Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will concentrate on finishing better than 20th this week at Atlanta. In 22 previous starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, he has finished worse than he qualified in nearly 75 percent of his attempts.
In his two previous Atlanta starts, he has fared better. Stenhouse won the pole in 2013 and finished a more-than-respectable 16th. Last year, he improved from 26th to 20th and that grid position might have been a more likely result in qualification this week if not for the large number of cars that failed to clear inspection.
Danica Patrick returns to the track where she recorded a career-best finish last year. After starting 27th in the Oral-B USA 500, she fell off the lead lap for a time, but managed to get her car right in the closing laps and finish sixth.
This week, she earned her best qualification position at Atlanta and rolls off the grid 18th. If she can stay on the lead lap all day and keep up on the adjustments, it is not out of the question that she might earn her first career top-five.
Austin Dillon qualified 15th for the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500. It is the second consecutive Atlanta Cup race for which he qualified among the top 15.
In his third start on this track, Dillon is still seeking his first lead lap finish. He was 19th in 2013 and 24th last year, but one lap off the pace each time. With track position, he could achieve that goal if the cautions wave at the right time
When Tony Stewart failed to clear inspection Friday afternoon, it forced him to take a position based on owner points. He will roll off the grid 39th, which is the worst he has ever started at Atlanta.
His next-worst start came in 2001 when he rolled off the grid 35th. He blew an engine five laps from the end and finished 27th. Stewart also finished second once after starting 32nd, so all hope is not lost.
Aric Almirola recorded two top-10s on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year with Richard Petty Motorsports.
Almirola’s best finish came at Kansas in the 5-Hour Energy 400, but he also finished in the top 10 at Atlanta with a ninth. He is far from a sure thing, however, because Almirola finished outside the top 20 in his last four attempts on this track type.
Matt Crafton has the best 10-lap consecutive average speed in final practice for the Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The average speed of 176.268 mph in the No. 88 Toyota Tundra was best of the eight trucks that ran 10 consecutive laps on the track for this session. No. 05 John Wes Townley, No. 19 Tyler Reddick, No. 29 Brad Keselowski, No. 23 Spencer Gallagher, No. 11 Ben Kennedy, No. 86 Brandon Brown and No. 08 Korbin Forrister are the rest on this list.
Sprint Cup regular Brad Keselowski is fastest in Final Practice for the Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
At 178.695 mph in the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150, he was the fastest of the 31 trucks out on the track for the final practice. No. 4 Erik Jones, No. 13 Cameron Hayley, No. 51 Daniel Suarez and No. 05 John Wes Townley are the rest of the top five on the speed chart. No. 6 Norm Benning was the slowest.
Dozens of drivers failed NASCAR inspection in their first attempt and were forced to go around and try again. Thirteen of them failed to make a time trial lap, including such big names as Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon.
Regan Smith, Jeb Burton, Cole Whitt, Landon Cassill, and Alex Bowman were also affected, but they had enough owner points from last year to make the show. The same was not true for Reed Sorenson, Mike Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, and Michael Annett. They are the four drivers who will miss the show.