HAMPTON, Ga.—  Kasey Kahne scored a top-five finished at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Kahne was the highest finishing driver from the Hendrick Motorsports stable. Kahne has been considered the “sleeper” at Hendrick Motorsports over the past couple seasons. This run is Kahne’s best finish at the track since his victory back in 2014.

Kahne started the race from the 29th position, but battled throughout the race to strive for contention for the victory.

“We started really slow. I was so loose and the adjustments were perfect today. They fixed the car. Keith (Rodden, crew chief) and the engineers did a great job of making the car better; a lot better at that. But then when you’re behind you just battle and battle long runs. It was tough,” said Kahne.

Unlike recent years, Kahne was able to dig himself out of a hole.

“A lot because that is actually really hard to do.  It’s hard to do when you are one of the best teams and drivers and running up front all the time and you get back there, it’s tough to dig out of.  For us, the last year or two it’s been really hard and today we did it, so that was really nice to see and nice to be part of and we will just keep building from there.  It feels really good to dig out of where we started. It wasn’t good at the start,” said Kahne.

Kahne finished seventh at Daytona. The season has started out on a high note for Kahne, as he hopes to continue the momentum throughout the 2017 season.

HAMPTON, Ga.—  In a race dominated by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski was able to gain the victory after a pit road mishap in the closing laps by Harvick in the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is his 22nd career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This is his first career win at Atlanta.

 

"You never know. That’s how these races are. We had a lot of adversity today there’s not doubt about that. These races aren’t easy. They’re 500 miles and a lot can happen and when you think you’ve got it they slip away. I know how it goes,” said Keselowski post-race. “This one kind of fell in our lap at the end and my team put it all together when it counted. They gave me a great Autotrader Ford Fusion and we were able to get by Kyle (Larson) there at the end. I knew that he wasn’t going to be easy to pass. His car was great and I was able to make the right moves to get by him."

 

The first stage saw the dominance of Harvick. Keselowski was the silent force in second through much of the first segment. The early stages saw Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray tag each other and the wall, but both drivers were able to continue. Harvick won the first stage, Keselowski was second, Chase Elliott was third, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, and Logano rounded out the top-five. Harvick wins race of pit road.

 

The second stage saw the continued dominance of Harvick. Keselowski began to use the short pitting strategy towards the middle of the segment. As green flag pit stops occurred, Keselowski cycled to the lead for only 12 laps. However, with newer tires for Harvick, he quickly regained the lead to win the second stage. Elliott finished second, Ryan Newman finished third, Truex Jr. finished fourth, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.

 

The third stage was one of magic for Keselowski and his team. As the third stage began to progress, weather began to change the complexion of the race. In the earlier portion of the third stage, Keselowski began to grab the handling back in his vehicle. The race began to change as drivers were getting caught for speeding on pit road. The caution flew for debris and then for a blew engine. As the leaders hit pit road, Keselowski was able to win the race off pit road. However, Keselowski had to go back down pit road to make sure all the lug nuts were tight on the tires. After the issue, Keselowski was able to put himself in prime position on the final restart. The final caution of the race flew as Austin Dillon was stopped on the racetrack due to battery issues. Keselowski started second on the restart after Larson assumed the lead. Keselowski and Larson battled for the top position. Larson would run the high side, but Keselowski used the low lane to pass Larson and grab the victory.

 

Larson finished second, Kenseth finished third, Kasey Kahne finished fourth, and Elliott rounded out the top-five.

 

The race was slowed six times for 32 laps. There were nine different lead changes among five different drivers.

 

Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 400. The race will be broadcasted on Performance Racing Network and FOX beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST.

HAMPTON, Ga.—  Kevin Harvick will start from the pole in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500. Harvick laid down a fast lap around the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway at 190.398 mph. This is Harvick’s 18th career pole. Harvick outlasted Ryan Newman for the pole by .081 seconds for his second career Atlanta pole.

“We spent a lot of (in practice) in race trim, just not knowing this package and running Fords. We just threw the qualifying package in there at the end and it was way too tight,” Harvick said. “It’s just a tremendous credit to Stewart-Haas Racing, winning the Daytona 500 with (Kurt Busch) last week and having all the cars run great. Then to come here and see the progress that we’ve made.

The first round of qualifying saw only five drivers not make a time due to inspection issues. Drivers who did not advance to the second round include Clint Bowyer who will start 25th, Kasey Kahne, who will start 29th, and Aric Almirola, who will start 30th. No drivers will be sent home as 39 drivers competed for 40 spots. Kyle Busch was the fastest in the opening round with a speed of 190.280 mph, Newman was second at 189.850 mph, Jamie McMurray was third fastest at 189.571 mph, Denny Hamlin was fourth fastest at 189.526 mph, and Harvick rounded out the top-five at 189.396 mph.

The second round of qualifying went off without a hitch. Newman was the fastest in this round at 189.772 mph, Ky. Busch was second fastest at 189.694 mph, Harvick was third fastest at 189.519 mph, Brad Keselowski was fourth fastest at 188.925 mph, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five at 188.751. Notable drivers who did not advance were Kurt Busch (P13), Matt Kenseth (P16), and Jimmie Johnson (P18).

The final round saw the sun setting deeper into turn one creating a blind spot for drivers. Harvick was able to grab the pole. Newman qualified second ay 189.870 mph, Ky. Busch qualified third at 189.850 mph, Stenhouse Jr. qualified fourth at 188.854 mph, and Keselowski rounded out the top-five by qualifying with a speed of 188.783 mph.

HAMPTON, Ga.— With a new rules package and a new season upon the  Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS), inspection becomes an issue for the first couple of races as teams try to find the red tape.

Qualifying was not going to be delayed due to the inspection issues because every team had made one attempt at inspection well before 5 p.m. EST.

NASCAR said that teams were pushing the limits on the templates. Before teams hit the track for practice, they will go through a safety inspection before hitting the track. Teams had the option earlier today to go through the templates. Many teams did take advantage of that option.

According to Elton Sawyer, Vice President of Officiating and Technical Inspections, stated, “The teams asked for this and they’ve asked us to stay consistent and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

According to the NASCAR Rule Book, drivers must start the race on the same tires they qualified on.  The drivers who did not make a lap will start the race on sticker tires compared to those who made laps in qualifying.

Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Jeffery Earnhardt, Derrike Cope, and Cody Ware did not make a lap in qualifying due to the inspection issues.

HAMPTON, Ga.— With new rules being at the forefront at the beginning of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS), Atlanta provides unique challenges and great unknowns.

Tires will be a hot commodity throughout all three national divisions. In MENCS competition, drivers will have to race on the same tires they qualify on at the beginning of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500.

Teams are limited to five sets or practice, one set for qualifying and the start of the race, and 12 sets for the race. The tires are the same ones used last year at the track.

When asked before qualifying, many drivers weren’t concerned about playing conservative with tire wear.

“I don’t think anybody will. I think the big thing is just trying to hit your laps.  Ideally, you want to make three laps in qualifying.  You want to try to get yourself into the top 24 and then the top 12 and then make a run at the pole.  I think if you mess up in a round, it’s going to be really hard pressed to be able to run again and have a realistic expectation of having a shot at the pole.  I think it’s real important to hit on that first try,” said Chase Elliott, who is racing at his home track this weekend.

“I was talking with some people a little bit ago. They told me, You don't know what you don't know. So this is new for me. I don't really know the old tire. This is the only tire I know, the only tire I will know. You don't really know what you don't know. This is what I got. This is what I going to start with,” said Daniel Suarez, who is making his first MENCS start in Atlanta.

“We will just have to see how it goes.  We are eternally optimistic and always think that we have a shot at the pole.  If you don’t think that in the final round you have a shot at the pole you can choose to just sit and save a lap on your tires.  It might be worth it at a track with so much wear like this.  I doubt that will happen.  The competitor in all of us is going to kick in and we are all going to think we can make an adjustment and go out and adjust the car.  It does put us, especially at a track like this one, put us in a position where we have to be conservative with our tire allotment and how we use them and how many laps we put on every set that we can take to the race,” said Jimmie Johnson, who is going for three in a row this weekend.

Qualifying for MENCS will be at 5:30 p.m. EST on Performance Racing Network and Fox Sports 1.