Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta

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The race to lock in spots in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs continues Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Eight races remain before the the playoffs begin Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway.

The Atlanta track is a new landscape this year after renovations changed the turn banking from 24 to 28 degrees and narrowed the racing surface. Speeds are up, and teams approach the race similar to their preparations for racing at Daytona and Talladega.

FRONT RUNNERS

William Byron

  • Points position: 10th
  • Last three races: 16th at Road America; 35th at Nashville; 9th at Sonoma
  • Past at Atlanta: Won in March, two top 10s in past three Atlanta races

Byron is the only driver with a win on Atlanta’s new surface. He won the March race there in the track’s first event under its new configuration. He has four top 10s in the past 14 races this season.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: 2nd at Road America; won at Nashville; 8th at Sonoma
  • Past at Atlanta: Top 10 in six of eight starts

Elliott is red hot heading into his “home” track. The Georgia native has scored wins in two of the past eight races, had a second Sunday at Road America and continues to lead the point standings.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 7th
  • Last three races: 13th at Road America; 22nd at Nashville; 26th at Sonoma
  • Past at Atlanta: Nine straight finishes of ninth or better

Truex continues to search for his first victory of the season, and Atlanta could be the place. He finished eighth in the March race at the track, and he has led laps in five of the past 8 races there. His best career finish at the track is a second in 2019.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 11th at Road America; 3rd at Nashville; 6th at Sonoma
  • Past at Atlanta: Won in 2021; three top fives in past four races

Blaney has been one of the season’s most consistent drivers. He has a third, a fourth and a fifth. But will he ever win? He has led laps in 15 of the season’s 18 races but hasn’t been able to close with a victory.

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 29th at Road America; 21st at Nashville; 30th at Sonoma
  • Past at Atlanta: Won in 2008 and 2013; two runner-up finishes in past four races

Can Busch recharge his season? He hasn’t won since finishing first on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway in April and hasn’t finished better than 21st in the past three races. He crashed out of the March race in Atlanta, finishing 33rd.

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 25th
  • Last three races: 35th at Road America; 12 at Nashville; 36th at Sonoma
  • Past at Atlanta: Best finish of 13th in six starts

Wallace’s season is spiraling downward. A mix of engine failures, crashes and trouble on pit road has left him with only two top-10 finishes this year. He finished 13th at Atlanta in March. After struggles on pit road, he’ll have a couple of new pit crew members at Atlanta.