Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (Cup Series) Predictions, Picks &Odds

  • The grueling Atlanta race will be a strong indicator of the rest of Kevin Harvick’s season.
  • Will extra seat time on Saturday help Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday?
  • It’s a smart bet to pick a sixth straight different winner for the Atlanta race.

In the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR Cup Series drivers face their most taxing race of the season so far—and the longest in terms of the time needed to complete it. Atlanta is a 1.54-mile intermediate track with bumps and degraded asphalt that hasn’t been repaved since 1997.

Sunday’s race will be contested over 325 laps (500.5 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 105 and 210 laps. Kevin Harvick won last year’s only race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Sunday’s event will be the first of two Cup races at the track this season.

How to Watch Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Information
What Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR Cup Series race
Where Atlanta Motor Speedway
When Sunday, March 21, 3 p.m. ET
How to Watch FOX

Atlanta Race Should Be a Bellwether for the Rest of Kevin Harvick’s Season

Last week at Phoenix Raceway, Kevin Harvick ran sixth, posting his fourth top-six finish in five NASCAR Cup Series races this season. For a driver with a record nine victories at the one-mile track, it was an unsatisfying result—because Harvick was never in contention for the win.

In Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, Harvick will race at another of his favorite speedways. Harvick won last year’s Atlanta race on the way to a career-best nine victories in a single season. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is tied with former teammate Kurt Busch for most victories at the track among active drivers with three.

In fact, Harvick has become so proficient at the 1.54-mile track that fellow drivers have dubbed the line he runs—hugging the bottom through the corners—as “the Harvick line.” That’s one reason why Harvick (+600) is favored to win on Sunday. The race will test whether he and crew chief Rodney Childers are closer to enjoying the dominant status they achieved during last year’s regular season.

Will Extra Seat Time Help Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. on Sunday?

With the coronavirus crisis necessitating abbreviated shows in NASCAR’s top three national series, practices and qualifying have been scrapped at most venues. As a consequence, drivers get their first laps in their respective cars when the race starts.

There are workarounds to the lack of seat time. On Saturday at Atlanta, Kyle Busch competed in the Camping World Truck Series event—one of five he is permitted to run each season—and won in dominating fashion. Similarly, Truex ran the NASCAR Xfinity Series race that followed, and only a pit road speeding penalty prevented him from winning handily.

The bottom line is that both Busch (+1000) and Truex (+650) gained valuable knowledge of track conditions and racing lines that they can put to good use on Sunday. That’s why both drivers should be considered strongly—especially, Truex, who is coming off last Sunday’s victory at Phoenix Raceway.

Odds Favor a Sixth Straight Different Cup Winner to Emerge at Atlanta

It’s a matter of simple contrasts. The winners of the first five Cup races of 2021 are Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. Between them, those five drivers won two races last year—Byron at Daytona race and Truex at Martinsville.

Now consider the group of drivers who are winless so far this season: reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott (+800), Harvick (+600), Denny Hamlin (+700), Brad Keselowski (+750), Joey Logano (+900) and Kyle Busch (+1000). Collectively, those six drivers won 27 of 36 points races in 2020.

It’s no stretch to conclude that the winner of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta is highly likely to come from the latter group. We tend to favor Keselowski, who is second in the Cup standings and has won two of the last four Atlanta races.

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Reid Spencer

Expert on NASCAR

Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]