Atlanta Motor Speedway is the next stop on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, and for Fantasy NASCAR owners, Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will be the third race in four weeks at a mile-and-a-half oval. Granted, Atlanta is a bit of a unique 1.5-mile oval because of its older surface and higher tire wear, but it is still a track where the drivers and teams with the best speed usually deliver the best results.
Naturally, this means that the big names from the big teams typically excel at Atlanta, and this isn't a race where I'd gamble on a bunch of sleepers in my fantasy lineups, especially for Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. Both formats reward stage points. Atlanta tends to be a track where the best cars stay up front most of the day, earning both stage points and strong finishes.
There is a small group of Atlanta stalwarts that I will be tapping into, but I will also be putting plenty of emphasis on the first two races' results at 1.5-mile tracks in 2021. Speed tends to travel from one mile-and-a-half oval to the next in the Cup Series, especially early in the year, so I expect many of the major players from Homestead and Las Vegas to be in the mix again on Sunday.
In the Slingshot game, I leaned heavily into the place differential category. I do think it is a good idea to go after at least one driver who can pick up the win, but with plenty of solid options starting in the middle of the pack or worse, I like the safe floor and high upside that the differential points offer.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Harvick has been the master of Atlanta since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, leading at least 45 laps in all seven starts and leading more than 100 laps six times. He led 151 laps and earned 11 stage points in his win here a year ago, and since stage points were introduced, he has earned an average of 16.5 stage points in four Atlanta starts. You want him in your lineup Sunday.
He has quietly had excellent speed at the mile-and-a-half ovals thus far in 2021, earning points in all four stages across the races at Homestead and Las Vegas. Keselowski finished either first or second in three of those four stages. He has reeled off six straight top-10s at Atlanta, logging two wins and a runner-up finish in the last four races alone. Armed with a top-5 starting spot, Keselowski should be headed for 40-plus fantasy points Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has recently been locked in at Atlanta, logging six straight finishes of eighth or better and three straight top-5s. He has finished second and third in two starts at the track for Joe Gibbs Racing, earning 14 stage points in the 2019 event and sweeping both stages a year ago. Starting on the front row, Truex is a serious threat to win the race and finish as the No. 1 scorer in this format.
You won't find many drivers more dependable at Atlanta than Kurt Busch. Dating back to 2010, he has reeled off 11 straight top-15s at the track. He has cracked the top-10 in his last five Atlanta starts, finishing third and sixth in his two starts here in the No. 1 Chevy. I'll take advantage of his safe floor to save a start from guys like Chase Elliott and Joey Logano.
Larson didn't race at Atlanta last year, but in 2019, he led the most laps and piled up 19 stage points. It appears his move to Hendrick Motorsports is going to bring out the best in him at the 1.5-mile tracks, and after earning 11 stage points and finishing fourth at Homestead, Larson led 103 laps and won Stage 2 in a victory at Las Vegas. Set to start in Row 3 Sunday, he's positioned for a strong performance.
Garage Driver – William Byron
He owns a disappointing 22.7 average finish in three Atlanta starts, but Byron has looked strong at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2021, leading 102 laps in a win at Homestead and leading 25 laps in a top-10 effort at Las Vegas. In those two starts, he has piled up 28 stage points and scored the most points in the series. Byron is starting in the top 10 Sunday, and in case he continues to flex his muscle at the mile-and-a-half ovals, I want him available off the bench.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
There is an opportunity to go against the grain here because of how popular I expect Harvick to be this weekend, and I am pivoting with Truex. He has finished second and third in the two races at Atlanta with the 550-horsepower package, and he swept both stages here last season. Starting on the front row, I think he is in a great spot to earn the most stage points again Sunday.
Kyle Larson (B)
The last time Larson raced at Atlanta, he led 142 laps and earned 19 stage points in the 2019 event. This year, he has scored the second-most points in the series in the first two races at 1.5-mile ovals, notching an impressive win at Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. Starting sixth, double-digit stage points and a top-5 finish seem like his floor. William Byron is a high-upside alternative, and I like Austin Dillon as a potential sleeper.
Kurt Busch (B)
Talk about the model of consistency. Busch has cracked the top 10 in his last five Atlanta starts, finishing third and sixth in two starts here with Chip Ganassi Racing. He has 11 straight top-15s at the track overall, and during that streak, he has driven for five different organizations. Busch flat out knows how to get around this place, and I'm taking advantage of his high floor.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (C)
I don't make it a habit of trusting Stenhouse in my fantasy lineups, but the numbers are encouraging. He has five straight finishes of 18th or better at Atlanta, including a 13th-place finish last year. Stenhouse has also cracked the top 20 in all five races in 2021, finishing 11th and 13th in the two races at 1.5-mile ovals. He is a legitimate top-15 threat as a Group C option this weekend.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kyle Busch ($11,900)
He is still searching for his elite form, but Busch has cracked the top 10 in both races at 1.5-mile ovals this season, finishing third at Las Vegas. He has also finished seventh or better in the last three Atlanta races, earning 17 stage points in a runner-up effort at the track last year. Starting in the middle of the pack, Busch should easily eclipse 100 fantasy points while making a run at being the top scorer.
Brad Keselowski ($11,200)
Kevin Harvick will be the obvious pick among the drivers starting in the top 10. While he certainly deserves to be the favorite, I don't think Harvick and Keselowski's gap is as wide as many perceive. Keselowski has had a ton of speed at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and he has two wins and a second-place finish in the last four races at Atlanta. With the savings, I can build a better lineup top to bottom. Kyle Larson is another Harvick alternative I like.
Tyler Reddick ($9,600)
I imagine Reddick will be a popular play from back in 29th, but I think he is a must-own this weekend. He gained eight spots and finished 16th in his Atlanta debut last year, and I think his ability to move around and run the high line will pay dividends at a track with aggressive tire wear. Reddick should push for 30+ differential points.
Ryan Newman ($8,300)
I went back and forth between Newman and Cole Custer for this spot, but while I think Custer has had more speed at the 1.5-mile tracks than his finishes suggest this year, Newman has had better results. He has also had more success at Atlanta, logging top-15s in both of his starts here with Roush Fenway Racing. Starting back in 28th, he offers a combination of a safe floor and upside.
Austin Cindric ($8,200)
Cindric will be making his first Cup start on a non-drafting oval this weekend, but he will be doing so behind the wheel of Team Penske equipment. I think he can sneak into the top 25 on his car's strength alone, and from the 39th starting spot, that will put him in the 70-point range. His ceiling only goes up from there.
NASCAR guru Brian Polking has been committed to producing Fantasy NASCAR coverage for nearly a decade and written countless articles for his devoted audience who swear by his advice year after year.
This article is free, but Brian also provides a premium service which is an integral part of SI Fantasy Pro. Hit the button below to learn more about the advantage you'll gain across from our DFS & gambling experts.