NASCAR NEWS: Kyle Busch Wins Pole for Atlanta, Ryan Blaney Leads Standings After Daytona

By  //  February 25, 2018

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Brad Keselowski IS DEFENDING RACE CHAMPION

ABOVE VIDEO: Brad Keselowski took advantage of Kevin Harvick’s late pit road speeding penalty by passing Kyle Larson with six laps left to win last year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He’ll try to repeat on Sunday, one week after wrecking out of the Daytona 500. (NASCAR Video)

HAMPTON, GEORGIA (NASCAR) – After several weeks in the Daytona sun, NASCAR heads north for the second race of the young season as the Monster Energy Series hits the 1.54-mile oval track in Hampton, Georgia, located about 20 miles south of Atlanta.

Covering the mile and a half distance in 30.024 seconds (184.652 mph) in the money round of Friday’s knockout qualifying session, Kyle Busch edged Ryan Newman by .038 seconds to win his first pole of the young Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, his first at Atlanta and the 28th of his career.

Last weeks DAYTONA 500 winner Austin Dillon will start 25th. Ryan Blaney who exited the Great American Race as the Monster Energy Series points leader will start alongside Dillon in 26th.

Dillon’s triumph marked the first for Chevrolet’s new Camaro ZL1 race car. It was the second win for the 27-year-old North Carolina native, who earned his first victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway last May.

He’ll try to become the first driver since Matt Kenseth in 2009 to open a season with consecutive wins on Sunday’s at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FOX).

His best finish at Atlanta was an 11th-place showing in 2016. With the Daytona 500 win, Dillon earned a berth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Bubba’s Banner Day: Darrell Wallace Finishes Runner-Up In His First Daytona 500

ABOVE VIDEO: Darrell Wallace Jr. gets emotional discussing the journey him and his family have been on over the last two years

Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace started his first full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with flare – placing runner-up in the Daytona 500. The showing was the best by an African-American driver in the Daytona 500.

It also marked the top Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series performance by an African-American driver since Wendell Scott’s lone victory in the 1963 Jacksonville 200.

Wallace’s historical weekend at the Daytona 500 was chronicled in the final two episodes of a new Facebook Watch docu-series titled “Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace,” with the final two episodes set to premiere tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 22) at noon ET on the platform.

The driver of the No. 43 NASCAR Racing Experience Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports placed sixth at Atlanta in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race last year.

Happy In Hotlanta: Harvick Readies For Top Track

He only has one win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but recent track performance shows that Kevin Harvick will be the driver to beat in Georgia’s capital. Harvick has led more than 100 laps in four of his last five races at the 1.54-mile quad-oval. Last season, he dominated the race, leading 292 laps before succumbing the lead late in the race due to a pit road speeding penalty.

In 27 career Atlanta starts, Harvick claims one win, six top fives and 12 tops 10s. He has produced 10 of those top 10s in his last 13 appearances.

Harvick’s 97.0 Atlanta driver rating ranks third among active competitors.

Harvick’s lone Atlanta win came on March 3, 2001, in his third career start. He drove the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to Victory Lane after replacing Dale Earnhardt, who passed away three weeks earlier following an accident at Daytona.

Keselowski Tries For Atlanta Repeat

Brad Keselowski took advantage of Kevin Harvick’s late pit road speeding penalty by passing Kyle Larson with six laps left to win last year’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He’ll try to repeat on Sunday, one week after wrecking out of the Daytona 500.

In nine starts at the 1.54-mile track, Keselowski owns one win, two top fives, five top 10s and an 18.1 average finish. His 11.28 average running position at Atlanta ranks second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

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Blaney Leads Standings

ABOVE VIDEO: Ryan Blaney’s shot at winning ended on Lap 198 when he got together with Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford, starting off a 12-car wreck. He finished the race seventh.

Currently, atop the Monster Energy Series standings, Ryan Blaney dazzled fans last week by leading a race-high 118 laps in the Daytona 500.  Although he believed he had the best car, Blaney’s shot at winning ended on Lap 198 when he got together with Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford, starting off a 12-car wreck. He finished the race seventh.

Still, Blaney won Stage 2 and leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings entering Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. He holds an eight-point advantage over second-place Joey Logano and an 11-point edge on third-place Austin Dillon.

Blaney hopes for better luck at Atlanta where he’s finished 25th (2016) and 18th (2017) in two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts.

Hometown Hero: Elliott Eyes First Victory In Backyard

ABOVE VIDEO: Chase Elliott held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick to win the second Can-Am Duel at Daytona.

Seventy-eight races into his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, Chase Elliott is still trying to break through with his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win. Would there be a better place to do it than his home track – Atlanta Motor Speedway?

In two career starts at Atlanta, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native has finished eighth (2016) and fifth (2017). He placed 33rd in the Daytona 500 last week after an accident forced him out of the race after 101 laps.

Elliott has finished runner-up seven times in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

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Johnson Strong At Atlanta

Atlanta Motor Speedway has treated Jimmie Johnson well over the years.

Johnson leads active drivers with five wins and a 105.4 driver rating in 26 starts at the 1.54-mile track. He also has 14 top fives, 16 top 10’s, and an 11th place average finish.

The No. 48 driver won at Atlanta in consecutive seasons from 2015-16 before Brad Keselowski ended his streak last year.

A checkered flag at Atlanta would tie him with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for fourth all-time with 84 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins.


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