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Early Best Bet for the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

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On Sunday the NASCAR Cup Series returns visit to a track where a race has already been held for the first time in 2023. In March the Cup Series Atlanta hosted the Ambetter Health 400. Atlanta is just 1.5-miles long but is more similar to the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega than to intermediate tracks. On Sunday teams will be using the same 550HP package that is used at Daytona and Talladega.

Despite using the 550 drafting package, Atlanta requires drivers to use some intermediate track skills. The track is a little “racier” than Daytona and Talladega. One potential consequence of this is that in each of the three races that the Cup Series has held here, one driver has been able to dominate. William Byron dominated the inaugural 2022 race and Chase Elliott dominated the second race in 2022. This spring Joey Logano was dominate on his way to victory lane. Still, the most relevant data for projecting Sunday’s race will come from Atlanta, Daytona and Talladega.

As already noted, Joey Logano dominated the March race. Ford as a whole took the field to task. Logano led 140 laps, while Brad Keselowski led 47, and Aric Almirola led 17. The only non-ford to lead double digit laps was Denny Hamlin who led 14. The Fords also dominated the Top 3 positions. A Ford was responsible for 68% of laps completed inside the Top 3. Logano and Ryan Blaney both completed over half of their laps inside the Top 3. Brad Keselowski and Austin Cindirc were also quite strong, completing over 30% of their laps inside the Top 3. Kyle Busch, completing just 23% of his laps inside the Top 3 is the first non-Ford on the Top 3 list.

Winning Manufacturer Ford | +160 (Bet MGM, BetRivers, and Barstool Sportsbook)

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 19: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 King’s Hawaiian Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Ford’s performance at Daytona and Talladega has also been strong in 2023. Over the off-season Ford redesigned the nose of its Cup Series cars. The redesign appears to have significantly hurt Ford in the intermediate package. At drafting tracks the change has not hurt drivers or may have even helped Ford drivers draft with one another.

Ford’s dominance at Atlanta was also present at the Daytona 500 and the Geico 500. Unfortunately, late race chaos at those races meant Ford was unable to win either event. However, taking these races into account, across all three drafting races in 2023, Ford has clearly been the top Manufacturer. A Ford has led 64.8% of all laps run. A Ford driver has accounted for 56.7% of all laps run inside the Top 3. Stretching out to the Top 5, a Ford driver has been responsible for 54.1% of all Top 5 laps run.

The Ford dominance is not limited to a single driver either. At Daytona Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Aric Almirola, and Joey Logano all led a double-digit number of laps. At Talladega Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, and Aric Almirola all led a double-digit number of laps. Simply Ford has a large stable of drivers who can win this race. In addition, Ford’s nose is either not harmful or may even be an advantage at drafting tracks.

All things considered I think a Ford driver is likely to win the race more than the 38.46% of the time implied by +160. Despite the strength Ford has shown, it is important to remember that chaos often rules drafting races. Given the small sample size and inherent chaos in drafting events I wouldn’t bet this below +150.

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