Race No. 4 of the Sprint Cup Series and Race No. 2 of the Camping World Truck Series take us to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. Unlike Las Vegas and Fontana, success at Atlanta has been a mixed bag in recent years. Since 2004, drivers from Roush, Gibbs, Hendrick, Penske and most recently RPM have all gone to victory lane. No one team has dominated the win total. In that time period, Hendrick Motorsports has three victories with Jimmie Johnson, while Roush Fenway Racing has three with Carl Edwards. Joe Gibbs Racing has two wins, one each with Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch. RPM also has two wins, including last fall’s Pep Boys Auto 500, with Kasey Kahne, while Penske and DEI each have one, with Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (March 2004), respectively.
Over the past 10 races at AMS, Johnson has scored the most points at the track with 1,507. Two of his three wins at the track have come in that time period, along with five top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish is better than ninth in this time, even with a 36th-place finish in September last year. Jeff Gordon has a slightly worse average finish (9.4), but has been more consistent than Johnson with eight top-10 runs. Matt Kenseth, Stewart and Earnhardt Jr. follow close behind to round out the top-five drivers statistically. In Earnhardt’s case, even with his struggles over the past couple of years in the series, he has still been consistent at Atlanta. He finished third in March 2008 for his last top five at the track, but his finishes since then have been two 11ths (including this race last year) and a 17th in September. However, he more than likely desires a finish much better than 17th this time around….
With his two consecutive victories going into Atlanta, the No. 48 team is hitting on all cylinders, which is not good for everyone else. All they want to do in Atlanta is keep the momentum going. For the rest of the field, the goal is to vanquish the No. 48. Easier said than done, but it’s possible. The No. 48 team is not invincible, as their Daytona run this year proves.
What You Need to Know About This Weekend’s Races
Practice, Qualifying and Race Coverage
All Times Eastern Standard Time
1:00 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series Practice (SPEED)
2:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Practice (SPEED)
4:00 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series Happy Hour (SPEED)
6:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Qualifying (SPEED)
9:30 a.m. – Camping World Truck Series Qualifying (SPEED)
11:00 a.m. – Sprint Cup Series Practice (SPEED)
12:20 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour (SPEED)
2:00 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series E-Z-GO 200 (SPEED)
Noon – Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 Pre-Race (FOX)
1:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 (FOX)
What’s The Odds
Just because we’re not in the state of Nevada anymore doesn’t mean that we can’t still take odds on the races. Once again, these are simply examples of betting odds, available via BetUS.com, are accurate as of Thursday night.
Advice: Well, the oddsmakers have looked at the start of the season and rated the drivers accordingly. Effectively, they think that once you get away from Hendrick Motorsports, chances to win are at best, slim to none. However, this race was dominated by Penske Championship Racing’s Kurt Busch. For darkhorses, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go with someone like AJ Allmendinger at 90/1 or Joey Logano at 25/1.
Frontstretch Live Blog
The Frontstretch Live Blog kicks off Sunday at 12:45 p.m. for the Kobalt Tools 500. Make sure to stop by and join in the chat as your favorite Frontstretch writers breakdown all of the on-track action live from Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Drivers to Watch
Camping World Truck Series
Kyle Busch: Let’s face it, if he’s in a race in this series, he’s an automatic threat to win.
Ron Hornaday: Historically strong at Atlanta, but the team made a crew chief change following Daytona. Saturday will be his first race with Doug George on the box.
Todd Bodine: Over the past five years, likely the most consistent Truck Series driver at Atlanta.
Mike Skinner: Has the most points over the last 10 Truck races in Atlanta.
Johnson: Johnson has the best record at AMS over the past five years, and has won the past two weeks. Hard to not consider him a favorite.
Kenseth: Kenseth has been very strong at the beginning of the season. It’s only a matter of time before the combination of Kenseth and Todd Parrott chalks up a win.
Edwards: This weekend is the five-year anniversary of Edwards’s first victory, with a throwback scheme to boot. Edwards has three career victories at Atlanta, so it would not be a surprise if he finally got back to victory lane on Sunday.
Gordon: Dominated last week’s Shelby American, but a bad pit move cost him the victory.
Kurt Busch: Kurt is the defending race champion and has had a relatively tough start to the season. This could be just what he needs to jump start his year.
LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
E-Z-GO 200: Ron Hornaday Jr.
Kobalt Tools 500: Matt Kenseth
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