NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Gets Home Track Win

NASCAR Barometer: Chase Elliott Gets Home Track Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Atlanta Motor Speedway's reconfiguration continued to live up to its billing as a more superspeedway-like racetrack in the second visit to the circuit this season for the Quaker State 400. Chase Elliott started the day from pole after Saturday's qualifying was rained out, and he went on to lead the most laps, win both stages, and take his first win at his home track. It was a picture-perfect day for the No. 9 team, as Elliott avoided all of the troubles and pushed his way forward when needed to extend his lead at the top of the standings with a four-race run of top form that includes two wins and a runner-up finish. Elliott and team are full of momentum as the playoffs approach, but there's still a long way to go, with seven regular-season races remaining before the playoffs get underway.

Christopher Bell occupies the final playoff position after the Atlanta race, with Kevin Harvick just 19 points behind in 17th. Three playoff spots remain for non-winners, but with regular-season races winding down, the pressure to win is only increasing. This week, the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the only race at the track this season. Aric Almirola grabbed the win there last season, and doing so again would shake up the championship standings once more. Those fighting to be in the championship hunt will be pulling out all the stops to try to relieve the pressure by making a visit to Victory Lane.

UPGRADE

Chase

Atlanta Motor Speedway's reconfiguration continued to live up to its billing as a more superspeedway-like racetrack in the second visit to the circuit this season for the Quaker State 400. Chase Elliott started the day from pole after Saturday's qualifying was rained out, and he went on to lead the most laps, win both stages, and take his first win at his home track. It was a picture-perfect day for the No. 9 team, as Elliott avoided all of the troubles and pushed his way forward when needed to extend his lead at the top of the standings with a four-race run of top form that includes two wins and a runner-up finish. Elliott and team are full of momentum as the playoffs approach, but there's still a long way to go, with seven regular-season races remaining before the playoffs get underway.

Christopher Bell occupies the final playoff position after the Atlanta race, with Kevin Harvick just 19 points behind in 17th. Three playoff spots remain for non-winners, but with regular-season races winding down, the pressure to win is only increasing. This week, the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the only race at the track this season. Aric Almirola grabbed the win there last season, and doing so again would shake up the championship standings once more. Those fighting to be in the championship hunt will be pulling out all the stops to try to relieve the pressure by making a visit to Victory Lane.

UPGRADE

Chase Elliott – Sunday's race at Atlanta started with a very loose car for Elliott, but he held on to win a duel with Ryan Blaney to capture the first stage win of the day. He then worked his way back to the front after falling to the bottom portion of the top 10 in the longer second stage to win that segment under caution after teammate Alex Bowman suffered a tire failure. His momentum continued, and the No. 9 stayed near the front of the pack and made all the right moves in the final stage to sweep stage wins and take the race win, becoming the first three-race winner of the season. Elliott has just two top-10 finishes at New Hampshire in his eight series starts, though he did lead 53 laps there last season before finishing 18th.

Ross Chastain – Trackhouse Racing Team and Chastain continued their incredible form at Atlanta. Chastain started on the front row after qualifying was washed out, and he persevered through plenty of adversity to finish second with a damaged car. Despite being involved in one of the biggest wrecks of the day, Chastain scored stage points from each segment and grabbed his 10th top-five of the year and fifth top-10 finish in a row. The only marks against Chastain continue to be his aggressive driving, which has ruffled the feathers of multiple drivers this season. At some point that resentment may catch up to the No. 1, but for now he and the team continue to maximize results each week. Fantasy players should expect more of the same this week at New Hampshire, where Chastain led three laps and finished eighth last season.

Austin Cindric – Superspeedways have been where Cindric has made his mark this season, and that trend continued for him last week. The Team Penske driver started Sunday's race in the top five and went on to finish third for his third top-five of the year. The finish was also his fourth consecutive finish in seventh-place or better. Cindric seems to be finding more consistency as the season enters its second half, and he still remains in a powerful playoff position given his win in the Daytona 500. The coming week's trip to New Hampshire will be his first in the Cup Series, though he did finish fourth at the track in the Xfinity Series last season. Fantasy players should continue to leverage Cindric as a viable option on both road courses and superspeedways.

Erik Jones – Fourth place Sunday represented the second top-five finish of the season for Jones as he works to stay in contention for the rapidly vanishing playoff positions. Sunday's finish, which came despite early contact with the wall, was also his second top-10 in the last five races. All in all, it was a good day for him and the No. 43 team as they bounced back from the early contact to keep the car in the race and put Jones in position at the front in the final stage to try to sneak a surprise win. The team continues to show that they've stepped up their competitiveness in 2022, and that makes Jones a reliable option for fantasy rosters. New Hampshire should be another opportunity to select him, too. He has two top-10s at the track from his six series starts and finished 19th in last year's race.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Busch – The first multi-car accident of the day was the end of Busch's chances in the race. The former champion was running well at the front of the field, but he was caught up in the crash and suffered significant front-end damage. The team repaired the car as best as they could, but Busch returned to the track well behind the competition. The former champion will be hoping that his bad luck expires before the playoffs begin. He has now missed finishing in the top 20 in each of the last four races despite being relatively competitive each week. That type of form will not get him through to race for another title at Phoenix. Despite three career New Hampshire wins, he crashed out of the last two races at the track and needs to reverse that trend this week.

Austin Dillon – Luck was not on Dillon's side Sunday at Atlanta. The race should have been an opportunity for him to make up some ground in the championship and perhaps even fight for a win. Instead, he was caught up in the first major crash of the afternoon, getting turned into the outside wall and immediately taken out of the race. Dillon entered the weekend 20th in the standings and needed a win to get himself into the playoffs, but that quest will have to carry on, as the regular-season races are slipping away. New Hampshire has not historically been a good venue for Dillon, either. He has just one top-10 finish and three laps led from 12 career starts at the track, and he finished 17th in last years race.

Alex Bowman – Sunday's trip to Atlanta was looking like a much-needed good day for Bowman. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was racing consistently at the front after missing the top-10 finishing positions in the last four races, but everything came crashing down as the second stage drew to a close and he lost a right-rear tire and spun into the wall. His crash forced the stage to end under caution, giving teammate Elliott the second segment win of the day. Bowman has been missing something since the All-Star Race weekend. He has just one top-10 finish in the five races since then, despite eight top-10s and a win in the prior races. New Hampshire might be a tough climb for him, too. He has just one top-10 finish at that track in 10 career starts, though that ninth-place finish came in last season's race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The more last week's race looked like a superspeedway race, the more Stenhouse looked like one of the contenders to win. He started the day 20th but was able to work his way forward and just needed to avoid the pitfalls to be in position to race to the front at the finish. Things were starting to look like they would unfold that way until an unexpected engine issue put the No. 47 machine behind the wall and out of the race. The finish was his second time outside the top 30 and his third time outside the top 20 in the last five races. This team will need a win to get into the playoffs, as points continue to slip away, but New Hampshire is likely not going to be where that happens. Stenhouse finished 15th there last season and has only two top-10s in 14 career starts.

Denny Hamlin - As the green flag waved Sunday, the No. 11 car appeared to be the best out of the gate. Hamlin was able to put his car wherever he wanted as others struggled early with loose conditions. He started the day 16th but quickly moved forward and began to set the stage for a competitive afternoon, putting himself into position for what might have been a race for the win. However, the magnet that seems to attract Hamlin and Chastain's cars this season turned itself on and Hamlin came off worse, spinning and finishing the race a lowly 25th. Fantasy players will want to be aware of the pair's feud as the season continues, but as of now, Hamlin is the one bearing the worst of the consequences. Up next is New Hampshire, a track where Hamlin has three wins and an incredible 17 top-10s from 28 starts.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Corey Lajoie – Lajoie has had a few impressive races on superspeedways in the past, but the opportunity he had Sunday at Atlanta was perhaps this best yet. He started deep in the field but was confident that he had a car that could come and steal a win from the main contenders in the championship battle, and he nearly did it, too. As the race aged, Lajoie became a consistent fixture among the top runners, leading 19 laps. He was poised to make a final push for the lead and the victory on the final restart of the race, too. After making all the right moves, his run came up short when a hefty push from behind and a block from Elliott combined to slide Lajoie's No. 7 machine into the wall and out of the race. Fantasy players should not be shy to consider Lajoie at future superspeedway races after what he showed Sunday.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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