The Backstretch Blog's Race Day: The Folds of Honor/QT 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

HAMPTON, GA - MARCH 05: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John's Ford, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead the field to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5, 2017 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

NASCAR heads north to the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend. While the pomp and circumstance of Daytona is special, this is the race where we will find out what drivers and teams really have this season. There are 16 tracks on the schedule that are considered "intermediate tracks", including Atlanta. If you are last this weekend, it's probably going to be a pretty decent season for you.

"I think that this is a good first chance to see how we stack up against the competition and feel as compared to years past," said reigning Cup Series Champion Martin Truex, Jr. "This is a great racetrack, it’s a lot of fun to race here. I look forward to it. It’s a good place to kick off the season as far as getting off the superspeedways. We’ll just see how it goes but I feel good so far. We have a lot to accomplish this weekend.”

Truex has the best average finish of any active driver on the intermediate tracks over the past two seasons at 6.25. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch also average top 10 finishes at these type of tracks. Busch is on the pole for today's race.

“Atlanta is a tough place. It certainly isn’t easy, you have to able to make sure you bide your time here with the tires and everything," said Busch, who has two wins at AMS. "We got everything we needed out of the racecar, so we certainly were glad the time popped up when it did to put us on the top of the sheet and we’re looking forward to Sunday.”

The rest of the top the five starters include Ryan Newman, Harvick, Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski. Harvick and Keselowski join Busch as former Atlanta winners in the field. Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin are also former winners here.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon will take the green flag from the 25th position, Daytona runner up Bubba Wallace qualified 19h.

Virginia natives Denny Hamlin and Gray Gaulding are 12th and 31st respectively. Tennessee native Trevor Bayne rolls of 20th.

“This weekend will show if we made any gains on our intermediate program over the off-season.," said Bayne. "Atlanta is a fast, worn out track that has a ton of character. You can really race all around the track. If you want to run by the wall you can and if you want to run right down on the white line you can. We had a strong finish at Daytona so hopefully we can keep it going and have another solid run this weekend at Atlanta.”

The big story of the weekend takes us back to Truex. His car failed qualifying inspection three times and his car chief Blake Harris has been suspended. Truex starts 35th in the 36 car field.

Because of the rain the start time of the Folds of Honor/Quick Trip 500 was moved up an hour. The green flag is now set to drop around 1pm. You can watch the race on our sister station, FOX Trie-Cities WEMT.

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