For the first time since 2010, Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted two races last season.
Both winners of last year's pair of events faced long odds with Ryan Blaney listed at +1500 in the spring and Kurt Busch at +3300 in the fall. Favorites chased them to the checkers with Kyle Larson (+625) runner-up to Blaney and Kyle Busch (+775) very close behind his brother. Four of the remaining six top-five finishers had outright odds to win that were greater than 10/1.
Apparently, the traders also had some difficulty in determining favorites.
Atlanta was part of a realignment that saw the cancelation of Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway. The effect was a net loss of one race on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks compared to recent seasons, which allowed this track type to remain one of the most impactful in regard to winning the championship. Three "cookie-cutter" races were held during the playoffs.
When Atlanta lost there second race in 2011 it was because of lagging ticket sales, so this gives them an opportunity to experiment to see if fan interest has returned. It will also give bettors and fantasy players a chance to se if additional data will improve their handicaps.
In the last 18 races on this track, no driver has cracked the .500 mark in regard to top-fives. Ky. Busch comes closest with a .471 and eight top-fives in 17 races. (He missed 2015 due to injury.) But: there are several drivers ahead of that mark regarding top-10s with Kevin Harvick (.778), Chase Elliott (.714), and Ku. Busch (.706) leading the charge.
Last year, two drivers swept the top-five at Atlanta with one other sweeping the top 10, so the book is still out on how two races per year will move the needle. It will be easy to pick the top five favorites, because despite the overall modest count regarding top finishes, this track has been prone to streaks.
Harvick finished 11th last summer and narrowly snapped a seven-race, top-10 streak that included a pair of wins. Martin Truex Jr. kept his streak alive and currently has eight such finishes, while Ky. Busch has five straight top-10s with the last three being in the top five. Ryan Blaney joins him with three consecutive top-fives; notably, these are his only top-10s on this track, which could mean he has found a magical setup.
Since we are still sorting out the ramifications of Atlanta's two races, it will pay dividends to look more closely at the other similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, plus the currently inactive tracks of Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
Find a comfortable spillover among drivers on these five active tracks. No one swept the track type in 2021, but Larson and Ky. Busch batted .667 regarding top fives and seven others were well above the .500 mark for top-10s.
March 20, QuikTrip 500
Power Rankings After Week 5 (Atlanta 1)
Xfinity: Nalley Cars 250
Power Rankings After Week 4 (Phoenix 1)
IndyCar Predictor Xpel 375 (Texas)
July 10, Quaker State 400
Martin Truex Jr. 8 top-10s, 8 lead lap finishes
Kyle Busch: 3 top-fives, 5 top-10s, 10 lead lap finishes
Ryan Blaney: 3 top-fives, 3 lead lap finishes
Alex Bowman: 2 top-fives, 2 lead lap finishes
Kevin Harvick: 12 lead lap finishes (last fall snapped 7 straight top-10s)
Denny Hamlin: 5 lead lap finishes
Kyle Larson: 5 lead lap finishes
Chris Buescher: 2 lead lap finishes
Matt DiBenedetto: 2 lead lap finishes
Austin Dillon: 2 lead lap finishes
Cole Custer: 3 progressively better results, (19th, 18th, 17th)
Similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks: Las Vegas, Atlanta, Charlotte oval, Texas, Kansas, Homestead, Chicagoland, and Kentucky.