Rain at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday washed out practice for the first race at the newly reconfigured and repaved track. As a result, NASCAR scrapped plans for qualifying on Saturday in favor of practice time. The starting grid for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was, instead, set by the formula utilized last year when qualifying was usually nonexistent because of the coronavirus pandemic. That formula that includes previous race results and fastest laps and car-owner points put previous weekend’s race winner at Phoenix Raceway, Chase Briscoe, on the pole at Atlanta.
“It’s going to be wild,” Briscoe said. “It’s great to win on Sunday, but this coming week there are going to be 39 guys that are going to try the same thing. A couple of guys in the shop asked me how it feels to get that first win and it feels good, but it doesn’t mean anything if we go run 40th this week. You’ve got to be able to go do it again. So I think, this week, there are a lot of unknowns for a lot of reasons. The NextGen car still is a big variable that we don’t really know a lot about, but then the track is totally different than anything we’ve ever had. It’s supposedly going to be like a mini-Daytona or Talladega with pack racing and drafting, but what really happens when we get there? It’s going to be intense, it’s going to be wild, it’s going to be a narrow track with a lot of speed and a lot of excitement. It’ll be interesting to see where we stack up when we get there. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve been on the simulator quite a bit trying to figure it out, but we won’t really know what it’s going to be like until we get there.”
The formula also put Fords in the top-three positions on the grid — Ryan Blaney on the front row alongside Briscoe and Blaney’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano in third.
Toyota driver Kyle Busch garnered the other second-row starting spot.
“Atlanta is going to be crazy. It literally got a facelift with a whole new track surface and layout and everything,” Busch said. “Looking forward to getting to Atlanta. It’s going to be a different race than what we’ve had there in years past, where you have the old asphalt and really have fast lap times to fire off, and then you have a lot of fall-off where lap times go down throughout the run. That led to having some guys come up through the field and others drop through the field, whether or not they are fast early in the run or slow late in the run, or vice versa. This time around, it’s going to be more like a Daytona or Talladega speedway race. You are going to see a lot of pack racing with some guys two-wide and maybe three-wide, and we’ll have to see how wide the track gets in the time we have on it. Really paying attention and watching some of the Truck Series and Xfinity Series racing earlier in the weekend. It’s going to be helpful to see what we’ll have for Sunday. We’ll learn as much as we can and would like to figure out how to run up front and contend for the win with our M&Ms Camry TRD.”
Chevrolet drivers Tyler Reddick and Chase Elliott took third-row starting spots, with Ross Chastain and Kevin Harvick in row four and Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola in row five.
FOLDS OF HONOR QUIKTRIP 500 STARTING LINEUP