No more off-weekends, no more resting, and no more regrouping. Sunday night, the last stretch of the Sprint Cup season begins as the run to the championship nears ever so closer.
This weekend, there are still high banks, but the speeds increase drastically. On the docket for NASCAR, the Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Emory Healthcare 500.
As we saw in March, this track can be ever changing as the race goes through the afternoon. Expect to see the same thing happen this time, but the difference is this race will be run under the lights. Speeds will be faster, and handling will be crucial.
This past March, it was Kurt Busch dominating the race and then once again showing off his form of celebration, what he has deemed his "unwind" victory lap. A few of our creatures predicted correctly that he would be the winner, and he is a heavy favorite going into this weekend. Despite the recent struggles, watch out for him to be strong.
Younger brother Kyle is coming off a complete sweep at Bristol, a race where a lot of our writers were correct in their guesses. Kyle is very good at the 1.5-mile tracks, as he nearly won at Texas last year and got Toyota their first Cup win at this track back in 2008.
Kyle's win was correctly predicted by nearly half our writers, which has brought the standings even closer together. The top five are separated by just 117 points, but anything can happen with two races left before the Chase.
Atlanta is fast, it's wide, and is a favorite for many drivers. Who is going to be smiling at the end of the night?
Here's who our writers believe will be victorious at the end of 500 miles.
Misan Ayuka: Tony Stewart
I am back with my "Stick with Smoke" thing. Tony Stewart is one of the best at Atlanta. He has two wins, eight top fives, 13 top tens, 790 laps led, and an average finish of 12th.
Smoke was running second right behind Jimmie Johnson when a caution came out and Tony Raines rammed him from behind, ending his night. But still, in the last 13 races, five top fives and 10 top tens. In the last 11, he has five top fives and nine top 10 finishes.
Stewart is so close to breaking through, and Atlanta would be a great place to do it and get the momentum he and his team need to win him a third championship.
Kyle Brandt: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
James Broomhead: Carl Edwards
It's time to realize that Roush are well on their way back to championship-bothering form. Biffle's recent win was only the rubber stamp on the fact, and the blue oval lot could be getting their act together just in time.
Logic says Carl should be the next of Ford's winless streaks to be snapped, and Atlanta is a fine place to do it. Just stay off Keselowski, please.
Billy Fellin: Kurt Busch
I like the blue deuce's chances this week at Atlanta. He won in the Spring, gotta like his odds going into this weekend, especially with the Chase heating up.
Christopher Leone: Carl Edwards
He’s won one in four at Atlanta, and in a way, team owner Jack Roush’s tragic plane accident has been the best thing to happen to that team. They’ve been stepping up their game in a way unlike they’ve been running all season. We all know he’s overdue.
Kara Martin: Carl Edwards
Come on, Carl, what have you done for me lately? It is time to step up your game and win one this year, not just for your team but for me!
Dustin Parks: Kurt Busch
I can't help but think that the 1.5-mile, quad oval tracks have something mystical for the Miller Lite team. Last year, both Atlanta and Texas were where Busch debuted his "unwind" victory lap. Then, this year he goes to victory lane again in Atlanta, followed by sweeping the May races at Charlotte.
He may not be the first choice at this track, but winning two of the last three races here makes him a heavy favorite. Busch has three wins, three top fives, and seven top 10's at this track. Plus, this year the best tracks for the Penske team have been the intermediate tracks.
Busch himself has 15 wins on intermediate tracks, so his Dodge will be one to watch. Should he win, the soaking of Miller Lite will be well deserved.
Patti Rodisch: Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch started the race 11th in the spring race in Atlanta. He ended up dominating the race and winning. Busch has shown the last two seasons that he has mastered the spring race.
Since 2008, he has only finished worse than 11th once, and that was last fall when he finished 38th. It has been an up-and-down couple weeks for Busch. In the last four races, he has two finishes in the top 10, but also two finishes of 30th or worse.
It is time for Busch and his team to get back to early season form with their consistent finishes and winning races. This week, it will be the older Busch brother taking home the trophy in Atlanta.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
NO REASON GIVEN
Rob Tiongson: Kurt Busch
Of the tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit that's seemingly like a majority of the venues on the schedule, this is one where Mopar Power's gonna shine, and it'll be the blue deuce in victory lane.
He's had a knack for these 1.5-mile, quad-ovals all season long, and I think it'll be a Miller Lite filled winner's circle with Kurt Busch and crew chief Steve Addington enjoying the spoils of their triumph.
Alan Wade: Kurt Busch
Kurt is bound to come back into contention with a win sooner or later. I hope Atlanta is the trick for him and the final chance ever for a driver sweeping BOTH Atlanta races.
Kara Martin (3,327) Carl Edwards finished 12th (2)
Christopher Leone (3,324) Kyle Busch won (4)
Billy Fellin (3,290) Greg Biffle finished eighth (3)
Dustin Parks (3,228) Kyle Busch won (3)
James Broomhead (3,210) Kyle Busch won (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (3,191) Kurt Busch finished ninth (2)
Rob Tiongson (3,125) Kyle Busch won (1)
Misan Akuya (3,098) Jamie McMurray finished third (1)
Patti Rodisch (2,635) NO PICK SENT (0)
Alan Wade (1,567) Kurt Busch finished ninth (1)
Kyle Brandt (927) Kyle Busch won (2)
Even with fall approaching, this place is still nicknamed "Hot-lanta", and for good reason. The drivers are on the edge of out of control all night long, and it is that kind of racing that has made it so popular.
With the schedule change in 2011, Atlanta will be reduced to one race, which will be on Labor Day weekend like this year and last. Drivers understand why the change was made, and fans debated on whether it was the right move, but it is set in stone.
What is also set in stone is an exciting race come 7 p.m. Sunday. Strap in, this race will be exciting flag to flag.
Summary of Picks