1) Kevin Harvick (Starting – 3rd)
Atlanta Fantasy Spin – Kevin Harvick will be the man to beat at Atlanta. He’s been a dominate performer who’s been good enough to win many of the recent races here. Over the last six Atlanta races Harvick has the best driver rating, a 3.8 average running position, has led 835 laps and has a misleading 8.3 average finish. In 5 of those 6 races he’s led 100 laps or more. Last year Harvick was dominant, but victory lane eluded him. In practice Kevin Harvick had a great car. It was fast over long runs and he was confident with how it performed. When he’s happy with his car the competition should be nervous. His 20 lap average speed ranked as the 3rd best. On Sunday look for Harvick to finish in the top five and be a serious threat to win.
Atlanta Track History – Last year Kevin Harvick dominated the competition but walked away with a misleading 9th place finish after getting a late speeding penalty while leading. There’s no doubt he would’ve won if he would’ve just stayed below the speed limit on pit road. In the race he won Stage #1 & Stage #2, led 292 laps, earned the best driver rating and the best PROS Ranking. In 2016 he also should’ve won but Jimmie Johnson used superior pit strategy which cost Harvick the win. In that race Harvick earned the best driver rating, had a 3rd place average running position and led a race high 131 laps. In 2015 he had a phenomenal car. He started in the rear of the field because of an engine change but that wasn’t a problem for him. He finished 2nd, had a 4th place average running position and led 116 laps.
2) Kyle Larson (Starting – 8th)
Atlanta Fantasy Spin – Kyle Larson will be tough to beat at Atlanta. He’s an elite intermediate track performer who’s one of the best in the business on this track type. Last year at Atlanta he had a strong showing and almost raced his way to victory lane. On Sunday I think he’s primed for another strong showing. In practice Kyle Larson had really good long run speed. He started the session with a 29 lap run so he should have a good feel for his car. When he was interviewed he said he liked his car. Look for Larson to compete for a top five and be a factor to win.
Atlanta Track History – Last year at Atlanta, Larson had a strong showing. When the race reached its conclusion he finished 2nd, earned the 4th best driver rating and had a 6th place average running position. Additionally he finished 9th in Stage #1, and 5th in Stage #2. Late in the race after the final round of pit stops he found himself in the lead and he likely would’ve won but for whatever reason he made bad lane decisions late which cost him the win. In the two Atlanta races prior to that he finished 26th. I wouldn’t read into those results and consider them irrelevant.
Further Recommended Reading – Atlanta Practice Notes/ Practice Speeds Center, DraftKings Playability Value Chart, Likely Finish Ranges, Speed Cheat Sheet, DraftKings Start Page, Fantasy NASCAR Start Page, Atlanta Starting Lineup
3) Kyle Busch (Starting – 1st)
Atlanta Fantasy Spin – Pole sitter Kyle Busch will be a contender at Atlanta. He’s a two-time winner who’s finished in the top 6 in four of the last seven races. At intermediate tracks Busch ranks as one of the strongest performers, and he’s been especially good in recent races at 1.5 mile tracks that have a high-level of tire wear. Last year at Homestead he finished 2nd, and at Chicagoland (led 85 laps) he likely had the best car but finished a misleading 15th. In Happy Hour Busch had a strong car and his 20 lap average ranked as the best. At Atlanta look for Busch to finish in the top five and compete for the win.
Atlanta Track History – Kyle Busch typically runs well at Atlanta. Last year he had a “clunker performance” and finished 16th. It just wasn’t a strong showing, but I wouldn’t hit the panic button about it. Races early in the season sometimes lead to head scratching performances. In 2016 he started in 39th after having his qualifying time disqualified and drove his way up to a 3rd place finish. In 2015 he missed the race due to injury. In 2014 he was in the midst of a historic slump and finished 16th. In 2013 Busch led 36 laps and raced his way to victory lane. In 2012 he finished 6th and led 66 laps.