NASCAR Cup practice predictive of pack racing at Atlanta on Sunday

HAMPTON, GEORGIA - MARCH 19: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, and Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, drive during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2022 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series practice answered a lot of questions about the nature of racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

With NASCAR’s superspeedway competition package in place for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the 1.54-mile track (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)., Cup drivers quickly gravitated toward drafting in large, organized packs.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. topped the speed chart with a lap at 186.616 mph, edging Kyle Busch (186.390 mph) and Christopher Bell (186.321 mph).

“What you saw in practice is really what you’re going to expect,” said Stenhouse, who laid down the fastest time on his 41st and final lap of the session.

“I didn’t think the speeds were going to be as fast as they were… One mistake and you’re going to wipe out just about the entire field, if it’s at the front.”

Both Stenhouse and Bell expect white-knuckled, close-quarters competition in Sunday’s race.

“I found myself holding my breath several times,” Bell said. “It’s a full-blown speedway race, for sure. It’s going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen, I can promise you that.

“It was full-blown chaos, and we’ve got 500 miles of it tomorrow.”