By Toby Christie, Editor — Follow on Twitter @Toby_Christie
After Friday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Austin Dillon’s attempt at doing what hasn’t been done since 2009 — sweeping the first two events of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season — doesn’t look great as he will roll from the 25th-position on the grid.
However, Richard Childress Racing is still in good position to collect more hardware this weekend.
Childress’ second driver, Ryan ‘The Rocket Man’ Newman nearly returned to his old ways by narrowly missing out on the pole by just under four-hundredths of a second. Newman eluded that the track surface played a hand in his throwback qualifying performance.
“They haven’t changed [the track surface] for the last 20 years. I just enjoy the racetrack,” Newman explained.
Newman continued by saying, “I think the drivers fought really hard last year to make sure this place didn’t get repaved and I think we are going to put up the same battle again this year.”
Before the battle to keep the track staff from ripping up its beyond aging surface, the Hoosier will battle for 500 miles in an effort to give the RCR stable two straight victories to start the 2018 campaign. Although Newman has never won at Atlanta, he believes his No. 31 ZL1 is quite sporty in race trim.
“Yeah, I think in race trim it’s pretty good. I think there are always things that you can work on here,” Newman said. “The track conditions seem to change so much when you start practice like that with a green race track. I look forward to the weekend. It’s one of the best race tracks we come to for being able to handle and work your magic inside the race car because that’s what it all comes down to.”
Even without a win, Newman has had decent results at the 1.54-mile speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Over his last 10 starts here, Newman has recorded five top-10 finishes, and in 25-career starts. Additionally, he has just three DNFs (did not finish), so regardless there’s a better-than-not chance he will be there at the end of the race.
If Newman, 40, is able to cruise into victory lane for the 19th victory of his career, it would be historic. It would mark the first time in RCR’s 45-year history that the team has started a season off with two-consecutive victories.
Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing