After the week long opening to the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup series at Daytona, the long NASCAR season is set to get underway this week. The first stop is at a type of track that makes up the bulk of the 36 race schedule, the 1.5 mile Atlanta Motor Speedway for this Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. A total of 11 of the 36 races are on 1.5 mile tracks and Atlanta has historically been the fastest. Here are our favorites for your betting or NASCAR fantasy leagues. The odds are current as of Wednesday afternoon and the Driver Ratings (stats that are a combination of various stats used to determine the best drivers on a given track) are from NASCAR are based on the last 17 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2005 – 2015).
Sunday also marks the debut of NASCAR’s new low-downforce package. When it was tested in two races last season there was a great deal more passing and sliding around, something that could throw some drivers for a loop.
1. Jimmie Johnson (7-1) is the odds makers favorite and for very good reason. Now that five time Atlanta winner Jeff Gordon has retired, Johnson is the leader among all active drivers with four wins, the last coming in this race last year. He has the highest driver rating 106.2, and will be looking to make a statement.
2. Carl Edwards (10-1) staged a furious rally to overcome a one lap deficit at Daytona last week to finish fifth. He has three wins here and the second highest driver rating, 100.4. with the way all the Joe Gibbs Racing team has been running and given how much Edwards likes to race “loose” like what is expected this weekend thanks to the new package, Edwards could be the JGR representative in victory lane Sunday.
3. Kyle Busch (7-1) is another JGR driver looking for victory lane. The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was forced to miss this race last year due to injury which knocked his driver rating down to a seventh best 92.8, but has two wins here the last coming in 2013.
4. Kevin Harvick (5-1) has the eighth best driver rating at Atlanta, 92.8 and was second in this race last season. He did win here, but that was 15 years ago. Some might say with his recent performance at Atlanta Harvick is due to end his winless drought.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (18-1) is this week’s longshot. However he did win here in 2004 and was third here last year. He has the sixth best driver rating of 94.3 and could be looking to make a statement after a miserable finish at Daytona last week.
Others: Don’t dismiss Kasey Kahne (25-1). He won here 2014 and has a decent driver rating of 87.9 , 11th-best.Martin Truex Jr. (15-1) has never won here ,but has been surprising lately. He has 9th-best driver rating 90.9 and was fifth in this race last year.
The Fold Of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia will be held this Sunday. Live coverage will be on Fox with the green flag falling just after 1:00 p.m. ET.