Facts & Stats: NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
17 March 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
HAMPTON, GA — It’s Friday race fans and that means it’s time to review the Facts and Stats ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway scheduled to run on Sunday March 19, 2023. As Go Full Throttle Racing News readers know, some of this data is included in the GFT NASCAR AI Driver Rankings and Race Prediction models.
Facts and Stats NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 19
3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,725,965
MEDIA: TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (260 laps)
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60)
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160)
Final Stage (Ends on Lap 260)
William Byron and the Hendrick Motorsports №24 team heads to Atlanta looking for third straight victory in 2023
After victories the past two weeks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Ambetter Health 400 on Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m. ET (FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) looking for his third straight victory in the NASCAR Cup Series. If he accomplishes the feat this weekend, he will become just the sixth active driver to win three or more consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races and the 25th all-time.
Byron is the defending spring race winner of the newly remodeled Atlanta Motor Speedway, taking the win over second-place Ross Chastain by a scant 0.145-second last season — the fourth closest finish in the series at Atlanta all-time.
The five active drivers that have won three or more consecutive Cup races are Kyle Larson (twice in 2021), Kyle Busch (2015, 2018), Brad Keselowski (2018), Kevin Harvick (2018) and Joey Logano (2015).
In four starts this season, Byron has put up two wins (Las Vegas, Phoenix) and has led 240 laps. His average finish this year is 15.3. His season-to-date driver rating is 107.2 (series-best), his average running position is 7.8 (second-best) and he has spent 84.1% of his laps completed running in the top-15.
Looking ahead to this weekend at Atlanta, Byron has made seven series starts at the 1.54-mile track posting one win (2022), one top five and two top 10s.
Atlanta Motor Speedway gears-up for Cup
The NASCAR Cup Series and Atlanta Motor Speedway go way back, 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 inaugural Cup race was a 300-mile/200 lap event that had 45 competitors and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts from the pole position in a 1960 Pontiac. Cotton Owens led the most laps that day (52), but Roberts took the lead with just 13 to go to grab the victory.
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, from 1987 to 2000 Atlanta Motor Speedway held the final championship race on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
In total, there have been 117 NASCAR Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the first race there in 1960. The 117 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 53 different pole winners and 47 different race winners. Seven of the 53 NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta Motor Speedway pole winners are active this weekend.
NASCAR Hall of Famer 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. Kevin Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in Atlanta poles with two (2014, 2017).
Six of the 47 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). Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series winners at Atlanta Motor Speedway with three victories (2001, 2018, 2020).
All the NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity at Atlanta Motor Speedway begins this Saturday, March 18 with Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 11:30 a.m. ET on FS1.
Keeping The Streak Alive: Chevrolet has won the first four Cup races of 2023
The first four races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season have seen only one manufacturer in Victory Lane — Chevrolet.
This season from the Chevrolet camp, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the DAYTONA 500, Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch won at Auto Club Speedway and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron has won the last two races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway.
In the Modern Era (1972–2023), a manufacturer has only swept a season’s first four races four times and Chevrolet drivers are responsible for three of them — Chevrolet (1995, 2001, 2023) and Ford (1992).
A manufacturer has only swept the first five races of a NASCAR Cup Series season in the Modern Era (1972–2023) twice — Chevrolet (1995) and Ford (1992).
The record for the most consecutive wins by a manufacturer to start at NASCAR Cup Series season in the Modern Era (1972–2023) is nine straight victories by Ford in the 1992 season.
The most consecutive victories to start a NASCAR Cup Series season by Chevrolet was seven straight wins in the 1995 season — second-most in the Modern Era.
Alex Bowman is the only driver with four consecutive top-10 finishes this season
Consistency is paying off for Alex Bowman and the Hendrick Motorsports’ №48 Chevrolet team, as they are the only NASCAR Cup Series team this season to score four consecutive top-10 finishes in as many races.
In four starts this season, Bowman has put up two top fives and four top 10s. He leads the series in average finish this year with a 6.3. Plus, his season-to-date driver rating is 95.7 (sixth-best), his average running position is 10.6 (sixth-best) and he has spent 81.4% of his laps completed running in the top-15 (sixth-best).
Bowman will look to keep the early success going this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he has made nine series starts posting two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish at the 1.54-mile track is 17.1.
Atlanta Motor Speedway’s new configuration produced some stellar racing last season
When the NASCAR Next Gen car took to the newly reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway last March the expectations were really high, and the NASCAR Cup Series delivered — setting new statistical records even.
The race was won by Hendrick Motorsports’ driver William Byron, but not before seeing a track record 46 lead changes among a track record 20 different leaders.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway NASCAR Cup Series race on March 20, 2023 also produced a series record for green flag passes for the lead on 1.5-mile tracks with 141 green flag passes for the lead (GFPL). The previous record for green flag passes for the lead on a 1.5-mile track in the NASCAR Cup Series was held by Texas Motor Speedway with 57 GFPL.
Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 2022 spring race also produced a NASCAR Cup Series record for total green flag passes on 1.5-mile tracks with 6,439 total green flag passes. The previous record for total green flag passes on a 1.5-mile track in the NASCAR Cup Series was held by Charlotte Motor Speedway with 4,520 total green flag passes.
Last six Cup races at Atlanta have produced different winners
In the last six NASCAR Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway have produced six different winners — Brad Keselowski (2019), Kevin Harvick (2020), Ryan Blaney (Spring 2021), Kurt Busch (Fall 2021), William Byron (Spring 2022) and Chase Elliott (Fall 2022). Now, with the series rolling into Atlanta this weekend, will the fans get to see a seventh different winner?
A total of six NASCAR Cup Series Atlanta Motor Speedway race winners are active this weekend, led by Kevin Harvick (2001, 2018, 2020), and followed by Brad Keselowski (2017, 2019), Kyle Busch (2008, 2013), William Byron (2022), Ryan Blaney (2021) and Denny Hamlin (2012). The most recent winner at Atlanta, Chase Elliott, is sidelined this weekend with a broken leg from a snowboarding accident in Colorado.
One driver looking to add their name to the winners list at Atlanta Motor Speedway is Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain, who finished runner-up in both of the NASCAR Cup Series races at the 1.54-mile track last season.
Harvick is one of a few first-time Cup winners at Atlanta Motor Speedway
The NASCAR Cup Series has seen six different drivers win their first series career race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and probably the most memorable was Kevin Harvick’s 2001 victory after replacing a late Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing.
The six drivers earning their first win at Atlanta are Carl Edwards (2005), Kevin Harvick (2001), Jerry Nadeau (2000), Jim Hurtubise (1966), Bob Burdick (1961), Bobby Johns (1960).
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has made 34 career series starts at Atlanta posting two poles, three wins, nine top fives and 16 top 10s — all are series highs among the active drivers.
NASCAR Cup Series News and Notes
Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update: Gibbs grabs third rookie of the race award at Phoenix — Through four races this season, Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver Ty Gibbs has won three Sunoco Rookie of the Race Awards and holds the rookie standings lead by 19 points over Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson.
This season, Gibbs has put up one top-20 finish (16th at Auto Club) and has an average finish of 22.8. Gibbs will be making his series track debut at Atlanta this weekend.
In four NASCAR Cup Series races this season, Gragson has posted two top-25 finishes (24th at Daytona and 22nd at Auto Club) and has an average finish of 26.3. Gragson has made two series starts at Atlanta posting an average finish of 35.5.
Tyler Reddick & 23XI Racing partner with Xfinity 10G — Tyler Reddick and the 23XI Racing team are announcing their newest partner, Xfinity and the provider’s most powerful internet connection: Xfinity 10G.
The new partnership will debut on track at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 19 and in addition to the sponsorship on the car the partnership will include Xfinity 10G network integration and Xfinity Rewards customer fan experiences such as Pit Box VIP access, driver meet-and-greet appearances with Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick and more.
Reddick has made five NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway posting one top-10 finish.
Cup Series driver milestone starts to watch for — Over the next few races several drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series will reach milestones starts if they continue to run fulltime in the series.
This weekend on March 19, Hendrick Motorsports’ driver Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, will be making his 300th career NASCAR Cup Series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Next weekend at Circuit of The Americas on March 26, Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger will be making his 400th career NASCAR Cup Series start.
Then at Richmond Raceway in two weeks on April 2, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric will be making his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series start.
And at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt on April 9, Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch will be making his 650th NASCAR Cup Series career start. Busch will become the 27th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 650 or more starts.
Then at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will be making his 800th career NASCAR Cup Series career start. Harvick will become just the 10th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 800 or more starts in the series.
Jimmie Johnson announces two more stops on his 2023 schedule — This week seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Legacy Motor Club owner/driver Jimmie Johnson announced the next two races he will be competing in this season — Circuit of The Americas (March 26) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Coca Cola 600 (May 28).
“COTA has been on my racing ‘bucket list’ for a very long time,” said Johnson. “But my timing was off by a year or so. I was hoping it was going to be on the INDYCAR schedule — and it wasn’t — and then they added it to the NASCAR schedule after I left. I’m excited to finally be able to check this one off the list and thankful to Club Wyndham for making it happen. From everything I’ve heard, NASCAR drivers have had a lot of fun racing at COTA, so to say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement.”
Johnson made his return to the series in the season opening DAYTONA 500, where he started 39th and finished 31st.
Johnson has gone on record saying he plans to run 10 races on a part-time schedule this season for Legacy Motor Club. With Daytona, COTA and Charlotte already lined-up Johnson plans to announce the remainder of his schedule at a later date.
Cup Series Featured Matchups: 2023 Ambetter Health 400 — Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.
William Byron vs. Kyle Larson
Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson will face off this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Byron is red hot right now winning the last two races on the 2023 schedule. But Larson has been upfront leading the most laps this year and posting two top fives. Byron might have the slight edge this weekend at Atlanta as he is the defending winner of this race, but Larson has the better career average finish (14.8) than Byron (18.1) at the 1.54-mile track.
Kevin Harvick vs. Tyler Reddick
Another great matchup this weekend is with the outgoing veteran Kevin Harvick vs. the rising star Tyler Reddick. Reddick got his first top-five of the season last weekend at Phoenix, and might have some momentum on his side, but it will be hard to pick against Harvick at Atlanta. Harvick leads all active drivers in wins (three), top fives (nine) and top 10s (17) on the 1.54-mile track. Reddick will have his work cut out for him this weekend at Atlanta, as the 23XI Racing driver was caught in incidents in both Atlanta races last season and did not finish.
Brad Keselowski vs. Bubba Wallace
Two top notch superspeedway racers will face off this weekend, RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace. Both drivers have won superspeedway races in the NASCAR Cup Series but when it comes to performances at Atlanta, the nod goes to Keselowski. In 16 series starts Keselowski has managed two wins, four top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at Atlanta is 15.1. Bubba Wallace on the other hand has only made seven starts at Atlanta posting a career-best finish of 13th in this race last season. Wallace’s average finish at Atlanta is 19.5.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. vs. Austin Dillon
Another batch of great superspeedway winners are paired up this weekend for fans to bet on with Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon and 2023 Daytona 500 champion and JTG Daugherty Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. going at it. Looking ahead to Atlanta both Stenhouse (21.1) and Dillon (21.6) are in a near tie in average finish. Both drivers suffered DNFs in both Atlanta races last season, so it will be interesting to see which of the two drivers will rebound better this weekend.
Ryan Blaney vs. Daniel Suárez
Two drivers that jump started their 2023 seasons and will go head-to-head this weekend are Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez. Both drivers have run well at Atlanta, but Blaney might be the one you will want to lean towards this weekend. Suárez has made eight starts at Atlanta posting one top fives and three top 10s. He posted his career best finish at Atlanta in this race last season (fourth). Blaney has made nine starts at Atlanta posting one win (2021) and four top fives.
The first NASCAR Cup Series race held in the state of Georgia was on June 10, 1951 and held at Columbus Speedway, a half-mile dirt track, in Columbus, Georgia. The inaugural event in the state was a 100 mile / 200 lap feature that saw Atlanta, Georgia native Tim Flock win the race.
Atlanta Motor Speedway has hosted the most NASCAR Cup Series races of any track in the state of Georgia at 117 events.