The NASCAR Cup Series takes on Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 11, marking the second time that the drivers head to the 1.54-mile oval in 2021. There are several drivers with favorable odds to win, including Kyle Larson (9-4), but Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez serves as a dark horse option to take the checkered flag.
The driver of the No. 99 finished 17th overall during the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on March 21. However, this placement doesn’t tell the full story of Suarez’s day. The Trackhosue Racing driver had one of the fastest cars in the 39-driver field.
He raced in the top five during the final stage and appeared to be in contention for the win. However, a pit road speeding penalty forced Suarez to take a pass-through lap, dropping him to the middle of the pack.
The driver of the No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro will now have a second opportunity to showcase the speed of his stock car. He enters the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart with 125-1 odds, making him a true dark horse candidate.
A Richard Childress Racing Driver Could Lock Up a Playoff Spot
While Suarez could win the first race of his Trackhouse Racing tenure, he won’t be the only dark horse option with decent odds to find success. There are actually two that drive for Richard Childress Racing and have recent strong performances to their names.
Austin Dillon (50-1 odds), the driver of the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet Camaro, has yet to win a race in 2021, but he currently sits above the playoff cut line. He has six top-10 finishes, as well as a top-five in the season-opening Daytona 500. This list includes a sixth-place run during the first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Dillon started 13th in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and raced his way into the top 10. He contended for stage points with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Larson, and race-winner Ryan Blaney. The driver of the No. 3 locked up 35 points despite dealing with a stock car that wouldn’t turn properly for long stretches of time. However, the team made crucial adjustments throughout the race and helped Dillon contend.
Similarly, teammate Tyler Reddick (80-1 odds) entered the first Atlanta race with the goal of securing the win, but he dealt with early issues. The No. 8 hit the wall, forcing Reddick to go to pit road for repairs. He fell multiple laps down but made strides with a fast stock car en route to a 26th-place finish.
Reddick has improved in recent weeks, helping him post a career-high total of 10 top-10 finishes in 2021. He took 11th in the first Pocono race and then reached ninth in the second to cap off a doubleheader weekend. Reddick then celebrated the Fourth of July with an eighth-place outing at Road America in which he captured a stage win.
Neither Dillon nor Reddick has previous wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but they both have shown improved speed in recent weeks. Reddick, in particular, had the fourth-fastest car during qualifying. He used the speed during the July 4 race to move up through the field in the final stage and crack the top 10.
Will Matt DiBenedetto Achieve His Goal?
The driver of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Mustang, Matt DiBenedetto (125-1 odds) turned in one of his best performances during the trip to Road America. He started seventh after a strong qualifying session and then led 10 of the 62 laps, holding off Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott at times. Though late tire issues relegated him to a 10th-place finish.
Fresh off his fourth top-10 finish of the year, DiBenedetto will head to Atlanta Motor Speedway with the goal of securing the 100th win in Wood Brothers Racing’s history. Achieving this will not be a simple task, but the driver of the No. 21 can use the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 as a way to prepare.
DiBenedetto posted his best finish of the season (at the time) during the first race at AMS. He started 20th and then raced his way near the top 10 before the end of Stage 1. DiBenedetto continued to showcase speed throughout the race, running as high as third in Stage 2 and remaining in the top five for much of the final segment.
The driver of the No. 21 explained that the car “got a little loose” during the final stage, resulting in him dropping a few positions. However, he remained near the top 10 for the remainder of the race and ended the day with much-needed confidence.
DiBenedetto will start the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart in a favorable position to contend for the win once again. He will line up next to Chase Briscoe on the sixth row after NASCAR determined the starting order with its lineup formula.