Jeff Gordon Favored This Week In NASCAR Race In Atlanta
This is the final season of NASCAR racing for future Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, and he started last week’s season-opening Daytona 500, presumably his last, on the pole. Halfway into the 57th running of the Daytona 500, everything was going to plan for Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team.
The No. 24 Chevrolet was dominant from pole position, leading 87 of the first 110 laps in an unusually clean restrictor-plate race. Out in front of the pack, the car was handling well and was still in the lead through a round of pit stops under caution. However, the second half of the race was just about the opposite of the first. Gordon lost the lead on the subsequent restart and never really caught a glimpse of the front again as Team Penske’s Joey Logano fought off Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to score his first Daytona 500 victory. Gordon fell as far back as 12th place before rallying back into the top five. But he ended up being swept in a multicar crash on the final lap to end the race with a disappointing 33rd-place finish.
Title No. 6 For Gordon?
Despite that, Bovada oddsmakers list Gordon as the +600 favorite for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 in Atlanta. In recent years, Atlanta’s lone Cup date has been during Labor Day weekend. Its move to the second week of the season will be a big test of its viability going forward. As a result of the move, track temperatures and track conditions could be a lot different than what teams have been accustomed to at AMS.
Gordon has five career wins at Atlanta. His 106.0 driver rating at the track is the best in the series, and over the past four years, Gordon leads all drivers with a 6.5 average finish and 157 points scored there. He was 17th last August.
Johnson Thrives In Atlanta
Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson at +700. A pit road penalty could have derailed the No. 48 team’s day at Daytona, but it rebounded for a top-five finish. A three-time winner at Atlanta, Johnson tops the board at the 1.54-mile track for laps in the top 15 (4,381) and average running position (9.1) in the loop data era.
Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, didn’t led any laps at Daytona, but he was right there with a chance to win late. It didn’t happen, but now he heads to a track where he led a race-high 195 laps last Labor Day weekend. A late wreck derailed his chances. He does have one win in 24 starts in Atlanta.
Daytona winner Joey Logano is +800. Atlanta is statistically his second-worst track on the circuit as he has an average finish of 21.5 there. He has one top-five and one top-10 in eight starts.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is at +1200. Junior had plenty of speed during Speedweeks and if it wasn’t for a mistake just after a restart with 19 to go, we may be talking about him being the repeat champion of the Daytona 500. Statistically, Atlanta is the track where Junior has his best average finish (12.3), but he hasn’t a led a lap there in eight races. He has one win, eight top-10s, 12 top-10s and two poles in 27 starts.
Kasey Kahne is +1200. While he’s the defending champion of this event (August 2014), he turned in three finishes of 24th-or-worse in his previous three trips to Atlanta. And prior to that he logged a win (2009) and a Top 5 (fourth in 2010). So Kahne is the definition of boom or bust.
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