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What and Who to watch for today at Atlanta in the QuikTrip 500

Atlanta has always been a fan favorite on NASCAR’s top circuit. It’s a fast track and has provided some very exciting racing over the years. Today should prove to be no different. After many disappointments at Daytona last week, many drivers will be looking to rebound from their poor performance in the first race of the season. Here’s what to watch for today.

Segment Racing: NASCAR’s new segment racing rewards started last week with mixed feelings from both fans and drivers. It’s goal is to add more excitement to the entire race and not just the final laps. Several drivers have publicly blamed the new segments to be the fault of so many crashes at Daytona. Regardless of those theories, look for drivers who’s already behind in points to make a push and race harder early on for those bonus points.

Goodyear Tires: The long time tire of NASCAR had some issues last week at Daytona which seemed to be the cause of several crashes due to exploding last week. We will have to wait and see what the tire maker improved upon after examining the faulty tires from Daytona.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick is on the pole for today’s race and actually had an impressive qualifying time. Atlanta hasn’t been great to Harvick who only has one win here, but he usually finishes in the top half of the field. He has six career top 5’s along with eleven career Top 10 finishes. He’s the favorite by many (but not me) to win today’s race.

Kurt Busch: While Busch is coming off an exciting Daytona 500 win, he’ll look to keep his hot start to the 2017 season rolling. He has three career wins at Atlanta with an average finish position of 15.96. Busch will be starting in the 13th position, but has already improved on his qualifying time in the final practice. Look for him to be in the top five towards the end of the race.

Chase Elliott: Elliott had a great run going at Daytona until he ran out of fuel on the last lap and ended up finishing 14th. He was fast at Daytona and he is going to be fast today at Atlanta. He’s starting in 11th and posted the fastest time in practice. Elliott has proved he can race strong at restrictor plate tracks so look for him to be at the front towards the end.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has five wins in his career at Atlanta and a very impressive 10.68 average finish. Add that with fourteen top 5 finishes and you’ll see why he’s been dominant of sorts at this track. Johnson will start 18th today, but expect him to climb his way up through the field. While he’s certainly not my favorite driver, Johnson is my favorite to win today.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. The number 88 driver is just too popular not to talk about. He did have a good run going in Daytona until an accident took him out of the race. Jr. hasn’t won at Atlanta since 2004, but he has had many strong finishes. His average finish is 11.62 and he starts today in the 12th position. Look for him to have another top 10 showing today.

Kyle Busch: Busch has already had a rough weekend so far at Atlanta. His car failed post race inspection after winning the Xfinity race Saturday and then he finished 26th in the Camping World Truck Series race a few hours later. So in his eyes, today embarks on a new day. Busch has two career wins along with six top 10 finishes at Atlanta and his average finish is 15th. He’s starting 3rd today, but I look for him to fall back a little. Especially with the weekend he’s having.

Ryan Newman:  The “Rocket Man” just fell short of capturing his eighth pole at the famed track. Even though Newman will start 2nd today, I look for him to fall back as the race goes on.

Derrike  Cope: Cope will not be a factor in today’s race unless a “Talladega Nights” type crash takes place and he isn’t involved. He is worth mentioning here though. This will be the veteran driver’s first cup race since 2009. He’ll start in the 38th position today and will most likely stay in the back of the field all afternoon. Let’s just hope his car doesn’t blow up!

Picture of Cope’s Xfinity car that suddenly exploded at Watkins Glen. It was later ruled as a result of tire and brake failure.

Tune in to race coverage starting at 2pm est on Fox with the green flag scheduled to fly at 2:46pm.

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