Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
8 min readJul 9, 2023

7 July 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

HAMPTON, GA — This Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series will be returning to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart (July 9 at 7 p.m. ET on USA, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and this go-around the competitors will have to navigate the high-speed, door-to-door action for the first time ‘under the lights’ since the 1.54-mile track was recently reconfigured by narrowing the racing surface and raising the degree of banking in the Turns to 28 degrees.

Earlier this season, Team Penske’s Joey Logano scored his first and only win of the 2023 season at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Image Credit: nascar.com)
(Image Credit: Go Full Throttle Digital)

Earlier this season, Team Penske’s Joey Logano scored his first and only win of the 2023 season at Atlanta Motor Speedway extending the organization’s wins total at the 1.54-mile facility to seven victories. Heading into the 19th race of the season this weekend, Logano has the opportunity to become the 12th different driver to win consecutive Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway; joining Marvin Panch (1965 sweep), Bobby Allison (1972 sweep), David Pearson (1973 sweep), Richard Petty (1974–75), Cale Yarborough (1980–81), Bill Elliott (1985 sweep, 1992 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1989–90; 1995–96), Bobby Labonte (1997–98), Jeff Gordon (1998–99), Carl Edwards (2005 sweep) and Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep; 2015–16).

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski finished runner-up to Logano earlier this season at Atlanta, and he and his former teammate put on quite the show for the fans in the closing laps.

“A heck of a battle,” exclaimed Brad Keselowski on pit road following the Atlanta race in March. “The coolest thing about this race is two veterans showed you can run a race here side-by-side, bump-drafting, and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectfully. I thought everybody did a great job.”

No practice this weekend, so all the NASCAR Cup Series on-track action will kick off with Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 5:35 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 8. Qualifying will be televised on the USA Network.

NASCAR Cup Series is ready to turn-up the heat at Atlanta Motor Speedway

When celebrating the 75th Anniversary of NASCAR, it’s the people and the places that have helped make the sport what it is today, and one track that has been around a good portion of the 75 years is Atlanta Motor Speedway, 63 years to be exact.

Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway, and it hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race on July 31, 1960. The event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts from the pole position in a 1960 Pontiac.

Much like we all evolve over time, Atlanta Motor Speedway has undergone a few reconfigurations since opening its doors. The track was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970, and it was renamed to Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990. The track layout was reversed, and the track was reconfigured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997. Then in the offseason prior to 2022, the track was again reconfigured by narrowing the racing surface and raising the degree of banking in the Turns to 28 degrees.

From 1960–2010, Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted multiple NASCAR Cup Series races during each season; starting in 2011 the series began only visiting Atlanta once a year (2011–2020). The 2021 season marked the first time since 2010 that the series visited the facility more than once a year. Also worth noting, from 1987 to 2000 Atlanta Motor Speedway hosted the final championship race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

In total, there have been 118 NASCAR Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the first race there in 1960. The 118 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 52 different pole winners and 48 different race winners.

Seven of the 52 NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta Motor Speedway pole winners are active this weekend.

Buddy Baker (1968, 1971, 1976, 1979 sweep, 1980, 1984) and Ryan Newman (2003 sweep, 2004 sweep, 2005 sweep, 2007) are tied for the NASCAR Cup Series most poles at Atlanta Motor Speedway with seven each. Joey Logano (2015, 2023) and Kevin Harvick (2014, 2017) lead all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in Atlanta poles with two each.

Eight of the 48 NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta Motor Speedway race winners are active this weekend.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway with nine victories (1980, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2000). Kevin Harvick (2001, 2018, 2020) leads all active NASCAR Cup Series winners at Atlanta Motor Speedway with three victories. Chase Elliott is the defending winner of this race (July 2022), and Joey Logano is the most recent winner, grabbing the checkered flag back in March.

Race To The Playoffs: Eight chances to earn a spot in the postseason

Drivers without wins this season in the NASCAR Cup Series only have eight chances left in the regular season to earn a spot on the Playoffs as the competitors prepare for Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart this Sunday, July 9 at 7 p.m. ET on USA, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

A total of 11 drivers have already earned their spot in the Playoffs by virtue of their victories this season — William Byron, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Five spots are still up for grabs to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Currently in those spots on points are Kevin Harvick (+151 points above the cutoff), Chris Buescher (+104), Brad Keselowski (+91), Bubba Wallace (+15) and rookie Ty Gibbs (+6).

Heading into this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the 19th race of the 26-race regular season, six drivers that made the Playoffs last season are currently outside the postseason cutoff, including Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe. In the Playoff outlook, positions 15th — 18th are separated by just 25 points.

“We have seen that this configuration (at Atlanta) provides a lot of opportunity for teams that don’t always run up front to be very competitive,” said Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin. “That makes it very exciting and the fact that we’re all right on top of each other the whole time makes it very challenging.”

Teetering along the postseason cutline are Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs, currently in the 16th and final transfer position on points to the Playoffs, and Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez, who is just six points back from Gibbs in 17th — the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. But the drivers outside the Playoff cutoff will have their work cut out for them if they expect to catch up to Gibbs, in his series track debut at Atlanta earlier this season he started 35th and raced his way up to a ninth-place finish.

Most notably sitting outside the current Playoff cutoff is the defending winner of this race and Georgia’s own, Chase Elliott from Dawsonville, who is currently 24th in the standings and 55 points back from the postseason cutoff. Luckily for Elliott and all his enduring fans, Atlanta is one of his better tracks. In nine Cup Series starts he has put up one win (2022), two top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish at the 1.54-mile track is 11.3 — best among active drivers with more than one start.

Shane Van Gisbergen is the latest of lengthy list of new winners in the Cup Series

Trackhouse Racing’s Project 91 delivered big time last weekend in the inaugural Chicago Street Race, when New Zealand’s Shane Van Gisbergen became the 204th different race winner in NASCAR Cup Series history.

With the Chicago win, Van Gisbergen became seventh driver all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series history to win in his series debut and the first to do it since Johnny Rutherford accomplished the feat in 1963 at Daytona. Van Gisbergen is also the first driver not from the United States to win in his Cup Series debut.

Looking to this weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway with 10 different drivers entered in the Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart (July 9 at 7 p.m. ET on USA, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) looking for their first career Cup win — Harrison Burton, Ty Dillon, Ty Gibbs, Todd Gilliland, Noah Gragson, Austin Hill, Corey LaJoie, BJ McLeod, Ryan Preece and JJ Yeley. Spire Motorsport’s Corey LaJoie came close to getting his first career Cup win at Atlanta back in March, he finished a career-best fourth.

If there is another first-time winner this weekend at Atlanta, it will be the 23rd time the NASCAR Cup Series has seen back-to-back first-time winners; most recently, in 2021 when Michael McDowell (Daytona) and Christopher Bell (Daytona Road Course) opened up the season with two first-time winners.

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series in 1949, the 1950 season holds the record for the most first-time winners in a single season with 12 followed by the 1956 season with 10 different first-time winners.

The all-time most different winners in an entire NASCAR Cup Series season are 19 different race winners in a single season and it has happened four times — 1956 (56 race season), 1958 (51 race season), 1961 (52 race season) and 2001 (Modern Era: 36 race season).

The 2023 season with 12 different Cup winners is tied with the 1986, ’88, ’00, ’01, ’07, ’11 and ’12 seasons for the third-most winners through the first 18 races of a season in the Modern Era (1972-Present). The 2003 season holds the record for most different winners through the first 18 races of a season in the Modern Era with 14 different winners.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

NASCAR’s Kyle Larson Nominated for ESPN’s Best Driver ESPY Award — NASCAR Cup Series 2021 champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver, Kyle Larson, has been nominated for the ESPN ESPY, “Best Driver,” Award for the second consecutive year in a row. Larson won the award in 2022 for his performance in his championship winning season in 2021.

The four drivers vying for the ESPY award this year are Brittany Force (NHRA), Kyle Larson (NASCAR), Josef Newgarden (IndyCar) and Max Verstappen (F1).

Larson drives the №5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and has two wins this season (Richmond and Martinsville), eight top fives, nine top 10s and two poles.

Larson finished the 2022 season with three wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s and four poles. He also led 635 laps.

The 30-year-old Cup Series champion is one of five drivers to win the award, along with Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

The 30th edition of the ESPY Awards will take place this year on Wednesday, July 12th at 8 pm ET. Fans can cast their votes for their favorite driver here, up until Sunday July 9th at 8 pm ET.

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association