StatChat - NASCAR Cup Series @ Atlanta (2)

Eleven drivers have been locked into the playoffs since May 23rd, when Chase Elliott won at COTA.  With five spots remaining, let’s take a look at some of the drivers who may have a chance to upset the current picture. 

 

Chris Buescher is only 25 points out of the playoffs at the moment, so a playoff berth for him wouldn’t really count as an upset.  However, Ross Chastain is 69 points out and has recently been putting together some solid finishes – he could be one to watch. 

 

Matt DiBenedetto is hanging around with a 74-point deficit, but seems unable to take that final step and win a race.  Unfortunately, that might be his only path to the playoffs, as his team has been wildly inconsistent through the entire year.

 

Bubba Wallace likely came into the season with expectations set too high, and therefore has been seen as a disappointment.  He’s only 5 points behind Matt DiBenedetto, but a win seems very unlikely for the 23XI driver.  It should be noted that Bubba has the best average finish of his career so far this year, and is outperforming his RPM replacement Erik Jones.

 

Chase Briscoe might have the best shot at a big surprise in the final races of the regular season.  He’s a road course whiz, and he’ll be happy to see both Watkins Glen and the Indy Road Course in back-to-back weeks in early August.  He also won the Xfinity race at the Indy Road Course last year, where many of the current cup drivers have never raced.  The question will be whether Stewart-Haas’ team struggles are salvageable this late into the season.

 

Let’s not forget, the last race of the season is the return to Daytona, where anything can happen.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is very good at drafting ovals, but luck will play a big role in determining the final winner of the regular season.

 

This weekend’s race is a return to Atlanta for the 2nd time in 2021, and will be called the “Quaker State 400.”  Atlanta is a 1.54-mile quad-oval that was built in 1960.  It is known for being one of the fastest intermediate tracks on the NASCAR circuit, and for the extremely abrasive track surface which can make tire wear a very big factor in strategy decisions.

 

Sunday’s race is will be 260 laps (400.4 miles), with stage breaks at 80 – 80 – 100 with a competition caution at lap 25.  The fuel window is approximately 58-62 laps.

 

NASCAR has run 7,115.57 miles so far this year.  Austin Dillon has completed 99.90% of them, the most of any driver.

 

Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Atlanta:

Kyle Larson

12.14 over 7 races

Kyle Busch

13.43 over 23 races

Ryan Blaney

13.67 over 6 races

Chase Elliott

14.67 over 6 races

Kurt Busch

15.37 over 30 races

 

Bottom 5 Career Average Finishers at Atlanta:

Josh Bilicki

35.50 over 2 races

BJ McLeod

35.33 over 3 races

Timmy Hill

35.33 over 3 races

Cody Ware

34.33 over 3 races

Quin Houff

32.50 over 2 races

 

Atlanta is an Intermediate Track:

 

Top 5 Career Average Finishers at Intermediate Tracks:

Kevin Harvick

11.19 over 367 races

Kyle Larson

12.39 over 121 races

Kyle Busch

12.44 over 298 races

Joey Logano

13.22 over 228 races

Brad Keselowski

13.38 over 219 races

 

Dale Earnhardt is the winningest driver at Atlanta, having won 9 times.  He’s followed by Cale Yarborough who has won 7 times, then Bobby Labonte and Richard Petty with 6 each.  As far as current drivers go, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch each have 3 wins.

 

Notable drivers who have not won at Atlanta:

Martin Truex Jr.

(has won at 15 other tracks)

Joey Logano

(has won at 15 other tracks)

Ryan Newman

(has won at 11 other tracks)

Chase Elliott

(has won at 11 other tracks)

Kyle Larson

(has won at 8 other tracks)

 

No current drivers have scored their first career Cup Series win at Atlanta.

 

No drivers list Atlanta as either their BEST track or their WORST track. 

 

Milestone Watch!

Corey LaJoie

This will be his 150th Cup Series Start

Chris Buescher

Currently has 24 Career Top 10s

 

 

 

 

Based on their point pace, let’s have a look at who’s having a better year than last year.

 

Drivers Faring Better than in 2020

William Byron

+377 pts

Daniel Suarez

+337 pts

Michael McDowell

+175 pts

Kyle Busch

+151 pts

Chris Buescher

+137 pts

 

Drivers Faring Worse than in 2020

Aric Almirola

-427 pts

Kevin Harvick

-331 pts

Erik Jones

-275 pts

Matt DiBenedetto

-196 pts

Brad Keselowski

-172 pts

 

While some drivers may be doing better this year than they did in 2020, how does this year stack up against their entire career?  This statistic does not include rookies, as this is their first full year in the Cup Series.

 

Drivers Having their BEST Career Year

Denny Hamlin

8.35

Kyle Larson

10.05

William Byron

11.05

Austin Dillon

13.25

Chris Buescher

16.85

Michael McDowell

17.45

Ross Chastain

18.10

Bubba Wallace

20.05

Ryan Preece

21.95

 

 

 

Drivers Having their WORST Career Year

Ryan Newman

21.40

Erik Jones

20.90

 

 

 

In 2017, NASCAR introduced the concept of Stage Racing, which pauses the race at certain intervals and awards bonus points for the top 10 at that moment.  Here are the Top-5 Stage Point earners so far this year:

 

Stage Point Leaders:

Denny Hamlin

225 pts

Kyle Larson

222 pts

William Byron

173 pts

Chase Elliott

155 pts

Kyle Busch

141 pts

 

For those that aren’t aware, the Manufacturer Standings are calculated by awarding points to the highest finisher for each manufacturer according to their finishing position.  (40 for 1st, 35 for 2nd, 34 for 3rd, etc.)  No stage points or playoff points count.

 

Manufacturer Standings

Chevrolet

742

Toyota

687

Ford

686

 

Here is the same formula, but used on a team-vs-team basis:

 

Chartered Team Standings

Hendrick

732

Joe Gibbs

685

Penske

641

Stewart-Haas

586

Richard Childress

529

Chip Ganassi

491

JTG-Daugherty

470

Roush-Fenway

436

Front Row

401

Wood Brothers

369

Trackhouse

360

23XI

342

Richard Petty

325

Spire

281

Rick Ware

185

Live Fast

130

StarCom

92

 

 

 

The race is Sunday, July 11th at 3:30pm EST (12:30pm PST) – Enjoy the races everyone!

 

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