NASCAR’s formula for determining race starting grids using car-owner points and most recent race performance put Joe Gibbs Racing teammates on the front row for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Denny Hamlin will start on the pole with teammate Martin Truex Jr. alongside on the front row.
“Our team is continuing to work each week to improve,” Hamlin said. “We’re happy with our performance this season, even without a win yet. There is still a lot of work to do and a lot more challenges coming our way. Our team will stay focused, and we’ll do our best to get the job done.”
Ford has won the last four races at Atlanta, courtesy of two wins apiece from Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. The manufacturer lays claim to both second-row positions on Sunday’s starting grid. Joey Logano will start third, next to Team Penske teammate Keselowski in the fourth position.
The first three rows of the Atlanta starting grid will be occupied by pairs of teammates. The Hendrick Motorsports duo of defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and new teammate Kyle Larson will start in row three in the fifth and sixth positions, respectively.
AMS is Elliott’s home track, as the defending champ hails from Dawsonville, Ga.
“I would love to have a win at Atlanta,” Elliott said. “I feel like anybody’s home track, you want to have a win at, for sure, if you can get it. But like I’ve said in the past, I’m not super picky when it comes to wins. I’m good with wherever. They’re too hard to win. Atlanta would be great. I would love to get it done one day and be able to have one there, for sure.”
Harvick, the defending winner of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and the most recent winner at Atlanta, will start in the seventh position, lining up next to Hamlin and Truex’s JGR teammate Christopher Bell, the eighth-place starter.
Harvick’s first-career Cup Series win also came at Atlanta, 20 years ago, soon after he took over the seat vacated by the death of Dale Earnhardt on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
“There are a few things that I vividly remember about everything that happened on that particular day,” Harvick said. “The first thing I remember was there were five of us racing there at the end, and then, it kind of dwindled down. I remember some random things. I think as I look back at that race, I kind of caught myself wandering with a couple laps to go, because it was hard not to notice the people hanging on the fence on the back straightaway. I mean, they were right next to the fence on the back straightaway. I remember how loud the crowd was after I did my burnout and driving around the race track backwards. The rest of it is a little bit confusing as to what you remember, what you don’t remember. It was, obviously, a moment I don’t think any of us expected, but there are a number of things that obviously changed in the weeks before that and continued to change. Atlanta was supposed to be my first race in the Cup Series with America Online as our sponsor with my Busch Series team, at the time, going up together. Obviously, everything changed on that side after the Daytona 500. It took me a long time to really get comfortable to really even think about things that happened that day. There were so many things that happened backwards in my career. I look at my very first Cup Series press conference and that’ll be the biggest press conference with the most notoriety or anything that ever comes from a moment like that. Your first experience will always be your biggest one, at least from my standpoint, so then you look at the first win and you’ll probably never receive that type of notoriety.”
Other top-10 starters Sunday will include Elliott and Larson’s Hendrick teammate William Byron in ninth. Logano and Keselowski’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney will start 10th, putting all three Team Penske cars in the first five rows of the starting grid.
FOLDS OF HONOR QUIKTRIP 500 STARTING LINEUP