Preview: The 2018 NASCAR Race at Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of races, is in the rearview mirror. Now, the real grind of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series begins.

byT. Walker|
NASCAR photo


The long, grueling NASCAR season kicked off with history and heartbreak. The great American Race saw a first-time winner, a controversial finish, a colossal moment, and a budding feud between two drivers that has already spilled into week two of the NASCAR season.

NASCAR Nation is riding a feverish high over Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s history-making moment at the Daytona 500, but it’s time to switch gears and get ready for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The celebrated 1.54-mile track, which was last repaved in 1997, is a favorite among many active drivers. Fans are sure to be in for a gripping race as driver’s battle for stage points and a win on the old asphalt for 500 miles. To help you prepare for what should be an exciting race, here are some things you need to know heading into the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race of the 2018 season.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Weekend Schedule at The Atlanta Speedway:

Saturday, February 24, 2018

12 p.m.-1:20 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1 (Canada: TSN 2) (Follow live)

PRESS PASS (Watch live)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

1:06 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (325 laps, 500.5 miles), FOX (Canada: TSN 1, 3, 4, 5) (Follow live)

PRESS PASS (Watch live)

5:45 p.m.: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series post-race

Note: All times are EST.

Starting Lineup

Position             Driver                            Best Speed

1.                        Kyle Busch                      184.652 mph

2.                        Ryan Newman                184.419 mph

3.                        Kevin Harvick                 184.388 mph

4.                        Daniel Suarez                 184.229 mph

5.                        Brad Keselowski             183.856 mph

6.                        Ricky Stenhouse Jr.        183.722 mph

7.                         Kurt Busch                       183.485 mph

8.                        Kyle Larson                       183.449 mph

9.                        Clint Bowyer                      182.284 mph

10.                      Erik Jones                          181.052 mph

11.                       Aric Almirola                           0.00 mph

12.                       Denny Hamlin                        0.00 mph

13.                       Jamie McMurray             182.825 mph

14.                       Kasey Kahne                   182.507 mph

15.                       Paul Menard                    182.464 mph

16.                      Joey Logano                     182.129 mph

17.                      Michael McDowell            181.955 mph

18.                     Alex Bowman                     181.634 mph

19.                     Darrell Wallace Jr.             181.467 mph

20.                     Trevor Bayne                     181.307 mph

21.                      AJ Allmendinger               181.248 mph

22.                     Jimmie Johnson                181.236 mph

23.                     William Byron                    180.804 mph

24.                     Chris Buescher                       0.00 mph

25.                     Austin Dillon                      181.753 mph

26.                     Ryan Blaney                      181.550 mph

27.                     Chase Elliott                      181.082 mph

28.                     Ty Dillon                            180.293 mph

29.                     David Ragan                      180.117 mph

30.                     Matt DiBenedetto             178.914 mph

31.                     Gray Gaulding                   178.269 mph

32.                     Cole Whitt                         177.045 mph

33.                     Jeffrey Earnhardt             175.050 mph

34.                     Ross Chastain                  174.362 mph

35.                     Martin Truex Jr.                     0.00 mph

36.                     Harrison Rhodes                   0.00 mph

HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 23: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 23, 2018., Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Storylines of the Week

As we prepare for the upcoming race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, most of the conversation is still centered around Austin Dillon (he failed to advance in qualifying at Atlanta) returning the No. 3 back to Victory Lane at the Daytona 500, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.’s historic run, and of course, the drama between Denny Hamlin and Wallace Jr. The discord between the two, which started on the track at the Daytona International Speedway, spilled over into a heated exchange after the race and is still going strong even though the series has moved on to another track.

Hamlin and Wallace Jr. seem to be shrugging off the idea that their fallout will be an ongoing issue, but fans aren’t too sure. When asked whether or not he was officially removed from Hamlin’s golf and basketball leagues, Wallace said, “Both. I’ve been removed from both, yeah so, although I didn’t get the direct text. It went through like five or six people, so that’s classy, I guess. … I have been told the golf league is out. I removed myself from the basketball league. Just after the conversation, we had that day, I was like, whatever, I guess I’m not coming back. That’s OK.” Hamlin, who seems unperturbed, had this to say when asked about the dispute: “I’ll just keep moving forward and try to do the best I can and let whoever tell their side and let it be.” Veteran drivers are also a bit upset with Hamlin for his comments that the drug Adderall is prevalent among drivers in NASCAR. It should be interesting to see what happens on the track at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

While some veterans seem to be hitting their stride during qualifying at the Atlanta Motor Speedway there was one driver, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, who is heading into the weekend under unfavorable conditions. Unfortunately, Martin Truex Jr. did not make a lap in qualifying, thanks to failing pre-qualifying inspection. Truex Jr. will start from the back of the 36-car field—the smallest in more than 20 years at Atlanta Motor Speedway—after three failed inspections. His car chief will be suspended for Sunday’s race. “It is what it is,” said Cole Pearn, crew chief for the No. 78 team. “We just have to make the best of it. That’s our jobs from here.” Veteran driver Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet also had issues clearing inspection.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch secured his 28th career pole and first P1 starting position at the Atlanta Motor Speedway after 20 attempts. Busch edged out Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet who will start in the second position on the first row. Veteran drivers Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, who are both past NASCAR Cup champions, will make up seven of the top ten starting positions for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.