Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Hendrick Motorsports to appeal NASCAR penalties Justin Haley, Aric Almirola teams penalized for Phoenix infractions Denny Hamlin fined $50,000 and loses 25 driver points NASCAR issues severe penalties to Hendrick Motorsports

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be the third at the 1.5-mile track since its 2021 renovation.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers William Byron and Chase Elliot won last year’s Cup races here.

Track changes — most notably more roll in corners — made the draft a lot more important. Racing there now leans more towards the Daytona-Talladega competition than the typical 1.5-mile track.

MORE: NBC Sports Power Rankings: William Byron – No. 1

Chevrolet drivers have won all four Cup races this season.

Take a look at the drivers to watch Sunday in Atlanta:


William Byron

  • Points position: 29th
  • Best Finish of the Season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I)
  • Past in Atlanta: Won last March and drove 154 laps in the last four AMS races.

Byron’s surge early in the season made him the top driver. It was the first time in his cup career that he had won two consecutive victories (in Las Vegas and Phoenix) and had three stage victories this season. He and other Hendrick Motorsports drivers will race in Atlanta under the threat of harsh penalties imposed on the team on Wednesday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Best season finish: 3rd (Autoclub)
  • Past in Atlanta: Second in both races last season

Chastain’s race in Phoenix on Sunday was marred by another altercation with Denny Hamlin, this time on the final lap. He believes he will be an AMS contender with 74 laps ahead on the track last year.

Daniel Suarez

  • Points position: 7th
  • Best Season Finish: 4th (Auto Club)
  • Past in Atlanta: 4th and 6th last year

Suarez finished outside the top 10 for the first time this season in Phoenix, his run hampered by a pair of speeding tickets on pit road. He has led two of the last four races in Atlanta.


Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 1st
  • Best Season Finish: 5th (Auto Club, Phoenix I)
  • Past in Atlanta: 3 career wins

Harvick took three wins in Atlanta but finished 12th and 21st in the “new” AMS races last year. This year he enters Atlanta, finishing in the top nine three times in a row. Can he finally close the win?

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 9th
  • Best season finish: 7th (Autoclub)
  • Past in Atlanta: 2 career wins

Keselovsky and Chris Buescher, his teammate at RFK Racing, showed improvement early in the season in Keselowski’s second year as team owner. Keselowski finished 12th and 18th in the first two races at the refurbished Atlanta circuit last year.

Kyle Bush

  • Points position: 5th
  • Best Season Finish: 1st (Auto Club)
  • Past in Atlanta: 2 career wins

Busch’s worst finish in his first season with Richard Childress Racing was a 19th in his first season at Dayton. The next week he won at Auto Club Speedway. He won twice on AMS but last year was 33rd and 20th on the new surface.

Hendrick Motorsports announced it is appealing fines issued by NASCAR Tuesday for hood louvre modifications found on all four Hendrick vehicles last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR imposed the following penalties:

  • Docked Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson And William Byron 100 points and also penalized them 10 playoff points each.
  • Crew chiefs Cliff Daniels, Alan Gustafson, Rudy Fugl and Blake Harris are each suspended from four races. NASCAR also fined each $100,000.
  • Each of Hendrik’s four teams are penalized 100 owner points and 10 playoff points.

Hendrick Motorsports stated, “We are disappointed with NASCAR’s decision to impose penalties today and have decided to appeal based on a variety of facts, including:

  • Blinds provided to teams through a NASCAR authorized single supplier do not conform to the design provided by the manufacturer and approved by NASCAR.
  • A documented inconsistent and vague message from a sanctioning authority specifically relating to blinds.
  • Recent comparable fines issued by NASCAR were related to problems found during the post-race inspection.”

Hendrick Motorsports said NASCAR discovered blinds on four of the team’s cars during a voluntary inspection 35 minutes after the garage opened Friday in Phoenix. Hendrick Motorsports stated that “NASCAR took the parts about four hours later with no prior notice. The situation had nothing to do with qualifying on Saturday or Sunday’s race.”

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competitions, asked Tuesday if officials were asked to inspect the blinds or if it was a random inspection, said: “If you like, it’s a random inspection. … These are not uncharted waters for NASCAR. This has been done for years.

“We will continue to do so. While we’re working on this car, we want to make sure it’s in the box it’s supposed to be in, and we’re judging and checking to the level we want.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that “the organization has made a strategic decision not to request a staff suspension deferment.” Interim crew chiefs for each of the four Cup teams will be announced at a later date.

Driver teams Justin Hailey And Aric Almirola were fined by NASCAR for infractions during last weekend’s events at Phoenix Raceway.

Trent Owens, Team Principal, Haley’s Kauling Racing No. 31, was fined $100,000 and suspended from the next four Cup Series races for modifying the car’s radiator air duct. The team and Hailey were also ranked with a 100 point loss and 10 playoff points. The violation was discovered during the pre-qualification check.

NASCAR suspended two Almirola Stewart Haas Racing team members Ryan Mulder and Sean Cotten after Almirola’s car lost a wheel during a race in Phoenix.

MORE: NASCAR Issues Harsh Punishments Hendrick Motorsports

The right front wheel came off Almirola’s Ford about halfway through the race. He hit the front of the outer wall and limped into the pits.

“I never felt like the wheel was loose or anything like that,” Almirola said after the race. “It just took off at me and sent me into the wall.”

Almirola returned to the race but finished 33rd, four laps behind the leaders.

Almirola’s team became the second this year to receive a wandering wheel fine. Two members of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit crew were suspended after his car lost a wheel at Auto Club Speedway in the second race of the season.

Denny Hamlin was fined $50,000 and fined 25 driver points after admitting he intentionally crashed the car. Ross Chastain during a NASCAR Cup Series race last Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR penalized Hamlin for “conduct” including…


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