NASCAR Weekend Preview — Atlanta

This weekend, NASCAR heads to its first intermediate track (1.5 miles) of the season in Hampton, Georgia: Atlanta Motor Speedway. Commonly referred to as “cookie cutter tracks,” One-and-a-half miles make up roughly 40 percent of the 2015 Sprint Cup schedule.

Like it or not, these intermediate tracks are raced on more than any other type of track nowadays, and when the checkered flag flies on the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 this Sunday afternoon, we will have a good idea of who the contenders are and who the pretenders are when it comes to the bulk of the races this season.

Joey Logano picked up where he left off at Daytona after winning the 500, as he nabbed the pole for Sunday’s 500-mile race, with a lap of 194.683 mph, 28.447 seconds over the guy who finished second at Daytona, Kevin Harvick. But Harvick will now start at the rear of the field, as his engine expired in final practice.

The qualifying format was tweaked this week, and, for the most part, was believed to be much better. However, there was one problem. A bunch of cars, with many big name drivers, did not even turn a lap on track.

Wait, what?  Yup, you read that right.  Thirteen drivers did not get to turn a lap because NASCAR’s inspection line was backed up very far and they could not get everybody through in time, even though they pushed back Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. They all made the race, but did not get to set a flying lap and will all start toward the rear of the field come Sunday.

Thought that was the end of the weirdness and craziness for the weekend? Think again. Grand Theft Auto happened: NASCAR edition.

Travis Kvapil had his No. 44 Xtreme Racing car stolen from a hotel parking lot in the early hours of Friday morning. You cannot make this stuff up.

Kvapil’s team did not bring a back-up car to the track because they are a low budget team, so they cannot race this weekend.

Kvapil voiced his frustrations on twitter, keeping it on a lighter note as well:

Here is a video by TMZ Sports of the suspect driving away.

Like I said, you just cannot make this stuff up. But the show must go on, and it will.

As we go back to last season, Kasey Kahne won the Cup race here to vault himself into the Chase after an exciting green/white/checkered finish.

This race will not feature either Busch (Kurt and Kyle). Kurt Busch is still suspended indefinitely by NASCAR after being found guilty by a court of law of domestic violence on his former girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. Regan Smith will pilot the No 41 Haas Automation machine for Stewart-Haas Racing for a second consecutive weekend. A long-term replacement has not been formally announced yet.

As for the other Busch brother, Kyle, he is out of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry again due to the injuries that he sustained in the Xfinity Series crash last weekend at Daytona, when he crashed hard (at about 90 mph) into a concrete wall with no safety barriers.  Daytona has already began implementing them at the site of the crash, and Atlanta was proactive and installed them before teams even came down and began their weekend of racing and testing. After Matt Crafton stepped in for Joe Gibbs Racing last weekend, David Ragan got the call for this week and will pilot that car until Kyle Busch is back. Busch underwent two successful surgeries this week on both of his legs and is now back at his home in Charlotte resting comfortably with his wife Samantha.

You can catch the FOHQT 500 on FOX at 1:00 pm on Sunday.

My prediction is that Kevin Harvick finally gets that Cup series win at Atlanta, just like he did back in 2001 with that incredibly emotional victory after Dale Earnhardt’s death. Harvick won the Xfinity Series race Saturday after dominating the race, his fourth NXS win and third in a row.

Enjoy the race, everybody!


Davey Segal is the host of Victory Lane for Impact Sports