July 18, 2024

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What to Watch: 2022 Atlanta summer race


Looking at the grandstands from the infield at Atlanta.

Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the 19th regular-season event of the 2022 campaign.

Race-day info 📝

Where: Hampton, Georgia
Approximate start time: 3 p.m. ET | Full weekend schedule
TV/Radio: USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio | Full TV schedule
The purse: $7,034,869
Forecast: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 2 p.m. ET, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracker
Race distance: 260 laps | 400 miles
Stages: 60 | 160 | 260
Pit-road speed: 45 mph
Caution car speed: 55 mph
Atlanta 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: Where drivers will start
| Cup qualifying rained out
Pit stalls:
Where drivers will pit

Key things to watch 🔑

Big story line

Is Atlanta another wild-card race? If it is, then a handful of drivers with only one win this season have cause to be concerned. There are already 13 winners. Throw in a revamped Atlanta, two road courses (which have proven parity this season) and the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway, and the current playoff standings could look completely different before the Round of 16. So for drivers teetering on the right side of the bubble, Sunday’s race presents an incredible opportunity to set their destiny in stone. Get a second win and it is virtually a guaranteed playoff berth. Miss out on the chance and a driver winning below the cut line just adds to the increasing pressure down the stretch. | Playoff outlook, so far

Who’s hot? Who’s not? 

Suddenly, Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric has been steadily improving the consistency he has struggled to find in his rookie year. Cindric enters Atlanta on a three-race streak of top-seven finishes and only has one sub-11 result since Darlington Raceway on May 8. We all know how prominent Team Penske’s superspeedway program has been over the years, with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney being serial contenders. Cindric should be more comfortable this time around, despite crashing out here in the spring race. With a host of new winners shaking up the rankings, that elusive second Cup win could not come at a better time than Sunday.

On the flip side, Austin Dillon is almost certainly in a must-win situation 219 points below the playoff cutline. A moderately promising start to the season had the No. 3 car right in the mix for a handful of races. But lately, that has not been the case. Dillon has six-consecutive finishes of 11th or worse and has only one top-10 finish at Atlanta in 11 starts. Like Cindric, Dillon was also an early exit due to a wreck and will need a completely different result this time around. With the No. 8 car locked into a provisional playoff spot, the focus shifts on getting the No. 3 to join it.

Driving under the radar

Despite dominating the spring race, William Byron is not the outright favorite this weekend. Even being one of only five multi-race winners this season, Byron’s story still feels underdog-ish. Sure, his blistering pace to start the season has cooled off in recent weeks. But he has one significant advantage on his side this weekend: no practice. Only a spring notebook will give teams a chance to work out any kinks from the earlier race — one in which Byron led 111 laps. The 24 car was the one to beat from start to finish, and though the trends have favored others lately, Byron is a solid bet to be first to three wins.

Cars racing on the track.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Race-day staples ✅

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Paint Scheme Preview: Denny Hamlin brings out the Coca-Cola scheme | Pick a favorite
• Power Rankings:
Is Kyle Larson rounding into his 2021 form? | Latest Cup Series driver rankings
• Fantasy Fastlane:
Bubba Wallace is a must-have for your lineup | Top plays, sleepers
• NASCAR betting:
Which driver is the favorite for Sunday? | BetMGM betting odds
• Backseat Drivers:
How far does Tyler Reddick go in the playoffs? | Watch the debate
• Playoff Watch:
How the 2022 Cup Series playoff picture is shaping up | Bubble battles, playoff locks

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Inspection: Two cars lose crew member, pit-stall selection | Full report
• Joe Gibbs Racing:
Organization gives update on Kyle Busch’s status | Read more
• Crucial race:
Analyzing why Bubba Wallace needs to treat Sunday like Game 7 | Read more
• Crew changes:
Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace swap crew members for Sunday | Drivers give insight | More details
• Denny Hamlin:
No. 11 Toyota Camry will sport Coca-Cola scheme this weekend | Read more
• 10 things:
What to pack when preparing to camp out for a NASCAR race | Learn more
• Corey Lajoie:
No. 7 Spire Motorsports driver aiming for Hail Mary at Atlanta | Read more
• Why Tyler Reddick?: Richard Childress explains faith in the No. 8 driver | Full story
• Backseat Drivers:
Is Ty Gibbs ready for the Cup Series? | Watch the show
Steven Wilson aces Road America | Results, recap
• Stacking Pennies:
Corey LaJoie recaps a wild race at Road America, Ty Gibbs joins the show | Listen here
• Garage 56:
Hendrick Motorsports offers insight after visiting endurance classic last month | Read more
• Winless, for now:
2022 Cup Series runners-up still searching for first win | Full list
• Speed Sport rankings:
Chase Elliott stands out on another list | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• The Action Network: Why you should bet Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on Sunday | Read more
• BetMGM:
No clear favorite with wild, unpredictable Atlanta on the horizon | Which drivers to bet
• Featured matchup:
How to bet Michael McDowell vs. Bubba Wallace | Expert’s insight
• Play it LIVE:
Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Going all the way:
2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

New track layout, same storied history ⏳

Wisconsin and cheese go hand-in-hand, but see which memories from Road America go hand-in-hand with the Cup Series.

• Do you remember?: Listing the most memorable moments at Atlanta | Relive them
• Winner, winner:
All-time Cup Series winners at Atlanta | Full list
• Last season:
Kurt Busch outduels Kyle in a summertime showdown for the ages | Race recap
• Race Rewind:
Best 2021 video highlights from a jam-packed race on the old layout | Watch now

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Six Atlanta races ended in overtime with the most recent coming in 2016.
The race winner led over 100 laps in four of the last six Atlanta races.
Nine of the last 10 Atlanta winners got their first win of the season.
Joey Logano was passed for the win in three of the last six Atlanta races.
The last five Atlanta races were won by five different drivers.

Say what? 🎙

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“Atlanta was a really good race for us in the spring. Our team performed well on the new superspeedway track surface and with no practice this time around I think that should play into our hands.”Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“Making the playoffs is the goal. You can’t run for a championship if you don’t make the playoffs, so we start every year before we leave to go to Daytona with a list of goals and priority number one is to do everything you can for the regular season to put yourself in a position to make the playoffs. Whether that’s on points or by winning races, we’ve done a good job throughout the year of scoring points and putting ourself in a position that typically would have had us racing our way in on points but this is a very untypical year.” — Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.

• “Old Atlanta versus new, it’s quite a different change. But now, after getting to run a race here earlier this year, I think it helps kind of transition and you see that with the weekend schedule now with qualifying and racing. Where before, we had full practice sessions. The cars have probably evolved some since [the first Atlanta race], setups and engines and aero packages and stuff within the team. So, it could be a totally different race.” — Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet


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