Atlanta Brings First 1.5-Mile Test of 2017

The Ford Performance engines were outstanding in the Daytona 500, but now Brad Keselowski and the rest of the expanded Ford Racing family will face their first mile-and-a-half test of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

While Brad’s No. 2 Miller Lite Ford was one of several strong Ford machines capable of bringing home a win last week, and while BK wasn’t able to do it, Kurt Busch was for Stewart-Haas Racing in its first race with the familiar blue and white oval on the hood of its cards. So while last week wasn’t the finish BK wanted, the opening event was still a source of optimism for the 2 Crew, as it now dons AutoTrader colors for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“We will get through it and go on to Atlanta,” BK said after Daytona. “We did the best we could and controlled everything we could control on our own today…Our Miller Lite Ford Fusion was fast—all the Fords were fast. Roush Yates brought some great power here to Daytona. It is exciting.”

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Atlanta

THE NEXT STAGE

The Daytona event was also the debut of race stages, which helped BK out greatly in the point standings. While Kes finished 27th, he finished the first two stages in fourth place and led 13 laps, earning him a total of 24 points, which tied him for the 13th most in the field.

Couple that with a solid performance in the Can-Am Duel No. 1, tacking on seven more points, he sits 12th in the standings, 15 spots better than where he finished in the 500.

“I thought the stages were good actually and added a nice little element to the race,” Brad said.

With a grasp of the new race structure, Brad’s focus shifts to winning at a 1.5-mile racetrack that has given him some trouble in the past. Kes came through with solid finishes in Atlanta in 2011 and 2012, finishing sixth and a career-best third. Then came an engine failure in 2013 and a wreck in 2014, resulting in finishes of 35th and 39th.

2016 NASCAR Atlanta

Brad has since rebounded with consecutive ninth-place finishes in Atlanta, but he’s yet to compete for the win in Hampton, Ga. However, he knows what it takes on this tricky racing surface.

“You go to Atlanta and it’s, ‘Hang on!,’” Kes said. ” It’s super fast, super slick. The track wears the tires out very, very fast. The cars have to handle well. You’re lifting a lot. You’re sideways. It’s just a completely different feel as a driver.”

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Kes will run double duty this weekend. He’s set to pilot the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang for the second consecutive week, looking to build off of a solid fourth-place showing at Daytona. The Rinnai 250 is scheduled for a 2 p.m. ET start on Saturday, Mar. 4 and will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1.

After the opening practice at Noon ET on Friday, the Cup Series will qualify at 5:45 p.m. ET. Final practice is slated for Noon ET on Saturday, and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will go green shortly after 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday and will air on FOX.

View Entire Article Here