First 'Regular' NASCAR Race of Season as Series Visits Atlanta

atlanta nascar

David Schwab

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 7:22 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018 7:22 PM UTC

NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series rolls into Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday for the running of this year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Coming off a wild finish at Daytona, you get the feeling that this race could be up for grabs until the final lap.

Race time from Atlanta on Sunday is set for 2:30 p.m. on FOX. Austin Dillon will be riding high after taking the checkered flag at Daytona and Darrell Wallace Jr. will be trying to prove that last week’s second-place finish was not a fluke. Denny Hamlin placed third at Daytona, and that could be a good omen for his chances to win this week.

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“Get the (expletive) out of the way!”#Radioactive is BACK. First up: The 2018 Daytona 500!

— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 21, 2018

Top Valued Favorite

I am going chalk with Kyle Larson as my top valued favorite this week at +500 betting odds at BetOnline. He joins Kevin Harvick at the top of the list, followed by a trio of drivers at +650 odds including Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. Jimmie Johnson squeezes into the favorites' category at +850 betting odds.

Larson’s run at Daytona was basically forgettable with a 19th-place finish after starting well back in the field at No. 38, but he was one of the few drivers with a car running at the end of the race. The main reason why I am high on his chances to win Sunday is a solid second-place run at Atlanta last season. Larson had a knack of keeping his No. 42 Chevrolet in the mix all last season.

Top Valued Contender

Moving down the list, I am going with Hamlin at +1650 odds to win this race on the heels of last week’s run. He has always been somewhat of a streaky driver behind the wheel of the No. 11 Toyota, and I am banking on last week’s good fortune carrying over. Atlanta has not been one of Hamlin’s top racing venues during the course of his 13-year Cup Series career, but he did win this race in 2012.

The other two drivers in the contender category this week are Brad Keselowski at +1350 and Joey Logano at +1650. Keselowski’s day at Daytona ended early in one of the numerous wrecks that plagued that race, but Logano avoided the carnage to finish fourth.

Top Valued Long Shot

The betting odds drop off from there with Erik Jones at +2250 odds to win followed by Ryan Blaney at +2750. The trio of Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman are listed as +3300 long shots for Sunday, but I am really stretching the odds with this week’s pick.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won two points-race events last year in what would have to be considered a breakout season for the five-year Cup Series vet. He also placed inside the top five in two other events. The 10-race playoff did not go as planned with a 13th-place finish in the final point standings, but the No. 17 Ford proved that it was one of the better cars on the track. Last week’s 29th-place run at Daytona as a result of a wreck was forgettable, but this Sunday at Atlanta could be a golden opportunity to get an early-season win. Stenhouse’s betting odds are set at +10000 given his past results at this track, but a new season can produce brand new results.

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