NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta: How to watch, starting lineup, story lines, more
Next stop: Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR Cup Series makes its first of two runs at the Georgia racetrack on Sunday at 3 p.m. You can watch the race on FOX or listen to it on PRN or SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Betting odds for the race have William Byron as the favorite at 9-1. Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch at 10-1 are predicted to do well, too.
Here are five story lines to consider heading into Sunday’s Cup race.
▪ Hendrick Motorsports’ historic penalty. NASCAR lowered the hammer on Wednesday when it dealt out hefty penalties to seven different Cup race teams. Among those penalties include fines/suspensions/point deductions to the four Hendrick Motorsports Cup cars — the No. 24 team (William Byron), the No. 5 (Kyle Larson), No. 9 (Josh Berry), No. 48 (Alex Bowman) — for illegally modifying hood louvers. All four of these teams will be without their crew chiefs for four consecutive races, and each crew chief will owe NASCAR $100,000. That’s $400,000 in fines — the largest collective fine in NASCAR history. (Hendrick has since decided to appeal the penalty. One of the arguments Hendrick will offer? The louvers provided to teams through NASCAR’s single-source supplier don’t match the design submitted by the manufacturer and NASCAR.)
▪ The quarrel of Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain is put to rest. Hamlin was among that aforementioned group who was penalized for his transgressions at Phoenix Raceway. The driver of the No. 11 car admitted on his podcast “Actions Detrimental” that he intentionally made contact with Ross Chastain to worsen his final position. In his podcast, though, Hamlin admitted that he and Chastain — who’ve entangled a ton in the two seasons — are temporarily at peace. Said Hamlin: “He came up to me and he says, ‘I guess I deserve it.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ I’m not going to sit here on this podcast and ever lie to you guys and say, ‘Well, this is an accident when it’s not.’ It wasn’t an accident. ... We talked and I think we’re in a better place.” (Hamlin has since shared on Twitter that he will appeal NASCAR’s punishment.)
▪ A big shakeup in the points standings. The penalties assessed have left the NASCAR Cup Series point standings in a strange spot. The Hendrick cars have had a super start to the year, but they all linger in the mid-20s in the standings after each team was deducted 100 driver points. (William Byron has two wins in four races and sits in 29th.) Kevin Harvick leads the circuit, followed by Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney.
▪ More Kevin Harvick nostalgia. The retirement tour continues for all-time great driver Kevin Harvick. And Atlanta is a big one: The Stewart-Haas Racing ace earned his first win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2001, merely a few weeks after Harvick drove in the stead of late legend Dale Earnhardt, who was killed at the Daytona 500 earlier that year. It’s worth noting, too: Harvick announced on Thursday that he will don the No. 29 car at the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro in May — the same car he ran when he won it all in Atlanta.
▪ Ford dominates in qualifying. After a relatively slugglish start to the 2023 Cup Series season, Ford made a statement on Saturday during Cup qualifying. The manufacturer will be represented in the Top 8 of Sunday’s starting lineup — and Team Penske swept the top three spots for the first time in its NASCAR history. Joey Logano will start on the pole.
How to watch NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta
Race: Ambetter Health 400
Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Date: Sunday, March 19
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles
Laps: 260 laps around 1.54-mile track
Stages: Stage 1 (Lap 60), Stage 2 (Lap 160), Final Stage (Lap 260)
Cup Series starting lineup
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.