Atlanta Weekend Preview: Atlanta Holds Strong Memories For Harvick

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 25: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

For so many longtime NASCAR fans, Kevin Harvick’s maiden win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2001 was memorable for the context he scored it in. It was only Harvick’s third start after suddenly being asked to drive Richard Childress Racing’s Chevrolet after Childress’ driver — the great seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt — perished on the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500.

Harvick arrived in Atlanta full of emotion – a newlywed tasked to fill the sport’s biggest shoes at the time. And yet the Californian was able to focus and persevere en route to scoring one of the most popular victories in NASCAR history.

He’d like to take his new ride, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, back to Victory Lane this Sunday at Atlanta (2 p.m. ET on FOX) for the first time since –  and judging by his recent showings at the 1.5-miler, he has to be considered a favorite.

Harvick has won a pole (2014) and led at least 100 laps in five of the last six Atlanta races. He’s been out front for 835 laps in that span. The next best lap leader, Joey Logano, led 165 laps in that timeframe. In 2017, Harvick led a dominating 292 laps at Atlanta, only to receive a late race pit road speeding penalty which left him ninth at the checkered flag.

“As a driver, you just love the challenge that comes with racing at Atlanta,’’ Harvick said. “This is always one that I circle on my calendar as a favorite and I look forward to racing in Atlanta this weekend.’’

Truex Looks To Continue Strong Start

Ryan Truex makes only his second NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Atlanta on Saturday, but comes to the track full of confidence and well-earned optimism following a dramatic seventh-place

Ryan Truex (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

finish in the Daytona season-opener after leading three laps late in the multiple-overtime race.

The 25-year-old younger brother of reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. heads to Atlanta ranked fourth in the championship. The top six in the Xfinity standings are separated by a mere 18 points and include new names atop the early championship board from leader Tyler Reddick to third-place Spencer Gallagher (-11) to Truex (-15), and sixth-place Kaz Grala (-18).

The series regulars stand to score substantial points at Atlanta with four-time NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner Kevin Harvick one of only three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars (also Joey Logano and Ty Dillon) entered for Saturday’s Rinnai 250.

Up For Grabs

(Getty Images)

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta has been one of the most competitive events on the series schedule – on any schedule, for that matter. There have been eight different winners in the last eight Truck Series races. Five times this race has been won from the pole position including three times in the last seven races. Polesitter Christopher Bell won last March en route to winning the series title.

Johnny Sauter, the Daytona season-opening victor last week, has won back-to-back races three times in his championship career, but has never won in Atlanta. In fact, he has only one top-five finish (third place, last year) in seven starts.


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, Feb. 25
The Time: 2 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 500.5 miles (325 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 85), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on lap 325)

What To Watch For: The Daytona 500 was an immediate glimpse of the competitive nature this season has been billed to provide. Austin Dillon’s last-lap victory and Ryan Blaney’s dominant time on point, along with a lengthy list of drivers running up front, certainly promises a compelling race Sunday as teams regroup for the sport’s first 1.5-mile track of the schedule. …Hometown favorite Chase Elliott has a pair of top 10s in his two Cup starts at Atlanta, including fifth-place there last year…Unadilla, Georgia native David Ragan will be making his 400th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Rinnai 250

The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, Feb. 24

The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 251.02 miles (163 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on lap 163)

What To Watch For: Eleven different drivers led in a dramatic overtime season opener at Daytona. And with only three full-time Monster Energy Series drivers in the field this week, this event should have all the makings for another close finish. … John Hunter Nemechek will be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut while competing for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Next Race: Active Pest Control 200 benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, Feb. 24

The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200.2 miles (130 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on lap 130)

What To Watch For:  Christopher Bell dominated this race last year, but the new NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie won’t be in the field this Saturday. …Former champion Matt Crafton, who finished 19th at Daytona, was runner-up last year in Atlanta and is looking for his first pavement victory in more than a year – his only win in 2017 came on the Eldora, Ohio dirt track. …. Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon are the only two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars entered in the truck race this weekend.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.