The Sprint Cup Series heads to Atlanta for a 7:30 Sunday night race on ESPN. It’s the next-to-last race in NASCAR’s regular season with the top 10 in points and the two drivers with the most wins 11th through 20th in points making the Chase for the Championship, NASCAR’s version of the playoffs and the final 10 races of the season.
With the wild cards still yet to be determined, that is somewhat of a factor when going through this week’s top 5 picks because there will be some desperate guys out there, some of them really needing a win.
Top 5 Picks
Kasey Kahne – If I had one pick this week, this would be the guy. He’s got two wins at Atlanta and in 15 starts, he has six top-5 finishes; his average finish of 18.3 is skewed by three DNFs. He’s also started on the pole twice, and I expect him to be a factor for the lead late in the race.
Jimmie Johnson – He’s also got three wins in Atlanta and is a threat to win anywhere. Plus, he’s really looking like the eventual champion.
Carl Edwards – He’s in big-time win mode as he has none this season and sits 12th in points. He also has three career wins at Atlanta so this may be the best shot for last year’s runner-up to make the Chase.
Tony Stewart – He’s got three wins here but also, just when you think he’s in trouble–and he is a bit being 10th in points with just a 16-point lead on Kasey Kahne–he comes through in a big way. He’s all but a lock to make the Chase with three wins this season and could be the first to get four.
Kyle Busch – He has one win at Atlanta and three top 5s. But that’s not the only reason I’m picking him this week. This weekend is the first time this season that Busch is driving in the Truck, Nationwide and Cup races. He seems most happy when he’s driving a race car (or truck) and the driver sometimes known as Rowdy may be really happy late Sunday night.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda – Greg Biffle. This is the non-pick I may regret. He’s been near the front a lot lately and may just have the best chance to challenge Johnson for the title. He doesn’t have any wins at Atlanta, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that changed this weekend.
Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared at Michigan.
Kyle Busch – 6th. He was good all night, but could never make his way to the front as he didn’t lead a lap.
Jeff Gordon – 3rd. Another strong run put him back in the wild-card picture to have a shot at the Chase.
Brad Keselowski – 30th. Two-race winning streak at Bristol comes to an end after he was hit from behind and spun in his retro Miller Lite paint scheme.
Carl Edwards – 22nd. Though he led laps late in the race, fuel strategy forced him to pit with just four laps remaining and took him well out of contention where he finished four laps down.
Kevin Harvick – 15th. Hung around to have an OK night, but never a factor up front.
41 Top 5s
56 Top 10s
Grade for the week: C. Edwards was the only driver I had that even led any laps at Bristol. Not good considering there were a season-high 13 cautions. You think maybe Gordon or Busch could’ve snuck into the lead some how. But not to be.
One last thing: The two drivers in the top 10 in points without a win this season are Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick. The statistics tell us it won’t likely happen at Atlanta for them either. Among drivers in the top 10, Truex is ninth in driver rating at Atlanta at 88.9 and Harvick is 10th at 83.5.
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