A week ago, 21-year-old Dawsonville native and fan favorite Chase Elliott looked like he had the Daytona 500 victory in the bag with three laps to go -- until he ran out of gas.
“It was a disappointing finish to a good day,” Elliott said in a statement. “Just one of those things you can’t do anything about. I’m happy with how the NAPA team performed, and we are going to learn from it. I’m proud of how hard everyone worked all week. We’re looking forward to getting back at it in Atlanta.”
This week, he gets another chance to take a shot at the checkered flag, this time much closer to home, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
After Elliott fell away, Kurt Busch eventually won the Daytona 500, taking the checkered flag in The Great American Race for the first time in 17 tries.
"The more it becomes unpredictable it becomes at Daytona, the more predictable it becomes in its unpredictability," Busch said in victory lane last week.
Last year's NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez moved up to the main circuit this year after becoming the first foreign national to win a NASCAR national series. As a rookie driver, he's fitting in, but has pretty big shoes to fill on the Joe Gibbs Racing team after the off-season retirement of Carl Edwards.
Teammate and 2015 series champion Busch is very pleased with how well Suarez is meshing with the rest of the team.
"Daniel is high on energy, wants to do well, really pushes hard, does a good job of asking a lot of questions," Busch said Wednesday at Daytona 500 media day. "No question is a dumb question, we tell him. That might open him up to asking more. But he’s able to do a good job and put to good use the answers that we give him onto the racetrack."
While many drivers concentrated on getting ready for Atlanta in various ways, Jimmie Johnson spent Thursday riding his bicycle on the abandoned North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, NC.
The 5/8 mile short track held NASCAR races from 1949 until 1996. Stock car races were held there in 2010 and 2011, when the track was closed permanently.
On his Twitter account, Johnson said the bike ride helped him to organize his thoughts and burn off energy.
This year's race will be the last on the current surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It is the second-oldest surface on the NASCAR surface, and will be getting a facelift later this spring. Sunday's race also marks NASCAR's 2,500th Cup Series race in its 68-year history, as well as the 102nd 500-mile race ever run at AMS. No other track on the circuit has hosted as many races of that length.
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