NASCAR Cup SeriesNASCAR Truck SeriesNASCAR Xfinity Series

Denny Hamlin, Austin Cindric, John Hunter Nemechek on Atlanta poles

5 Mins read
Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Saturday’s Atlanta Motor Speedway action will be a doubleheader as John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Cindric respectively lead the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series fields to the green flags. The following day, Denny Hamlin will do so for the Cup Series.

Cup: JGR front row for Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 with Hamlin and Truex

Hamlin starts on the pole for the second time in 2021 after finishing third in Sunday’s Instacart 500 at Phoenix. While not an official pole, it is Hamlin’s first top-spot starting position at Atlanta since 2010, though he will hope to not repeat the events of that race as he finished last after suffering an engine failure. Instead, he aims to win at the track for just the second time in his Cup career after 2012. In 2020, he finished fifth.

Phoenix winner and Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Martin Truex Jr. will join him on the front row. While he has enjoyed much success on 1.5-mile tracks, he has yet to win at Atlanta but has finished in the top ten there in all but one start since 2010. It is also his first front-row starting spot at Atlanta since winning the pole in 2009.

Interestingly, the qualifying formula has the next two rows filled with team-mates. Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski occupy Row 2, while Hendrick MotorsportsChase Elliott and Kyle Larson are in the third.

In the driver change department, Joey Gase replaces Garrett Smithley in Rick Ware Racing‘s #53; it will be Gase’s second start in the car after the Daytona 500. Starting last will be Cindric in his second career Cup race. Cindric’s entry will make thirty-nine total drivers in the field after three consecutive races with thirty-eight.

111Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
219Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota
322Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord
42Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord
59Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
65Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
74Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord
820Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
924William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
1012Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord
111Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet
1247Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
133Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
1448Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
1523Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota
1610Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord
1717Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord
1834Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord
1918Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
2021Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord
2142Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet
2243Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet
2337Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
2414Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord
2599Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet
2677Justin Haley*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet
2741Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord
286Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord
298Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
307Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
3178B.J. McLeod*Live Fast MotorsportsFord
3238Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord
3351Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet
3415James DavisonRick Ware RacingChevrolet
3500Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet
3653Joey GaseRick Ware RacingChevrolet
3752Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord
3866Timmy Hill*MBM MotorsportsFord
3933Austin Cindric*Team PenskeFord
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Xfinity: Points leader and Phoenix winner Cindric on pole for EchoPark 250

While Cindric will end his Atlanta weekend by starting last, it will begin by starting first in his main series’ race. The points leader’s flying start to his season continues with his third pole and fourth front-row start in five races so far. To go with his two wins, including last Saturday in Phoenix, he is the only driver to have top-five finishes in every race to date.

Jeb Burton, who finished sixth at Phoenix, will start on the front row for the first time as a Kaulig Racing driver. Along with Cindric, Burton is the only other driver to score top tens in all five races in 2021.

Taking over for Ty Gibbs in JGR’s #54 is Truex in his first Xfinity start since 2010. He finished ninth and eleventh in his two series starts at Atlanta during his title runs in 2004 and 2005. Mason Massey, a Georgia native, will make his season début in B.J. McLeod Motorsports‘ #99 that Stefan Parsons ran at Phoenix. Cody Ware returns to the #17 that RWR fields in alliance with SS-Green Light Racing (SSGLR will field Ware’s car, a Chevrolet); J.J. Yeley drove it last week. In the MBM Motorsports camp, David Starr returns to his full-time #13 after driving the #61 at Phoenix as Loris Hezemans was in the former; Chad Finchum will pilot the #61 at Atlanta.

Ronnie Bassett Jr. (#77, Bassett Racing), Jordan Anderson (#31, Jordan Anderson Racing), and Andy Lally (#03, Our Motorsports) are the DNQs.

122Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord
210Jeb BurtonKaulig RacingChevrolet
316A.J. AllmendingerKaulig RacingChevrolet
468Brandon BrownBrandonbilt MotorsportsChevrolet
520Harrison BurtonJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
67Justin AllgaierJR MotorsportsChevrolet
798Riley HerbstStewart-Haas RacingFord
802Brett Moffitt*Our MotorsportsChevrolet
92Myatt SniderRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
1051Jeremy ClementsJeremy Clements RacingChevrolet
1118Daniel HemricJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
1226Santino FerrucciSam Hunt RacingToyota
1311Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet
1474Bayley CurreyMike Harmon RacingChevrolet
1544Tommy Joe MartinsMartins MotorsportsChevrolet
1619Brandon JonesJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
1766Timmy HillMBM MotorsportsToyota
1854Martin Truex Jr.*Joe Gibbs RacingToyota
1992Josh WilliamsDGM RacingChevrolet
204Landon CassillJD MotorsportsChevrolet
2148Jade BufordBig Machine RacingChevrolet
228Josh BerryJR MotorsportsChevrolet
2315Colby HowardJD MotorsportsChevrolet
2407Joe Graf Jr.SS-Green Light RacingChevrolet
2523Blaine PerkinsOur MotorsportsChevrolet
260Jeffrey EarnhardtJD MotorsportsChevrolet
271Michael AnnettJR MotorsportsChevrolet
2817Cody WareSS-Green Light RacingChevrolet
2990Dexter BeanDGM RacingChevrolet
309Noah GragsonJR MotorsportsChevrolet
3147Kyle WeathermanMike Harmon RacingChevrolet
3299Mason MasseyB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevrolet
3352Gray GauldingJimmy Means RacingChevrolet
346Ryan VargasJD MotorsportsChevrolet
3539Ryan SiegRSS RacingFord
3636Alex LabbéDGM RacingChevrolet
3778Jesse LittleB.J. McLeod MotorsportsToyota
3861Chad FinchumMBM MotorsportsToyota
395Matt MillsB.J. McLeod MotorsportsChevrolet
4013David StarrMBM MotorsportsFord
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Truck: Nemechek joined by boss on front row for Fr8Auctions 200

While JGR Toyotas hold the front row for the Cup race, Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyotas will do so for the Truck race. Nemechek and his employer Kyle Busch respectively finished first and second during the series’ last race two weeks ago at Las Vegas, and will start Atlanta in the same positions. It is Nemechek’s first front-row start of 2021 and his first in the Truck Series since Michigan in 2018 (he had switched to a part-time Truck schedule from 2018 to 2020 as he focused on the upper series). Nemechek won the Atlanta Truck race in 2016.

Busch enters his second of five permitted Truck races. He has five wins in the series at Atlanta, most recently in 2019. Toyotas occupy the first three rows before the Chevrolets of GMS Racing team-mates Zane Smith and Sheldon Creed break it up.

Spencer Davis, another Toyota driver, will make his season début. Although the owner/driver had hoped to run the full 2021 schedule, the plans were abandoned when he failed to qualify for the opener at Daytona and would have been excluded from the grid for the next non-qualifying races as the entry list exceeded forty drivers.

Perhaps the most notable driver change is the return of Bill Lester for his first NASCAR race since 2007 as he takes over David Gilliland Racing‘s #17 from the eponymous owner/driver. Ryan Ellis enters his first national series event in two years in Reaume Brothers Racing‘s #34 that B.J. McLeod drove at Las Vegas; Ellis’s last Truck start was at Michigan in 2016 while his latest national race was 2019 Road America in the Xfinity Series. Formerly the PR representative for now-part-time Cup team Go Fas Racing, he hosts the Not Another Racing Podcast and will also run a part-time Xfinity schedule for BJMM. Ross Chastain will run his first Truck race of the year for Niece Motorsports in their #44 that Conor Daly ran in Vegas. Reaume team-mate Akinori Ogata takes over for Jesse Iwuji in his first start of the year. Codie Rohrbaugh returns to his CR7 Motorsports #9 that he let Grant Enfinger drive at Vegas, while Enfinger heads back to his normal part-time #98 ThorSport Racing ride after Christian Eckes ran it.

Like at Vegas, various drivers will once again receive from Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, though mainly through Camping World subsidiary Overton’s this time. Creed, Ellis, Parker Kligerman, and Niece drivers Brett Moffitt, Ryan Truex, and Carson Hocevar will have Overton’s on their trucks, while Lester has Camping World.

14John Hunter NemechekKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota
251Kyle Busch*Kyle Busch MotorsportsToyota
388Matt CraftonThorSport RacingToyota
452Stewart FriesenHalmar Friesen RacingToyota
599Ben RhodesThorSport RacingToyota
616Austin HillHattori Racing EnterprisesToyota
721Zane SmithGMS RacingChevrolet
82Sheldon CreedGMS RacingChevrolet
938Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord
1045Brett MoffittNiece MotorsportsChevrolet
1118Chandler SmithKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota
1222Austin Wayne SelfAM RacingChevrolet
1313Johnny SauterThorSport RacingToyota
1415Tanner GrayDavid Gilliland RacingFord
1575Parker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsChevrolet
1625Timothy PetersRackley WARChevrolet
1742Carson HocevarNiece MotorsportsChevrolet
1802Kris WrightYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet
1998Grant EnfingerThorSport RacingToyota
209Codie RohrbaughCR7 MotorsportsChevrolet
2130Danny BohnOn Point MotorsportsToyota
2212Tate FoglemanYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet
2324Raphael LessardGMS RacingChevrolet
243Jordan Anderson*Jordan Anderson RacingChevrolet
2520Spencer BoydYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet
2623Chase PurdyGMS RacingChevrolet
2741Dawson CramCram Racing EnterprisesChevrolet
281Hailie DeeganDavid Gilliland RacingFord
2919Derek KrausMcAnally-Hilgemann RacingToyota
3026Tyler AnkrumGMS RacingChevrolet
3117Bill LesterDavid Gilliland RacingFord
3240Ryan TruexNiece MotorsportsChevrolet
3310Jennifer Jo CobbJennifer Jo Cobb RacingChevrolet
3404Cory RoperRoper RacingFord
3532Bret HolmesBret Holmes RacingChevrolet
3634Ryan EllisReaume Brothers RacingToyota
376Norm BenningNorm Benning RacingChevrolet
3833Akinori Ogata*Reaume Brothers RacingChevrolet
3911Spencer DavisSpencer Davis MotorsportsToyota
4044Ross Chastain*Niece MotorsportsChevrolet
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Truck points
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