This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.
Ryan Blaney appeared to be the second-best car at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday as Kyle Larson streaked away out front. Blaney finished in the top three in both opening stages in what looked to be shaping up as a battle for best of the rest with Larson dominating. Blaney never stopped working, however, and that effort paid off in the final laps as Larson started to lose speed and Blaney reeled in the Hendrick Motorsports driver. His effective tire management left him with more grip just as Larson began to struggle, and he used that opportunity to pounce, making a late-race pass that Larson couldn't match. Blaney then drove off to the checkered flag to become the first Penske Racing driver to win this season.
Fantasy players may want stick with Blaney and his team's momentum this week, too. The NASCAR Cup Series returns to dirt racing this week for the first time since 1970. This is the first time the dirt will cover Bristol Motor Speedway for the cars, too. Blaney is one of the drivers who cut his teeth on the surface, so his momentum is especially useful for him considering that experience. No one knows what to expect this week, and fantasy players will have a monumental task breaking down the prospects, but Blaney's experience and Atlanta win could make him one of the early favorites.
Ryan Blaney – For the first time in the 2021 season, Blaney appeared to have the better of his Penske