Column By: SHANE CARLSON / RPW – HAMPTON, GA – How in the world can you top last week’s finish at Daytona? I’m not totally sure it’s even possible, but Atlanta has a history of producing some epic endings to races.
With such a worn-out surface, the track is conducive to some great racing. The drivers have a lot of responsibility this weekend. Giving good feedback to the team during the race is going to be essential to winning on Saturday afternoon, as the cars are going to be skating all over the place. Comfort is not a word that will be used at all this weekend. The winning team will probably say their car didn’t handle great, it just happened to handle better than the rest.
JR Motorsports had a strong showing at Daytona, carrying the momentum from winning a championship with William Byron last season to taking the top-two positions last Saturday. Like the Truck Series, and as will be with the Cup Series, I’m a firm believer in veterans having the advantage this weekend. With that said, just three Cup regulars will make the start on Saturday afternoon. (Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Ty Dillon)
Furthermore, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have combined to win the last five races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Though Busch isn’t in the field Saturday, Harvick is going to be a tough one to beat.
My Pick to Win is…
No. 21 South Point Casino and Hotel Chevrolet Camaro
Richard Childress Racing
Richard Childress Racing as an organization is off to a great start, after winning the Daytona 500 last weekend with Austin Dillon in the Cup Series. In Hemric’s lone Atlanta XFINITY Series start, he started sixth and finished ninth. In a track that’s tough on rookies, having that one start to rely on will only help the RCR driver.
Saturday, Feb. 24
2:00 PM ET
TV: FOX SPORTS 1
RADIO: PERFORMANCE RACING NETWORK
NASCAR XFINITY Series Power Rankings
- Tyler Reddick: Reddick is the winner in the closest finish in NASCAR history, edging out teammate Elliott Sadler by 0.000 seconds in a photo finish for the ages. People will be talking about that finish for a long time.
- Elliott Sadler: Sadler seems like he’s always caught on the wrong side of history. Last week, he lost to his teammate in the closest finish ever recorded. Never a winner at Daytona, it was his second-straight runner-up finish at Daytona as he was second back in July. He can either be devastated by the loss, or use it as fuel to find Victory Lane.
- Ryan Reed: An XFINITY Series ace on the restrictor plate track, the young Ford driver brought his Mustang home third, I suppose a bit of a disappointment after winning two of the prior three season-openers.
- Kaz Grala: Grala’s first XFINITY start began from the 27th starting position and worked his way through the field to finish fourth in his No. 24 Ford Mustang. That’s a good start to what should be a season that sees Grala take a checkered flag or two.
- Garrett Smithley: In his 67th career start in the XFINITY Series, Smithley earned his first top-5 finish. Like Grala, he had to fight through traffic after starting 25th, but managed to lead two laps en route to his fifth-place run.