The NASCAR Cup Series takes on Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 11, capping off a packed weekend of racing. Prior to the weekend, the sanctioning body set the starting lineup using its unique formula partially based on the July 4 race at Road America. Race-winner Chase Elliott will lead the field to green as the Busch Pole winner while Kyle Busch will join him on the front row.
The two Cup Series champions will lead the pack shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) while striving to secure extra points for the playoffs. Two of Busch’s teammates, Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell, will line up on the second row while Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson will make up row three. Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain, and Joey Logano will round out the top 10.
One surprising name in the front half of the field is rookie Chase Briscoe. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has struggled during his first season in the Cup Series, finishing outside of the top 20 in 13 of the first 20 races. However, he turned in a strong performance at Road America, finishing sixth and registering his second top-10 finish of the season. Now he will line up on row six next to Matt DiBenedetto.
Playoff Drivers Have to Make Up Ground Early at Atlanta
While some of the top drivers of the 2021 season will line up near the front of the pack, others will have to make up ground early based on their finishing position at Road America. William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start on rows 10 and 11, respectively, while Michael McDowell will start on row 13.
Harvick has performed the best of the Stewart-Haas drivers during the 2021 season, putting himself in contention for a playoff spot with six top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. He appeared to be en route to another after finishing Stage 2 in seventh, but two factors played a role in a 27th-place finish.
The driver of the No. 4 SHR Ford Mustang told his crew chief during the final stage that his car was too loose. He headed to pit road for adjustments and returned to the track in the 15th position. Harvick dropped to 21st near the end of the race when he saw two cars involved in an incident.
Anticipating a caution flag, Harvick headed to pit road for fuel and four tires. However, the race remained green, dropping the veteran to 29th near the end of the race. Harvick gained ground in the final laps and moved up two spots, but the green-flag pit stop played a role in his outing.
Similarly, Alex Bowman will start on row nine after a late incident with Larson disrupted both of their days. He appeared to be en route to another top-10 finish at the Wisconsin road course but lost control of his stock car entering a corner. Bowman hit the rear of Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro and sent it spinning. The collision also damaged his No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Bowman ultimately finished 22nd.
The Defending Atlanta Champion Will Start on Row 8
There will be several Cup Series drivers with favorable odds to win entering the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ryan Blaney will be among this group after capturing the checkered flag in the first race at the 1.54-mile oval. Though he will have to navigate through the packed field.
Blaney will start the afternoon’s race on the eighth row next to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The Team Penske driver is fresh off a 20th-place finish at Road America, a downturn after two top-10 finishes in the Pocono Raceway doubleheader.
Despite ending his day in the middle of the pack, Blaney will line up closer to the top 10 due to a consistent season overall. He has a win to his name, three top-five finishes, and nine top-10s. Now he will strive to win his second race of the season at Atlanta and lock up some playoff points.