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NASCAR viewer’s guide: Atlanta and Mid-Ohio

Watch Dale Earnhardt Jr. react to crucial moments during the NASCAR Cup Series Kwik Trip 250 at Road America.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will host the Cup and Xfinity series this weekend, while the Camping World Truck Series competes at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta (3 p.m. ET on USA Network) will be the second of the season at the 1.54-mile track. William Byron led 111 laps on the way to winning the March race. The track’s new configuration produced 46 lead changes and 11 cautions, the most in the past 14 races there.

Saturday’s Xfinity race (5 p.m. ET) will be televised by the USA Network.

Kevin Harvick’s ups and downs

It wouldn’t be surprising if Kevin Harvick is a bit dizzy because of his recent ride in the Cup playoff standings.

Harvick has been above and below the playoff cutoff line. After Sunday’s race at Road America, he’s in the negative numbers again. He is one spot below the cutoff, trailing Christopher Bell by 20 points for the last playoff spot.

Harvick is winless in his last 61 races. Twenty-one drivers have visited victory lane since Harvick last did so.

Eight races remain before the start of the playoffs, and 13 of the 16 playoff spots have been claimed by race winners. Tyler Reddick became the season’s 13th winner Sunday by rolling to a three-second victory at Road America. The win was the first of Reddick’s career.

The three drivers currently in the playoff picture on points are Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Bell. Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed this week that Bell will have three new pit crew members for Sunday’s race at Atlanta.

Behind Harvick in the playoff bubble are Aric Almirola (47 points below the cutline line), Erik Jones (85) and Austin Dillon (94).

Chastain’s springboard

The March 20 Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, won by William Byron, featured a second-place finish by Ross Chastain, serving notice that the Trackhouse Racing driver was on the edge of scoring his first win.

Prior to Atlanta, Chastain had finished third at Las Vegas and second at Phoenix, clearly establishing that his early-season successes couldn’t be counted as flukes.

He led 42 laps at Atlanta and finished .145 of a second behind Byron, rebounding from two laps down.

Chastain’s breakthrough win came in the next race after Atlanta, as he muscled his way to victory at Circuit of the Americas. His second series win came at Talladega Superspeedway four races later, and he rolls into the second race of the year at Atlanta with four straight top-10 runs (Gateway, Sonoma, Nashville, Road America).

New Atlanta, Part 2

The track’s March race was the first Cup event on the newly configured track surface, and it put up some wacky numbers.

Thirty-one drivers in the 37-car field were involved in accidents during the 325-lap race. Eleven failed to finish because of crashes, the most in a race at the track.

A crash on lap 145 engulfed 13 cars.

There were 46 lead changes, the most on a track other than Daytona or Talladega since October 2000.

Most drivers and crew chiefs now consider Atlanta in the same neighborhood as Daytona and Talladega in the categories of speeds and competition. Prior to the March race, the banking in the turns was increased from 24 to 28 degrees, while the racing surface was narrowed from 55 feet to 40.

Sunday’s race is scheduled for 400 miles. Byron traveled 500 miles winning in March.

Entry lists

The Cup entry list at Atlanta contains 36 drivers. Among those listed in addition to series regulars are Garrett Smithley in the No. 15 for Rick Ware Racing and Noah Gragson in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

Atlanta Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list has 38. Included are Natalie Decker, Ryan Truex, Sage Karam and Tyler Reddick.

Atlanta Xfinity entry list

Truck entry list for the Mid-Ohio race has 36. Entered are Cup Series team owner Justin Marks, Mason Filippi, Stephen Mallozzi and Connor Mosak. Marks will drive the No. 41 for Niece Motorsports.

Mid-Ohio Truck entry list

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, June 8

Mid-Ohio forecast: Morning showers. High of 80 degrees. 40 percent chance of rain.

  • 9:35 - 10:25 a.m. -- Truck practice at Mid-Ohio (No TV)
  • 3:35 p.m. -- Truck qualifying at Mid-Ohio (FS1)

Saturday, June 9

Atlanta forecast: Partly to mostly cloudy. Scattered thunderstorms. High of 92 degrees. 50 percent chance of rain.

Mid-Ohio forecast: Sunshine and clouds mixed. High of 79. 20 percent chance of rain.

  • 10:05 - 11:25 a.m. -- Xfinity qualifying at Atlanta (NBC Sports App)
  • 11:35 a.m. - 1 p.m. -- Cup qualifying at Atlanta (NBC Sports App, USA Network joins at 12 p.m.)
  • 1:30 p.m. -- Truck race at Mid-Ohio (67 laps, 151 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)
  • 5 p.m. -- Xfinity race at Atlanta (163 laps, 251 miles; USA Network, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)

Sunday, July 10

Atlanta forecast: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. High of 86 degrees. 60 percent chance of rain.

  • 3 p.m. -- Cup race at Atlanta (260 laps, 400 miles; USA Network, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR radio)