On Sunday, the Atlanta Motor Speedway plays host to another exciting week of NASCAR racing. This week, the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 will serve as the sixth race of the 2021 season. The field of 39 cars will race in honor of those service members who are no longer with us. It will be the 114th Cup race on the track that dates back to 1960.
Drivers will navigate the 1.5-mile tri-oval with its 24-degree banking in the turns for 325 laps for a total of 500 miles. Fireball Roberts won the first race on the track, Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag in the most recent. The starting grid was once again determined using NASCAR’s weighted formula awarding Denny Hamlin the pole.
Here are some of my favorite plays from this week’s Monkey Knife Fight contests. Scoring in these contests is based on finishing positions inside the top 20 with 20 points awarded to first place. An additional 0.1 points are tacked on for each lap led. Below are some picks to help you get started in your MKF contests.
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Quiktrip 500 Monkey Knife Fight Picks
More Or Less
Martin Truex Jr. More Than 18.5 Fantasy Points
It has been a fabulous three-week stretch for Martin Truex Jr. Since his departure from Daytona, he finished third in Homestead, sixth in Las Vegas, and took home the checkered flag last week in Phoenix. Over the course of those races, he led 107 total laps. He’s also kept himself within striking distance of the lead as well, running 863 laps this season inside the Top-15.
The last two times he’s raced the #19 around the Atlanta Motor Speedway he’s cashed in on this prop. In 2019, he came in second place. Last season, he crossed the finish line in third, but led a total of 65 laps that race giving him the extra .5 points to push him over the top.
This week, he’ll start from the front row in the second position. This puts him in a great position to lead some early laps. It also means that all he really has to do is hold his track position until the end of the race to make this a winner. He’s proven this is completely in the realm of possibility.
Kevin Harvick More Than 18.5 Fantasy Points
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Kevin Harvick is good on this track. I already hear you reminding me how this column has reflected this same sentiment two weeks in a row now. I also hear you asking me how I can suggest for a third week in a row that he can top his prop. The answer to that can be found in the numbers.
Twice in three years, Harvick has taken home the Quiktrip 500 checkered flag. That alone is not good enough to support this claim considering he came into his last two races with recent wins. The thing to take into account here is the consistency in which he leads laps here. Since 2012, he’s been out front a total of 1,212 times around the track. In fact, in six of the last seven races in Atlanta, he’s hit this prop. This includes a ninth-place finish in which he led 292 laps in the race. He’ll start in seventh this week. We can only hope this is the week he’ll pull it together and finally cash this prop.
Brad Keselowski More Fantasy Points Than Chase Elliot (+0.5)
Over the last four seasons, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick have been playing hot potato with the Quiktrip 500 checkered flag. Last year, it went to Harvick. The year before that, it went to Keselowski. Harvick won it the previous year. Keselowski started the ball rolling with his first win on the track in 2017. So, if history plays out the way it has so far, this is Keselowski’s year to take down the win. There is no greater finishing position than first, so by that logic, if he wins, Keselowski will beat Chase Elliot by the necessary margin to win this bet. Even if he doesn’t come in first, he has three 9th place finishes and a runner up credit to his name over the last six races. He’s a lock for the top-10 this week.
Although, this prop is actually more evenly matched than it may seem. In Elliot’s short five-year history on this track, he’s managed to place higher than Keselowski twice. That said, in his first five races to start this season, he’s only managed a Top-10 finish twice. The other three were a disappointing 21st place on the Daytona road course, followed by a 14th place at Homestead, and a 13th in Las Vegas. He’ll start one position behind Keselowski this week’s Quiktrip 500 which means this battle will be fought as soon as the green flag is dropped.
Denny Hamlin More Fantasy Points Than Kyle Larson (+0.5)
Kyle Larson has turned it on as of late. His first ride with his new Hendricks Motorsports team resulted in a Top-10 finish at the Daytona 500. He shook off a bad day at the road course the next week, to rattle off three Top-10 finishes in his last three races. One happens to be a win in Las Vegas. There is definitely a hot streak here heading into Hotlanta. Of course, this track has cooled Larson off more than not over his brief Cup career. In six races, he’s finished 26th twice as well as a 12th-place finish. It would not be fair to ignore his three Top-10 finishes. He placed eighth in his first Quiktrip 500, second in 2017 and ninth in 2018. He missed the 2020 running due to suspension.
Where Denny Hamlin holds his advantage is his starting position and the fact that he’s outperformed Larson on this track twice in six tires. One time came in the 2017 season when Hamlin failed to finish the race. The FedEx Express car will lead the field to the green flag with Larson five spots behind him in sixth. This gives Hamlin the opportunity to lead laps and accumulate points that way. Obviously, he doesn’t have to win or even finish in a certain position to hit this prop, he just needs to finish at least one place above Larson. Or, at the very least, a couple of spots with laps led to add to it. Odds are he can and will make this happen on Sunday.