Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 is the penultimate race of the NASCAR regular season.
Infield camping opened on Thursday, and the fans are getting hunkered in for a long Labor Day weekend of fun at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
This is race No. 25 and the 12th-to-last race of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season. It’s also the second-to-last race in the regular season leading into this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Take a look at the schedule, viewing information and some other tidbits heading into the weekend.
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
When: Sunday, Sep. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TrackPass
Listen: Motor Racing Network
Full TV Schedule (via NASCAR.com)
Practice: Friday, Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
Qualifying: Friday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. ET, SPEED
Practice: Saturday, Sep. 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
Final Practice: Saturday, Sep. 1 at 5:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
AdvoCare 500 Race: Sunday, Sep. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Drivers to Watch
Edwards currently sits at 12th in the Chase points standings and needs a win in this race to help close the gap between him and the other wild-card contenders.
Edwards needs this win because he is winless this season, and it would propel him into contention for the wild card spot. He’s won three times previously at Atlanta and has everything riding on this one.
After losing the Sprint Cup championship on a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart last year, Edwards needs to at least make the Chase and give himself a chance for redemption.
Gordon is the defending winner of the AdvoCare 500. He has driven impressively during his career at Atlanta, recording five wins, 15 top-five finishes, 24 top-10 finishes and a nice average finish of 12.2.
He’s currently sitting nicely, just 16 points behind Kyle Busch for the second wild card spot. He already has one win this year, and another Sunday would seal the deal for his wild-card spot. The former superstar driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Drive to End Hunger/DuPont Chevrolet Impala may have to win in order to have a chance.
According to Nate Ryan of USA Today, Gordon senses the urgency in this race.
"I think we have to win," Gordon said. "I feel like we're right back to where we were before Pocono. We pretty much have to win because I don't know if we could gain those points back."
Stewart has again found himself on the edge of missing out on the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Last season, he barely made the Chase and then strung together an epic run during the 10-race playoff that netted him a tie with Carl Edwards for the crown. A tiebreaker, in his favor, netted him the title.
While he may currently be locked into the Chase, he should still be looking to compete and gain momentum for the likelihood of a tight Chase down the stretch.
Predicted Winner: Carl Edwards
It may be a long shot, but I'm a big fan of the underdog.
Edwards has had a decent season, but a race victory has eluded him to this point. If he can step it up and shine when it’s all on the line, he may be able to catch fire and make a run at the Sprint Cup championship.