NASCAR Picks for Atlanta
Length: 1.540 miles
Location: Hampton, Georgia
The Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for a rare Sunday night race on Labor Day holiday weekend. The 1.5-mile oval is one of the fastest tracks on the schedule, and considering speeds have been up nearly across the board in 2014, it should be interesting to see how fast drivers are powering around AMS this weekend. Throw in the fact that Atlanta has multiple racing grooves that allow drivers to search around to find grip, and Sunday's race could be one of the more entertaining of the season, especially with the Chase just a couple of weeks away.
From a fantasy standpoint, it should come as no surprise that many of the big names in the series have dominated at Atlanta. The fast 1.5-mile oval puts an emphasis on a combination of horsepower and downforce, and the multi-car, powerhouse teams tend to have an edge in both areas. This year in particular, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing seem to have separated themselves from the pack in terms of equipment on a week-to-week basis, and not surprisingly, drivers from these teams dominate the top of this week's rankings.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon has been enjoying a great 2014 season, and now he heads to an Atlanta track that he has dominated recently. He has a 3.0 average finish in his last three starts at the 1.5-mile oval, outscoring the next-closest driver by 17 points during the stretch and leading more laps than any other driver. Meanwhile, he has only finished outside the Top 15 three times in his last 20 starts at Atlanta and only once in his last 14 starts.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
It's hard to think of Harvick and Atlanta and not remember his victory at the track just a few weeks after he took over the late Dale Earnhardt, but it his recent consistency at the track that makes him such a strong option this weekend. He has finished ninth or better in six of his last seven starts at the 1.5-mile oval, including three straight, and he only has one finish outside the Top 15 in his last 10 starts.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Despite some bad luck at Atlanta the past couple of years, Johnson's 11.5 average finish in the last 20 races at the track still ranks fourth in the series. Not to mention the fact that he has finished fourth or better 10 times during the stretch, winning three times and finishing second on four occasions.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Busch is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and his win last September was the second of his career at Atlanta. More importantly, he has been enjoying his most consistent stretch at the track, logging three finishes of sixth or better in his last four starts. Considering he led 39 laps at Atlanta in 2012 and 47 last year, Busch could make a particularly strong option in NASCAR.com Fantasy Live.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
His career 22.6 average finish at Atlanta is far from impressive, but after failing to crack the Top 15 in his first six starts at the track, Logano finished second in last year's race in his first start at Atlanta with Team Penske. In addition to the runner-up finish, Logano led a race-high 78 laps in the 2013 race. He has been even better in his second year with Team Penske so another big performance at Atlanta seems likely.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He has either been really good or really bad at Atlanta, but with two finishes of sixth or better in his last three starts at the track, Keselowski's upside is impossible to ignore. The fact that he has been one of the fastest drivers week in and week out throughout 2014 makes it a lot easier to trust him this weekend, especially after he clobbered the competition at a Kentucky track that shares a similar 1.5-mile layout to Atlanta.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he last went to victory lane at Atlanta back in 2004, Junior has remained consistent at the 1.5-mile oval. His 11.7 average finish at the track over the past 20 races ranks fifth in the series, and he has finished in the Top-15 in six of his last nine starts, posting back-to-back Top-10s.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Kenseth has been one of the steadiest performers at Atlanta throughout his career. He has cracked the Top-15 in his last 14 starts at the track, logging nine Top-10s over the same span. Meanwhile, his 8.3 average finish in the last 10 races at Atlanta ranks second in the series. Kenseth is one of the safest options available this weekend.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Atlanta is arguably Busch's best 1.5-mile oval, and he has won three times at the track in his career. He has also been consistent at Atlanta, recording 11 Top-15s in his last 12 starts, including five straight. In his last five starts at the track, Busch has compiled a 5.6 average finish and finished sixth or better four times. Owners that need to try to make up ground may want to consider Busch as an A-List option in Yahoo! leagues.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He is a three-time winner at Atlanta, and while Edwards' consistency at the track has slipped in recent years, his ability to deliver Top-5 finishes hasn't. He has two Top-5s in his last four starts at Atlanta and has 10 finishes of seventh of better in 16 total starts, including seven Top-3 finishes.
Brian Vickers, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Vickers should be high on the list of potential sleepers in all formats this weekend. After all, he has finished 11th or better in seven of his last eight starts at Atlanta, including five straight. In his last five starts at the track, he has posted an 8.0 average finish and notched a pair of Top-5 finishes.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He has been a boom-or-bust pick at Atlanta throughout his career, but he has particularly volatile lately. He won the 2012 event at the track but finished 38th last year, and in his last four starts, he has two Top-10s to go along with two finishes outside the Top 35. Hamlin is another potential option for owners looking to gain some ground on the competition, but for those at or near the top of their leagues, a safer option is recommended.