Saturday, February 28, 2015

QuickTrip 500 Final Practice Notes: Harvick and Hamlin look like drivers to beat at Atlanta

Kevin Harvick doing a burnout in front of Atlanta's Phillips Arena
Kevin Harvick looked to have a huge gap over No. 2 as our No. 1 rated driver for Sunday's QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but midway through Saturday's final practice session he blew an engine. Now he'll have to start from the rear, which takes away a little from his overall race rating, but not enough to displace him from the top of our chart.

If this were a 200-mile race, then he would downgraded severely, but it's not and he'll have plenty of time to race his way to the front.

Harvick had an outstanding week between testing and practices at Atlanta and also has an superb chassis that was re-fitted to meet the 2015 rules package requirements. When looking at the 2014 resume of the chassis, you'll understand why we give Harvick such high pre-race marks even though he's starting dead last. The chassis led 748 laps season and captured wins at Darlington and Phoenix. Even with all the changes this season, the thing still came out and rolled like nothing had changed, including third in both test sessions Thursday, second in practice and qualifying on Friday and then fastest on Saturday before the engine blew.

Harvick hasn't won at Atlanta since his dramatic victory over Jeff Gordon as a rookie in 2001 where the margin of victory was 0.006 of a second, but he could double his win total Sunday.

The driver just below Harvick in our ratings is Denny Hamlin where it looks like he and his Joe Gibbs Racing gang might have benefited the most from the rules package. They were very ordinary (mildly stated) last season on 1.5-mile tracks after blowing the doors off of everyone in 2013 with seven wins in 11 races.

Hamlin had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average in the final practice session and should be battling for the lead most of the race. If you could make a bet on who would lead the most laps, Hamlin would be your guy. The 2012 Atlanta winner could also be a nice investment on future prices because if he's good on Sunday he'll likely be good on the other 1.5-mile tracks. Five of those 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks are in the Chase.

The best longshot in the race is Jamie McMurray at 30-to-1. McMurray tested and practiced well and is our 11th rated driver for the race.

Be sure to pay close attention to everything that happens on Sunday because it'll help you get a head start on handicapping next weeks race at Atlanta's sister track in Las Vegas.

Read More Here.....Final Atlanta Driver Ratings


xrayedman said...

The link to top 10 is broken. I need my Micah top 10 Driver Ratings!

Fireballr7 said...

ha, thanks. it should be good now.