The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 33rd race of the 2008 season, the Pep Boys 500. We looked at past performances, practice sessions, and season trends to shed a light on how the field should finish on Sunday afternoon.
When: Sunday, October 26, 2008; 2:17 p.m./et
Weather: Sunny with a high around 63; wind out of the W at 9 mph. Chance of precipitation 10%.
The Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Atlanta Motor Speedway is a wide, 1.5 mile oval. It has 24 degree banking on the corners. Due to the fast surface and steep banking it is known as the fastest track on the NASCAR circuit.
Key to Race: READY FOR A BACK FLIP?
This is a race that appears to be wide-open. Carl Edwards won both the 2005 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and has finished in the top seven in six of his eight career starts at the track. Jimmie Johnson won both races at the track in 2007 and Kyle Busch won the spring race this year. Johnson and Busch are the best options to block Edward's back flip this weekend.
48 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined by two lap qualifying runs that will be done on Friday, October 24 at 6:45 pm/et. Cars that are in the top 35 in owner's points are guaranteed a spot in the race.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has visited Victory Lane in two of the past three Atlanta races. We think there is a great chance he will continue his recent dominance this weekend.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: In eight career starts at Atlanta, Edwards has finished in the top seven an impressive six times. He should rebound from his poor finish due to a blown engine in March's race.
No. 20 Tony Stewart: Stewart won the October 2006 race at Atlanta and finished second in the past two March shows. He should once again be in contention for the win this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has four career wins at Atlanta and has finished in the top 10 in 15 of the last 19 races at the track. He will be strong once again this weekend.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has been great at Atlanta during his career. In 17 races he has 10 top 10 finishes. He will be very good on Sunday.
6 to 10
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior has 10 top 10 finishes in the last 14 races at Atlanta. He should find himself in the top 10 again this weekend.
No. 07 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer finished sixth in the past three races at Atlanta. He is worth taking a chance on this weekend for another top 10 finish.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Busch's win at ATL in March was the first time in his career he cracked the top 10 at the track. He will be fast again this weekend, but we don't think he will win.
No. 9 Kasey Kahne: Kahne has four top five finishes in nine career races at Atlanta, but he also has four 28th or worse finishes. His inconsistency at the track makes him a tough driver to predict this weekend.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton has been very good at Atlanta since 2004. A top 15 finish is nearly guaranteed.
11 to 20
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle was terrible at Atlanta in 2007, but he looked strong at the track this March. He has led 286 laps in the past seven races at the track and could crack the top 10 on Sunday.
No. 83 Brian Vickers: Vickers has been great the past two Atlanta races. He is worth using again this weekend.
No. 2 Kurt Busch: Busch has won at ATL before, but he has cracked the top 10 just once since 2003. His missed results at the track make him a risky pick this weekend.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has just one top 10 finish in six career ATL starts. He should finish in the top 15, but we don't see a top 10 finish for the No. 11 team.
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick won at Atlanta in 2001, but he was been terrible at the track from the win until this March. He will likely use the same setup he used in the spring race and a top 15 finish is expected.
No. 1 Martin Truex Jr: Truex has been very mediocre during his career at Atlanta. A top 10 finish should be out of his grasp on Sunday.
No. 8 Mark Martin: Martin has had past success at ATL, but he has struggled in three of the past four races. He won't finish in the top 10, but a top 15 finish is expected.
No. 6 David Ragan: The Georgia native has struggled at Atlanta during his career, but we think he will be strong this weekend.
No. 43 Bobby Labonte: Labonte has had success at Atlanta during his career. We like him has a fourth or fifth driver this weekend.
No. 12 Ryan Newman: Newman is the maestro of qualifying at Atlanta. In the 13 races he has run at the speedway he has started from the pole seven times. We like him to grab the pole, but he should finish outside the top 20.
21 to 30
No. 41 Reed Sorenson: Sorenson was awesome at ATL in 2007, but was terrible at the track this March. He is once again a risky pick.
No. 5 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a 22nd place finish at Atlanta during his career. We feel he will finish right about there this weekend.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya has had one good race, one mediocre race, and one bad race at ATL during his career. He is too hit-or-miss for us this weekend.
No. 26 Jamie McMurray: McMurray has struggled this season. He isn't worth using in fantasy leagues.
No. 19 Elliott Sadler: Sadler has never been great at Atlanta, but he should be good enough this weekend to crack the top 25.
No. 28 Travis Kvapil: Kvapil will continue to be worth using as a fifth fantasy driver.
No. 7 Robby Gordon: Atlanta has never been one of Gordon's better tracks, but he should be good enough to finish in the top 30.
No. 44 David Reutimann: Reutimann has struggled the past few weeks and he has never been terrific at ATL. There are better weekends to use the No. 44.
No. 15 Paul Menard: Menard has averaged a 21st place finish at Atlanta during his career. He isn't worth using this weekend.
No. 38 David Gilliland: Gilliland has struggled the past three races at Atlanta. He isn't much of a fantasy option this weekend.
31 to 40
No. 02 Joey Lagano: The "Future" should be worth using in deep fantasy leagues.
No. 55 Michael Waltrip: Waltrip looked great during last year's October race at Atlanta, but we don't think he will repeat the success this weekend.
No. 66 Scott Riggs: Riggs will continue to be hit-or-miss.
No. 22 Dave Blaney: Blaney has been terrible this season. Avoid him.
No. 01 Regan Smith: The man from Cato has a lot to learn about driving a car in the Sprint Cup.
No. 84 Scott Speed
No. 40 Bryan Clauson
No. 96 Ken Schrader
No. 77 Sam Hornish Jr.
No. 21 Bill Elliott
No. 78 Joe Nemechek
No. 47 Marcos Ambrose
No. 70 Tony Raines
No. 10 A.J. Allmendinger
No. 08 Johnny Sauter
No. 45 Chad McCumbee