But who knows if that will apply here.

5. Is betting on Top 10 finishes the smart way to handle this until the parity slows down and we have some consistent winners on courses we can compare to earlier ones?

Jordan: An effective strategy, sure, but don’t completely shy away from betting winners just because of the current uncertainty. Drivers like Larson, Blaney, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott are still consistently competitive and are good selections to win most weeks.

Jeff: For the normal races, it’ll start to settle down soon and enough trends will emerge to make smart picks. But not this week. I’ll be honest and say I don’t see a smart way to handle the strategy at Atlanta. My advice would be to keep your hands in your pockets and stay on the sidelines this week before diving back in next week.


1. David Ragan is on his home course. Is there anything to that?

Jordan: Nope. Nothing about having fans in the stands correlates to increased ontrack performance. If that were the case, then Chase Elliott would be undefeated here instead of being 0-for-7 in his career and never factoring in the outcome.

Jeff: I disagree. Ragan has a lot of pride in his Georgia roots and he’ll be trying extra hard to post some results in front of friends and family. That said, a top 10 finish considering the car he’s driving would be a shocker – so stay away from picking him.

2. Does coming back to the east coast have any effect on drivers?

Jordan: It shouldn’t have much, if any impact, on the drivers. The real effect is on the teams, which now get a chance to bring their cars back from the West Coast and have sufficient time to begin implementing mechanical/engineering improvements they’ve learned over the past three weeks.

Jeff: I agree with Jordan. Aside from some long flights, the drivers have it easy; it’s the race teams who have been scrambling. This week should practically feel like a vacation for them considering the tight timetable they’ve had in the last few weeks of the West Coast Swing.

3. Can we learn anything, predictive-wise for Sunday, about the tracks from the results of the Xfinity Series race Saturday night? (No Cup drivers entered in the Truck Series race Saturday afternoon.)

Jordan: Track time is critical this weekend, even if that time comes in a different type of vehicle. Here’s the thing, though: The only driver competing in both races is Noah Gragson, and the expectation is that he won’t be a contender on Sunday since he’s making just his second-career start and is with a relatively brand-new team (Kaulig Racing).

Jeff: If any Cup drivers were running double duty, it sure would be helpful for these picks. Track time would be huge this week on a new track layout. But as Jordan mentioned, Gragson is the only one who fits the bill and this will only be his second Cup Series start. So aside from being able to see how the Xfinity race plays out and trying to guess whose style that fits for Cup, it won’t help much with picks.

The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
DriverCurrent Odds
Kyle Larson900
Ryan Blaney900
Chase Elliott1200
Kyle Busch1200
Denny Hamlin1200
Joey Logano1200
William Byron1200
Kevin Harvick1400
Martin Truex Jr.1400
Alex Bowman1400
Tyler Reddick1600
Chase Briscoe1600
Kurt Busch2000
Ross Chastain2200
Brad Keselowski2500
Austin Cindric2500
Aric Almirola2500
Bubba Wallace3300
Christopher Bell3300
Austin Dillon3300
Ricky Stenhouse Jr5000
Erik Jones5000
Daniel Suarez5000
Chris Buescher5000
Cole Custer8000
Michael McDowell10000
Harrison Burton10000
Noah Gragson10000
Ty Dillon10000
Justin Haley10000
Todd Gilliland10000
Corey Lajoie15000
David Ragan25000
Cody Ware50000
Greg Biffle50000
Josh Bilicki50000
B.J. McLeod50000

(Top photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images; The Athletic may receive an affiliate commission if you open an account with BetMGM through links contained in the above article)

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