HAMPTON, Ga – Not many people have Paul Menard as a favorite to win Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Heck, if I gave you 20 drivers to name as winners of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (12 p.m. ET/FOX/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) you likely wouldn’t even mention Menards name.
But, for the second straight week, I have him as my top sleeper. At Daytona, he was my No. 1 sleeper and he nearly won the race in his No. 21 Ford. Now, he’s again one of my top sleepers in Atlanta.
Menard, qualified his Wood Brothers Ford 15th for Sunday’s race. In final practice on Saturday, he was third on the speed chart. On the 10 lap average chart, he was third again. That means he has really good short run speed to go along with long run speed as well. At a track like Atlanta, that means more than anything.
Atlanta is the biggest track that we need to pay attention to long run speeds. While every track that means something, Atlanta and their aged surface makes it more important than others. The Atlanta surface has been there since 1997, meaning it’s old and bumpy. That chews up tires and spits them out. So, whoever can conserve their tires the best and have speed in doing so will be the ones to beat.
Menard has always been conservative and the speed in his car is showing. Watch out for the Wisconsin native this weekend. I think he can at least get a top five finish.