Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, GA — July 10, 2022
The spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the first on the newly configured racetrack. Drivers said it felt like a superspeedway with pack racing similar to Daytona or Talladega. Returning to the 1.54-mile layout for the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart under the hot summer sun has crew chiefs concerned about how the track will differ from the cooler weather they experienced in March.
With no practice scheduled for the weekend, drivers were going to have to rely on their qualifying laps to get a feel for the track. Rain washed that opportunity away and the field was set based on the NASCAR Rule book. Chase Elliott sits on the pole based on his lead in the points standings.
The 400.4 miles of today’s race consist of 260 circuits around the speedway. Stages are 60/100/100 laps and NASCAR has scheduled a competition caution after 25 laps to give crews a chance to inspect tires and make adjustments.
William Byron won the Atlanta race earlier this year with Ross Chastain finishing second. There is a slight chance of rain for Sunday, but it is not expected to impact the area as it did on Saturday.
The excitement started on lap one as Ross Chastain(1) drove past Chase Elliott(9) to lead the first circuit. The pair swapped positions on the second lap with Elliott back out front. Chastain resumed the top position and held it for a few laps.
Two-wide and three-wide racing thrilled fans as cars scrambled for positions with drivers moving forward and backward based on how their cars handled. With the competition caution scheduled around lap 25, crews prepared to make adjustments to the ill-handling race cars.
Kyle Larson(5) was one of the drivers complaining. After starting third, Larson had a big wiggle during the opening laps and almost caused the “big one.” He dropped back in the field waiting for caution to make adjustments.
Denny Hamlin(11) drove from the 16th starting spot to the lead in 22 laps. During his move to the front, he encountered Chastain, his nemesis from Kansas City. Hamlin tapped the left rear of Chastain’s car sending it up the track. As Hamlin ducked below Chastain to make the pass they were racing three-wide into the narrow corners of the new track surface.
There were six lead changes among four drivers as the laps wound down to the competition caution with Elliott back in the lead when the yellow flag waved.
Half the field pitted for much-needed adjustments, but Elliott remained on the track maintaining the lead on the restart. Elliott stayed out front for the remainder of the Stage taking the green and white checkered flag, the 10 championship points, and the one playoff point awarded to Stage winners.
Stage One Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
After Stage-ending pit stops the running order changed with last week’s winner Tyler Reddick(8) the first off pit road. The remainder of the top five featured Chastain, Martin Truex Jr. (19), Elliott, and Christopher Bell(20). Truex moved to the top spot and led 17 laps until Elliott got his car sorted out and returned to the lead.
On lap 77 an incident on the backstretch involving BJ McLeod(78), Chris Buescher(17), and Ty Dillon(42) brought out the caution allowing some drivers who were still having handling issues to come to pit road for adjustments.
The race had barely restarted when the big one erupted in turn two. Elliott, in the lead, faced a run from Truex on the high side and moved up to block. As Truex lifted off the throttle, Chastain ran into the rear of Truex’s car sending him sideways into the outside wall.
Chastain had issues with Truex earlier in the year as they were racing hard late in a race and comments from drivers out of the race due to the accident were quick to blame him for the wreck.
The incident caught nine drivers. In addition to Truex and Chastain, the cars of Joey Logano(22), Austin Dillon(3), Michael McDowell(34), Kyle Busch, Larson, Noah Gragson(16), and Bell were involved. The worst damage saw Dillon crash hard into the wall destroying the right front of his race car. He and Gragson retired to the garage. Logano lost three laps repairing his Ford Mustang and the others that had minor damage were able to continue racing.
Kyle Busch had the front end of his car tapped up and the lack of proper aerodynamics cost him speed on the track.
After most of the pack pitted, taking advantage of the caution period the lock at the front of the pack changed. On the restart, two new drivers sat on the front row as Harrison Burton(21) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) led the field back to green.
Buescher cut down a tire putting the race back under the yellow. Damage to Buescher’s car forced him to take his machine to the garage.
Stenhouse was able to hang onto the front row starting spot while William Byron replaced Burton for the restart. Byron held the lead as Chase Briscoe shredded a tire and spun off turn two bringing out the yellow for the sixth time.
With just 22 laps remaining in the Stage, most of the drivers outside of the top 10 choose to pit hoping to get an advantage on the rest of the field when they pit at the end of the Stage.
Back to green flag racing, the drivers focused on positions and points at the conclusion of the Stage. Byron, Reddick, Kurt Busch(45), Bell, Blaney, and Elliott all looked to the green and white checkered flag.
Reddick took the lead with 13 laps to go. With seven laps remaining, Elliott moved past Reddick to take over the top spot. As the pack crossed the start/finish line with one lap to go, Alex Bowman(48) had a rear tire go down and he spun to the top of the track. Fortunately, everyone was able to avoid the incident but the Stage ended under caution.
Bill Elliott won five times at Atlanta, son Chase has yet to visit victory lane at the track the family calls home. Dawsonville, just north of the metro area, will explode if their second favorite son pulls off the win.
To date, the only father-son combination to win at Atlanta has been Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jr.
Stage Two Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
During the stage-ending caution, Stenhouse dropped out of the race taking his car to the garage with engine problems.
The Final Stage
More new names at the front to start the final stage. Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric(2) led, followed by Aric Almirola(10), Michigan’s Erik Jones(43), and Kevin Harvick(4) a three-time winner at Atlanta.
One of those new names at the front of the pack, Garrett Smithley(15) got loose and had to check up running through turns three and four. Running behind Smithley, Ty Dillon(42) slowed and Larson behind him didn’t. The nudge in the back of Dillon’s car sent him into Smithley and the big one number two was on.
Other drivers involved included the cars of Ty Dillon, Byron, Todd Gilliland(38), Bubba Wallace(23), Brad Keselowski, and Landon Cassill(77). Ty Dillon was forced to the garage with damage that could not be repaired in the time allowed for pit road work.
At the front, Jones had just taken the lead when his teammate at Petty/GMS racing helped put the field under yellow. Some drivers chose to pit with the thought that their final pit stop would be faster than the leaders as they would require less fuel.
When the green flag flew for the restart, Jones, Chastain, Elliott, and Cindric took off with the two rows side-by-side and nose-to-tail. The entire front of the field ran two wide for several laps.
Chastain, with a push from Elliott, eventually prevailed and the two cars went to the front as everyone else dropped into single file behind them. On lap 188 Kyle Busch spun his damaged race car off turn two, Cody Ware(51) also went around as the caution was displayed again. At this point of the race, everyone came to pit road for fuel that will take them to the checkered flag.
Corey LaJoie(7) took fuel only and no tires to win the race off pit road. On the restart, Chastain lined up beside LaJoie on the front row with Elliott behind the #7 car and Daniel Suarez(99) behind his teammate Chastain.
Not a regular at the front of the pack, LaJoie used a push from Elliott to clear the rest of the leaders and drive off into clean air. Elliott made the pass for the top spot, but LaJoie did not fold and fought back to resume the lead.
As cars found their position in a single file line, the top five were Elliott, Truex, LaJoie, Chastain, and Hamlin. Content to let laps wind down the leaders followed Elliott in line to save fuel in case the race goes into overtime.
With 24 laps to go, Bell got loose coming off turn four and spun into the front stretch grass. He was able to direct the car to pit road and avoid digging into the turf that would have caused damage to the front splitter.
Several drivers took the opportunity to pit in an effort to improve their chances with fresh tires and an ample amount of fuel. Bell’s trouble continued during his pit stop, the rear tire changer failed to get the left rear wheel secure and it came off as Bell exited his pit stall.
Elliott with LaJoie pushing and Truex with Chastain on his bumper took the green flag at the front of the pack when the race restarted with 19 to go. Just five laps later Chastain repaid Hamlin for the earlier nudge, drifting high Chastain nudged the left rear of Hamlin’s car and sent him spinning. The two continue their personal battle that has added excitement to the Cup season.
Restarting with eight laps left Truex led with Elliott on his rear and LaJoie sat next to the leader with Chastain pushing on his bumper. LaJoie charged out front and pulled up ahead of Truex just as Hamlin and Logano wrecked behind the field.
Restarting with three laps to go, LaJoie chose the bottom lane with Truex on the high side. The pushers remained the same. LaJoie held the lead with two to go, having pulled up ahead of Truex. Elliott got a big push from Erik Jones and took the lead at the white flag. With a bump from Jones, LaJoie tried to go around the outside of Elliott who threw the block on him. LaJoie ran too high and got loose scrapping and bouncing off the wall.
With LaJoie spinning, the yellow flag came out and locked up the victory for Elliott. Chastain finished second and Cindric third, Erik Jones came in fourth with Ryan Blaney finishing in fifth. Corey LaJoie led 19 laps but not the most important one, he finished 21st.
|1||Chase Elliott||684||In Win(3)|
|2||Ross Chastain||634||In Win(2)|
|3||Joey Logano*||562||In Win(2)|
|4||William Byron||505||In Win(2)|
|5||Denny Hamlin||409||In Win(2)|
|6||Kyle Larson||579||In Win|
|7||Kyle Busch||569||In Win|
|8||Alex Bowman||508||In Win|
|9||Austin Cindric*||465||In Win|
|10||Tyler Reddick||458||In Win|
|11||Daniel Suarez||451||In Win|
|12||Kurt Busch||449||In Win|
|13||Chase Briscoe*||443||In Win|
|15||Martin Truex Jr.||566||+62|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
Results of the Quaker State 400 from Atlanta Motor Speedway
|9||19||Martin Truex Jr.||3.020||260|
|31||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-98||162|