The 2017 NASCAR season kicks off this weekend before heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway in two weeks, and Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark has offered his annual predictions on what to expect during the 2017 NASCAR season.
"It’s that time again. Another season of racing is almost upon us, and everyone here at Atlanta Motor Speedway, is working hard on getting ready for an exciting Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 weekend.
"Now, let’s get down to predicting the 2017 season. I was a little off-base with my 2015 expectations , but rebounded nicely in 2016. In fact, the only one I really missed was my prediction that Erik Jones would win the XFINITY Series championship, but even that came down to the last few laps.
“So without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2017 season.”
1. Chase Elliott defies the “sophomore jinx”
The so-called “second-year curse” won’t impact Chase Elliott in 2017. He’ll follow up last year’s strong rookie season with an even better one this year. I see him winning multiple races and getting past at least the second round of the The Playoffs.
2. Another great rookie battle
It was easy to get excited about NASCAR’s rising talent last year with a crop of rookies in the top series that included Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher. Look for another showcase of talent with Ty Dillon, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez each moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. When you combine the talent of these drivers with the organizations and support that they will be linked up with, each of them will be in position to emerge as the top rookie. In the end, Erik Jones will win a very spirited Rookie of the Year battle.
3. RCR gets back into Victory Lane
Richard Childress Racing will find its way into Victory Lane for the first time since 2013 this season. Between Austin Dillon and the No. 3 team continuing to gel and Ryan Newman along with Paul Menard putting together solid performances, the stars are aligned for RCR to get at least one win this season.
4. Logano wins his first title
Joey Logano’s gotten the whole deal of being in position to win a title down pat. This year, he’ll take the next step to bringing a championship home to Team Penske. The No. 22 team is no stranger to high-pressure moments and has won on multiple types of tracks. Sometimes, all a driver needs is a bit of good fortune at the right time for a championship. This year, I predict five wins and the law of averages will catch up to Joey Logano and result in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
5. Record number of green-flag lead passes
It’s pretty simple. With NASCAR’s new stage-based format, we’ll see some of the most exciting racing moments in years. With points being at stake in all stages of the race, there will be more reason than ever before to gain as many spots as possible, and drivers will be eager to make as many passes as they can. As a result, there’ll be a significant increase in lead passes under green-flag conditions.
NASCAR racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway March 3-5, 2017, featuring the Rinnai 250 XFINITY Series and Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series doubleheader on Saturday, March 4 and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, March 5.