HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 09: A general view of the garage area during a rain delay to qualify for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 09, 2022 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Rain showers in the Atlanta area on Saturday ultimately canceled NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Owners’ points for the season instead decided the order of the grid with Georgia native Chase Elliott starting his #9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet from pole position alongside Floridian Ross Chastain in the #9 Chevrolet #1 Trackhouse Racing. Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson — Elliott Hendrick Motorsports teammate — and Tyler Reddick will start from the second row, giving Chevrolet a lock on the top four grid positions.
23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch is the defending race winner. However, William Byron of Hendrick Motorsports won on the March 2022 debut of the newly configured 1.54-mile Atlanta High Banks.
Elliott is still in the hunt for his first victory at his home track. He has an impressive six top-10 finishes in eight starts at Atlanta with a best showing of fifth in 2017. He finished sixth in this season’s spring race.
“I would love to win here,” Elliott said. “That would be one of the best things to do, win on your home circuit. I’ve seen guys do that over the years and you can tell it means a lot to them. I think that would be pretty much the same for me. It would be useful to be able to check this box.
“We have been good here. We had a very good race, I would say, and the others just a little mediocre. Now, as is the case with sprint racing, it’s a bit complicated. I think everyone has a chance this weekend the way the event is now.
BACK TO FORM
Byron, 24, hopes this return visit to Atlanta can kick off another strong run to close out the regular season. His victory in March and a second at Martinsville, Va., just three weeks later, made the Hendrick Motorsports driver the first multi-race winner of the 2022 season.
But after that April 9 victory in Martinsville, Byron did not score another top 10 finish for eight weeks – a ninth-place finish two months later at the road course in Sonoma, Calif. This finish – three weeks ago – is his only top 10 finish now in 10 races.
A strong showing this weekend in Atlanta would go a long way to righting the ship for the No. 24 Chevrolet team. And there’s plenty of reason to believe it’s possible. Byron says he has become a student of big track racing and concedes the right mindset really helps.
His results would indicate that. Byron earned his first NASCAR Cup Series victory at Daytona International Speedway in the August 2020 regular season finale.
Seven of his career-best 25 NASCAR Cup Series finishes — plus a pair of Xfinity Series victories — are at tracks at least 2.5 miles (Daytona, Talladega, Ala., Pocono, Pennsylvania and Indianapolis).
“When I was just starting out, like when I was coming back to the first truck race at a superspeedway, I was really nervous, shy, didn’t do a lot of moves and ended up crashing into someone’s crash. another,” Byron admitted on Saturday.
“So I was just like, ‘Man, this just doesn’t make sense. I feel so shy. I feel so nervous all the time.’ So I started to take a more aggressive approach to trying to Knowing that the result might be the same – maybe I’ll crash or whatever at the end of the race – but at least I learned something throughout the race and I didn’t have the feel like just a passenger in the package.
“I hated that feeling of feeling like I was going to ride and hope for the best. It didn’t sit well with me, so I just took a more aggressive approach.
XFINITY SERIES QUALIFICATION
Qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway was also canceled Saturday morning due to poor weather conditions, starting lineup for Saturday afternoon’s Alsco Uniforms 250 (5 p.m. ET, USA Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) being established according to the points of the owners. .
That puts four-race winner, No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Ty Gibbs on pole position. He will start the race alongside Josh Berry of JR Motorsports in the #8 Chevrolet JRM.
Current NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader AJ Allmendinger, who holds a slim nine-point advantage over Gibbs, will start third in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet alongside Gibbs’ JGR teammate Brandon Jones in the No. 19 Toyota. .
Gibbs won in Atlanta in March – leading only the final round in overtime.
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
Corey Heim will start one of the biggest races of his career from pole position, taking the No. 1 qualifying spot in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where the trucks race in the Inaugural O’ Reilly Auto Parts 150 today (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Heim, a two-race winner already on a limited 2022 schedule, stands to earn a big payday if he wins the trophy at the 2.258-mile, 15-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio. A winner two weeks ago at Gateway, Illinois, Heim can reap a $150,000 bonus in the Triple Truck Challenge with another victory in the third and final race of this popular incentive program. Any driver who wins this week earns an additional $50,000.
Heim started alongside Parker Kligerman in the #75 Henderson Motorsports Chevrolet. A popular NASCAR broadcaster, this is the best series start for Kligerman this year. Carson Hocevar and John Hunter Nemechek leave the second row.
Current championship leader Zane Smith – who won a road race at Circuit of the Americas and a second-place finish at Sonoma (California) Raceway this season – will start 13e in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford.
Justin Marks, the only former Mid-Ohio winner in the field – winning a trophy in the 2016 Xfinity Series race there – will start eighth in the No. 41 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet.
—NASCAR Wire Service—