The spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a standout event for Ford Performance. The top eight drivers in the starting order represented the blue oval, and two of them went on to put on a show while battling for the win. Joey Logano ultimately captured it after passing former teammate Brad Keselowski on the final lap.
The weather conditions will be significantly different as the teams return to Atlanta. The expectation is that it will be hot as opposed to the chilly and windy conditions in March.
The race will also begin as night approaches instead of in the afternoon. However, the Ford Performance teams still have the belief that they can contend for the all-important win based on the past Next Gen races at the track.
“The last time we visited Atlanta, it was a very successful weekend for Ford Performance,” said Brian Wilson, Harrison Burton’s crew chief. “Eight of the top 10 qualifiers were in Fords, including the pole sitter, and our manufacturer was able to get the win as well.”
“I have always enjoyed going to Atlanta,” Aric Almirola said. “It has been a place that we are so fast as a race team. It’s been a place where we have led a lot of laps recently and I look forward to going there knowing we can put ourselves in a position to win.
“Unfortunately, both times we have led laps we have been wrecked out or cut a tire from the lead toward the end of the race. Things have to go our way, eventually, and I know we can put ourselves back in that position again this weekend.”
Handling Remains a Focus for NASCAR Cup Series Teams
Atlanta Motor Speedway now falls into the category of superspeedway after the extensive reconfiguration that took place after the 2021 Quaker State 400. Drivers have to race in a pack and use the draft as they do at Daytona and Talladega, but they also have to worry far more about handling.
As several drivers have explained heading toward the Atlanta weekend, car balance is more of a concern at the Georgia track than it is at other superspeedways.
Chase Briscoe said that drivers are more reliant on handling while Kevin Harvick said that the drivers are hoping for “tremendous grip loss.” Wilson indicated that the hotter temperatures could play a role in decisions about two- or four-tire stops.
“I thought all of our cars were fast in the spring,” Ryan Blaney said. “Obviously, Joey won, but I think we qualified 1-2-3 and I think eight or nine of the top 10 in qualifying were Fords, so I look forward to going there. Hopefully, our cars are still as good there and it’s a night race, so hopefully the track still has similar grip to what we had.
“The first time we went there with the new configuration you didn’t know what to expect, but now I think we have a pretty good idea. I’m curious to see how the track ages. Hopefully, it’s aged well, and I think handling comes more and more into play.”
Atlanta Has Been a Special Track for Brad Keselowski
Keselowski, the driver of the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford Mustang, has achieved success at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his career, and he will be on a mission to continue this trend during the Quaker State 400.
The 2012 Cup Series champion has two prior Cup Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as well as 10 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. His 2019 win, in particular, was a momentous occasion as he took the Mustang to Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series.
This win in 2019 was Keselowski’s second at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It also helped Ford Performance continue a dominant streak at the track that included five consecutive wins between 2017-2021.
Keselowski delivered two of these wins. His first was in 2017 and his second was in 2019. Harvick won in 2018 and 2020 while Blaney won for the first time at the track in 2021.
If Keselowski can achieve his goal and win at Atlanta for the third time, he will punch his ticket back to the playoffs for the first time since 2021. He will also score his first win as a driver-owner in the Cup Series.