1. Austin Dillon Tries to Follow Up Daytona 500
Austin Dillon was a surprise winner in the Daytona 500, entering the race with 50-1 odds and not leading until the final lap of the race. It was the 2nd career win for Dillon, he also won at Charlotte last year. In those 2 races, he led a combined 3 laps.
Dillon was the 2nd driver to win the Daytona 500 driving the No. 3 car, the other was Dale Earnhardt when he won in his 20th attempt in 1998. Now Dillon will look to do what Earnhardt didn't that year, win another race. Last year's Daytona 500 winner, Kurt Busch, is also winless since he won the Great American Race.
One thing Dillon has going in his favor is that recently there hasn't been a Daytona 500 hangover in the following week. Each of the last 6 Daytona 500 winners finished no worse than 16th in the next race, and 4 of the last 5 finished 7th or better.
2. Bubba Wallace Looks for an Encore
After a runner-up finish in the Daytona 500, the 2nd-best finish for a black driver in series history, Darrell Wallace Jr. has improved his finishing position in every race in his Cup career. There's only one place to go from there. He's also improved from his starting position in 4 of his 5 career races.
Expectations should be tempered for a win, as Richard Petty Motorsports has collected 5 in its 10 years of existence, 2 of them from road-course ace Marcos Ambrose, 2 from Kasey Kahne in the team's inaugural season, and the most recent from Aric Almirola in 2014 at Daytona in a race that had 16 and 26-car wrecks.
But with a 5th Cup race under his belt, Wallace becomes the 2nd black driver to make that many starts in the Cup Series, which dates back to 1949 (note: this is among drivers known to be black to NASCAR).
3. Back to Truex's Bread and Butter
Atlanta marks the first of the 11 1.5-mile tracks on the Cup Series Schedule. Last year, Truex dominated on those tracks, winning 7 of them, with a 2.5 average finish, propelling him to his first Cup Series championship.
Truex is coming off an 8-win season, the first driver to do that since Denny Hamlin in 2010. But since 2000, drivers have struggled to follow up an 8-win season. Only Jimmie Johnson in 2008 won at least 5 times or finished better than 5th in points. The last driver to win 8 or more races in back-to-back seasons was Jeff Gordon in 1996-98 (3 straight years).
4. Time for Johnson to Snap His Winless Streak?
After wrecking out of the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson's winless streak is up to 24 races, tied for the longest drought of his Cup Series career. The good note for Johnson is that every time he's broken a winless streak of at least 18 races in his career, he's done it at a 1.5-mile track, like the site of this week's race, Atlanta.
Johnson's won this race in 2 of the last 3 years, and only Dale Earnhardt has won the spring race at Atlanta more than Johnson.
5. Can Harvick Dominate With Better Result?
Last year, Brad Keselowski won at Atlanta, but Kevin Harvick dominated, starting from the pole and leading 292 of 325 laps. It was the 4th-most laps a driver has led in an Atlanta race, the most since Richard Petty in 1970, and by far the most a driver has led there in a non-victory.
Who's Hot and Who's Not - Atlanta
• Kevin Harvick: led at least 100 laps in last 4 and 5 of last 6 Atlanta races; 29 laps led shy of becoming the 8th driver to lead 1,000 all-time at Atlanta
• Brad Keselowski: defending race winner; trying to be 3rd driver in track history to win back-to-back spring races
• Chase Elliott: 8th and 5th in 2 career Atlanta races; Georgia native looking for 1st career Cup Series win at any track (7 runner-up finishes)
• Kurt Busch: finished 7th or better in 6 of last 8 Atlanta races (13th or better in all 8)
• Hendrick Motorsports: won 3 of last 4 Atlanta races; 14 wins there all-time leads all teams
• Jimmie Johnson: finished outside top 25 in last 4 races dating back to last season
• Denny Hamlin: finished 38th in 3 of last 5 Atlanta races; 19.1 career Avg finish at track is his 2nd-worst at any track
• Ryan Blaney: finished 25th and 18th in 2 career Atlanta races; 1 of 3 tracks where he's run and never finished in top 15 (Richmond, Homestead)
• Clint Bowyer: 0 top-5 finishes in 17 career Atlanta races; enters on 186-race winless streak
• Daniel Suárez: 28.0 Avg finish in his last 3 starts on 1.5-mile tracks (21st in only Cup start at Atlanta)
--- ESPN Stats & Info ---