Fantasy Auto Racing:
What: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
When: March 5th
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway
2016 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Much like the Golf articles, I will follow Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing where you pick 2 A Racers, 4 B Racers and 2 C Racers. As such I will pick one from A, 2 from B and 1 from C (as if they were your starters) along with one Dark Horse pick.
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway. Opened in 1960, this 1.54 mile quad-oval track is among the fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit. It underwent a few renovations including nearly rebuilding the track in 1997 and switching the frontstretch with the backstretch. It has not been paved in 20 years (due to be paved after this weekend's race) which means it will be fast racing with some dirt coming up on the track. There are grooves along the track and familiarity is almost as important as success in higher speed tracks.
Jimmie Johnson. I'm going to ignore the 16 car pile-up that Jimmie may have caused at Daytona. In the situation of Atlanta, sometimes the obvious pick is the best one. To recap his last three years here: 2014 - 4th; 2015 - 1st; 2016 - 1st. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a similar great track record here (2nd, 3rd, 2nd) but I'm going with the guy who has won it.
Ryan Blaney. The hype is there but in all candor, I wanted to see one race before I starting backing him. He's very aggressive which means it's likely all or none when you pick him. I wouldn't be surprised to see him wreck out of quite a few races but he had his best finish he's ever had and he looked quite comfortable out there.
Chase Elliot. I'm doubling down on Chase. Words cannot properly capture how elated I was to see my picks of Martin Truex and Chase sitting at 1 and 2 with a few laps to go and then watching them collectively run out of gas and lose their drag. His tantrum leaving the stadium ignored, I think he can come in and be a top 5 finish at Atlanta. He finished 8th here last year.
Ty Dillon. Another victim of the Daytona wrecks, Ty made it to lap 142 before being knocked out of the race. He was contending among the top 10 on multiple occasions at Daytona but slow pit stops and ultimate the accident caused him to finish 30th. I think the 2016 rookie of the year contender has a solid chance at a top 15 finish at Atlanta
Erik Jones. He wrecked in lap 103 of Daytona but up till that point he had been racing very well. He started 34th and worked his way up a few spots in the first few laps, a bad pit scenario caused him to reverse and by the time he was on the track he was back to the late 30's. He's young, he's learning but what he did out there showed a lot of promise. In a track with the restrictor plates removed, I'm curious to see what he can do opening up on the track.