5 Cup Series Drivers with a Real Opportunity to Celebrate a Win at Atlanta
Welcome to Atlanta Motor Speedway and Race No. 5 of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Without wasting any time, let’s take a look at a handful of drivers capable of going to Victory Lane in today’s Ambetter Health 400, concluding with the driver most likely to take the checkered flag out front.
5. Kyle Busch
A two-time winner at Atlanta from his time with Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch is set to make his first start at the fast 1.54-mile track today with Richard Childress Racing — the team he joined in the offseason after 15 years at JGR.
Although Busch has been somewhat inconsistent over his first four races with the organization owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Childress, the two-time Cup Series champion has gotten off to a reasonably solid start by winning in Week 2 at Auto Club Speedway and recording three top-15 finishes.
But Busch is actually looking to return to the top five after a two-week absence. Will it happen? Stay tuned.
4. Joey Logano
The reigning Cup Series champion continued his run of strong performances in qualifying this season, capturing his second pole of 2023 in his No. 22 Ford and leading a 1-2-3 Team Penske sweep of the top three qualifying positions.
“Obviously, Team Penske had a great day today, and we’ll try to continue that tomorrow,” Logano said during his post-qualifying media availability on Saturday.
Since finishing second in the Daytona 500, Logano has placed no better than 10th in three races, so he’s hoping to return to his traditional frontrunning ways on race day when the green flag waves this afternoon at Atlanta — a track where he’s surprisingly winless in 18 Cup Series starts.
3. Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway with three victories — including his first career win, which came in the spring of 2001 in just his third race after taking over the wheel for the late Dale Earnhardt, who died in a crash three weeks earlier on the final lap of the Daytona 500.
“It was the only race that I remember where the crowd was so loud that you could hear the people screaming and hollering over the engine of the car,” Harvick said in a prerace news release from his team. “I think that was because everybody was just emotionally confused, and people were screaming, and they didn’t know whether they should scream because they were happy or sad. It was one of those moments that everybody didn’t expect to be in, and there we were.”
Harvick, who became the points leader on Wednesday when NASCAR stripped Alex Bowman of 100 driver points, has finished no worse than 12th in the four races he’s entered in this, his final season. So, Harvick’s history of success at Atlanta, coupled with his strong start to 2023, make him an obvious favorite today.
2. Ross Chastain
After finishing runner-up in each of the two Cup Series races held last season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ross Chastain has extra motivation to go to Victory Lane today when he’ll line up 18th on the starting grid in his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet.
“My goal is to finish one spot better and win the race,” Chastain said in a prerace news release from Team Chevy PR. “Finishing second is great, but I want to win for my team and all of our partners.”
If Chastain does finish P1, he’ll have a good chance of regaining the points lead, which he held for two weeks prior to a disappointing 24th-place finish last weekend at Phoenix that followed finishes of ninth, third, and 12th to open the 2023 season. Chastain is currently second in the standings, just three points behind championship leader Kevin Harvick.
1. William Byron
The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy is a heavy favorite to prevail today — for two reasons. One is the fact that he’s the defending winner of the spring Atlanta event. The other is that Byron is by far the hottest driver on the Cup Series tour, having triumphed the past two weekends at Las Vegas and Phoenix, respectively.
Can he pull off the rare threepeat today?
Byron, who starts from the 11th position, feels like he has a good chance.
“I really get excited about coming to the race track right now,” he said during his media availability at the track earlier this weekend. “I was just excited in the offseason with the group I know we have. We have more to prove, and we have more to go out there and accomplish.
“I think that’s a dangerous thing, right? We’re going out there with a goal in mind — a specific goal to win every week. We’re going to keep pushing for that every single week.”