Weekend Preview: Feb. 22-24

This weekend, Atlanta Motor Speedway is playing host to a triple-header weekend for NASCAR racing. We return from the wild card superspeedway racing of Daytona to a 1.5-mile track that will be a wild card this year. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is debuting an altered version of the 2019 aero package this weekend. The only things that are preventing this from being viewed as a full showcase are the lack of aero ducts on the cars, among other things, and the incredibly rough surface at Atlanta.

Full Weekend Schedule (all times Eastern):

Friday, February 22

11:35a-12:55p – MENCS Practice
1:05-1:55p – NXS Practice
2:05-2:55p – NGOTS Practice
3:05-3:55p – NXS Practice
4:05-4:55p – NGOTS Pracitce
5:10p – MENCS Qualifying

Saturday, February 23

9:35a – NXS Qualifying
10:40a – NGOTS Qualifying
12:00-1:20p – MENCS Practice
2:00p – Rinnai 250 (NXS)
4:30p – Ultimate Tailgating 200 (NGOTS)
6:45p – Legends Race

Sunday, February 24

2:00p – Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (MENCS)

MENCS NOTES:

Coming off the heels of an emotional Daytona 500 1-2-3 triumph, Joe Gibbs Racing looks to continue that momentum into Atlanta, a track they’ve had plenty of success at, with 11 wins. Only Pocono and Richmond has seen more JGR victories. But all eyes are certainly centered on Kevin Harvick, Normally, 2 wins at a track would seem plenty to consider a driver a favorite. But in Harvick’s case, those wins came 17 years apart, the first being his first career win and the other win coming in 2018. Despite that, the #4 has been leading at Atlanta for over 60% of the last 3 races. The big question is will the new package prevent the Harvick dominance or can he conquer it the same?

One driver that has kept up with Harvick’s Atlanta strength is Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski. The 2017 Atlanta winner has an average finish across the last 3 Atlanta races that’s best suited for a student, a 4.0. Since Atlanta changed to only one race on the schedule in 2011, Keselowski has finished outside of the Top-10 on only 2 occasions and they were both DNF finishes were he led earlier in the day.

One other driver to watch will surely be 7-time champion and 5-time Atlanta race winner Jimmie Johnson. Even with his win in the Clash, his speedweeks were overshadowed by multiple incidents caused by his right front fender. As we shift to a track more geared toward the meat and potatoes of the schedule, this could be seen as the first real test for the #48’s new crew chief Kevin Meendering. Johnson won in back-to-back years in 2015-16 but hasn’t finished on the lead lap since.

#DriverTeamMakeSponsor
00Landon CassillStarCom RacingChevyStarCom Fiber
1Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevyComSurv
2Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFordAutotrader
3Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevyDow
4Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFordBusch Beer
6Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFordAcorns
8Daniel HemricRichard Childress RacingChevyRed Kap / Alsco
9Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevyNAPA Auto Parts
10Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFordSmithfield
11Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyotaFedEx Ground
12Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFordPPG
13Ty DillonGermain RacingChevyGEICO
14Clint BowyerStewart-Haas RacingFordHaas Automation
15Ross Chastain (i)Premium MotorsportsChevyRim Riderz
17Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Roush Fenway RacingFordLittle Hug
18Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyotaSnickers Creamy
19Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyotaBass Pro Shops
20Erik JonesJoe Gibbs RacingToyotaDeWalt
21Paul MenardWood Brothers RacingFordMenards/Moen
22Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFordShell Pennzoil
24William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevyLiberty University
32Corey LaJoieGo FAS RacingFordOld Spice
34Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFordFR8 Auctions
36Matt TifftFront Row MotorsportsFordSurface Sunscreen / Tunity
37Chris BuescherJTG Daugherty RacingChevyScott Comfort Plus
38David RaganFront Row MotorsportsFordFireAde
41Daniel SuarezStewart-Haas RacingFordARRIS
42Kyle LarsonChip Ganassi RacingChevyMcDonald’s
43Bubba WallaceRichard Petty MotorsportsChevyMcDonald’s
47Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevyKroger
48Jimmie JohnsonHendrick MotorsportsChevyAlly
51Cody WareRick Ware RacingFordJacob Companies
52BJ McLeod (i)Rick Ware RacingChevyTrick Shot
77Garrett Smithley (i)Spire MotorsportsChevyOverkill Motorsports
88Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevyAxalta
95Matt DiBenedettoLeavine Family RacingToyotaProcore
96*Parker KligermanGaunt Brothers RacingToyotaGaunt Brothers Racing

NXS NOTES:

The Xfinity Series race on Saturday should be one to watch for. No Xfinity Series regular has won at Atlanta since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did it in 2012. Since then, only Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have won the event and neither are entered in the race this year. Ryan Preece is the lone Cup Series driver in the race, he’ll be driving the #8 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.

Stenhouse’s win was a big enough deal at the time since he was only the fifth Xfinity Series regular to win at Atlanta since the series started racing there in 1992. You had to go back to Johnny Benson Jr. in 1995 to find the last series regular to win before Stenhouse. Now, either Cup Series rookie Ryan Preece will come to spoil the Xfinity party or we will see the 6th Xfinity regular win.

After leading 29 of 100 laps in the season opener, Jeffrey Earnhardt returns to continue his part-time deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. The grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. has been receiving a lot of attention with his high quality ride and he recently announced that his sponsor, Xtreme Concepts, will be fielding a team for several more Xfinity races and a couple Cup Series races as well.

#DriverTeamMakeSponsor
00Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFordJacob Companies
0Garrett SmithleyJD MotorsportsChevyteamjdmotorsports.com
01Stephen LeichtJD MotorsportsChevyteamjdmotorsports.com
1Michael AnnettJR MotorsportsChevyPilot Flying J / American Heart Association
2Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevyPinnacle Financial Partners
4Ross ChastainJD MotorsportsChevyteamjdmotorsports.com
5Matt MillsB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevyJ.F. Electric
07Ray Black IISS Green Light RacingChevyISOKERN Fireplaces & Chimneys / Scuba Life
7Justin AllgaierJR MotorsportsChevyCessna
8Ryan Preece (i)JR MotorsportsChevyLouisiana Hot Sauce
08Gray GauldingSS Green Light RacingChevyGGPure.com / The Country Network
9Noah GragsonJR MotorsportsChevySwitch
11Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevyLeafFilter Gutter Protection
13John JacksonMBM MotorsportsToyotaFluidyne / CrashClaimsR.US
15BJ McLeodJD MotorsportsChevyteamjdmotorsports.com
17Bayley Currey (i)Rick Ware RacingChevy
18Jeffrey EarnhardtJoe Gibbs RacingToyotaiK9
19Brandon JonesJoe Gibbs RacingToyotaMenards / Jeld-Wen
20Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyotaRheem
22Austin CindricTeam PenskeFordDiscount Tire
23John Hunter NemechekGMS RacingChevyFire Alarm Services, INC
35Joey GaseMBM MotorsportsToyotaDonate Life GA / Life Link
36Josh WilliamsDGM RacingChevySimcraft
38Josh BilickiRSS RacingChevy
39Ryan SiegRSS RacingChevyCode Rum
42Chad FinchumMBM MotorsportsToyotaSmithbilt Homes
51Jeremy ClementsJeremy Clements RacingChevyAll South Electric
52David StarrMeans MotorsportsChevyChasco
66Timmy HillMBM MotorsportsToyotaCrashclainsR.US / James Carter Attorney at Law
74Mike HarmonMike Harmon RacingChevyTime For A Hero
78Vinnie MillerB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevyKoolbox
86Brandon BrownBrandonbilt MotorsportsChevyBrandonbilt Motorsports
89Morgan ShepherdShepherd Racing VenturesChevyVisone RV
90Alex LabbeDGM RacingChevyAlpha Prime
93Jeff GreenRSS RacingChevy
98Chase BriscoeBiagi-DenBeste RacingFordNutri Chomps
99Tommy Joe MartinsB.J. McLeod MotorsportsToyotaDiamond Gusset Jeans

NGOTS NOTES:

Austin Hill notched his first career win at Daytona last week with defending champions Hattori Racing Enterprises. The weekend at Atlanta marks the one year anniversary of the organization’s first win and they’ve been on a tear ever since. In the 23 races from Atlanta until last week at Daytona, HRE has won 7 times.

Kyle Busch will be running the #51 truck for his team. He has won at Atlanta in the Truck Series four times, but never for Kyle Busch Motorsports. All 4 wins came with now-defunct Billy Ballew Motorsports with the most recent victory coming 10 years ago in 2009. Busch has run 5 races in the Truck Series at Atlanta since then, 2010-12 and 2017-18. In his first 3-year run with his own team at the track, he finished 2nd twice and 3rd in the other. But the last two years have seen the worst of luck for the Cup Series champion. In 2017, he blew a tire and slammed the wall, relegating him to a 26th place finish. Last year, Busch led 67 laps before leaving his pit stall before one of his tires could be tightened and the tire fell off, resulting in major penalties for his crew.

Jesse Little also returns to the Truck Series in 2019 for another part-time schedule. Last year, Little scored 6 top-10 finishes in just 9 starts, including an 8th place finish right here at Atlanta.

#DriverTeamMakeSponsor
02Tyler DippelYoung’s MotorsportsChevyDanda Concrete Contractor / Lobos Productions
2Sheldon CreedGMS RacingChevyA.M. Ortega / RTL
3Jordan AndersonJordan Anderson RacingChevyBommarito Automotive Group
4Todd GillilandKyle Busch MotorsportsToyotaMobil 1
04Cory RoperRoper RacingFordPreferred Industrial Contractors Inc.
6Norm BenningNorm Benning RacingChevyZomomgo / H&H Transport
7Korbin ForristerAll Out MotorsportsToyota
8Joe NemechekNEMCO MotorsportsChevyTBD
10Jennifer Jo CobbJennifer Jo Cobb RacingChevyDriven2Honor.org
12Gus DeanYoung’s MotorsportsChevyLG Air Conditioning Technologies
13Johnny SauterThorSport RacingFordTrenda Heal
16Austin HillHattori Racing EnterprisesToyotaUnited Rentals
17Anthony AlfredoDGR-CrosleyToyotaCeco Building Systems
18Harrison BurtonKyle Busch MotorsportsToyotaSafelite AutoGlass
20Spencer BoydYoung’s MotorsportsChevy1A Auto
22Austin Wayne SelfAM RacingChevyGO TEXAN / JB Henderson Construction
24Brett MoffittGMS RacingChevyTBD
30Brennan PooleOn Point MotorsportsToyotaTBA
33Josh ReaumeReaume Brothers RacingToyotaTBA
42Chad FinleyChad Finley Racing Inc.ChevyAuto Value Certified Service Centers / AirLift Company
44Timothy PetersNiece MotorsportsChevyFriends of Jaclyn Foundation
45Ross Chastain (i)Niece MotorsportsChevyOEM2 powered by TruNorth
49Ray CiccarelliCMI MotorsportsChevyCMI INSTALLATIONS
51Kyle Busch (i)Kyle Busch MotorsportsToyotaCessna
52Stewart FriesenHalmar-Friesen RacingChevyHalmar International
54Natalie DeckerDGR-CrosleyToyotaN29 Technologies LLC
63Timmy Hill (i)Copp MotorsportsChevyTBD
75Parker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsChevyFood Country USA
80BJ McLeod (i)Jacob Wallace RacingFord
88Matt CraftonThorSport RacingFordRip It / Menards
97Jesse LittleJJL MotorsportsFordSkuttle Tight / Parker FiberNet / Visit Kingsport TN
98Grant EnfingerThorSport RacingFordChampion Power Equipment
99Ben RhodesThorSport RacingFordCarolina Nut

Author: Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey (@TomBaileyScoop) grew up in the backyard of Chicagoland Speedway, making a passion for all motorsports inevitable. Tom is entering his first full year of racing coverage in 2020 as the owner and founder of InfieldScoop.com. You can contact him at [email protected]

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