Kasey Kahne celebrates his win last year at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
When it comes to going fast every lap, every corner, and every second of a race, the Atlanta Motor Speedway provides that excitement—multiple grooves make side-by-side action part of the normal landscape.
Couple that with the atmosphere of a night race and you have a recipe for one of the best races of the entire season.
Last year, Atlanta started a new tradition in holding their second race of the season on the weekend of Labor Day, a date held for many years by Darlington. Since 2004, this weekend went to the Auto Club Speedway, but saw less than stellar results and attendance.
However, last year's race played to a near sell-out crowd, with even track officials thanking the staff for holding the race.
The fans loved it, the drivers enjoyed it, and NASCAR was praised for it.
This year will be the last year Atlanta will host two races in the season. With the realignment for 2011, this race will be the only one Atlanta will host all year.
Fans will definitely enjoy what happens Sunday night and the drivers are going to be more intense than ever in getting the job done.
So why waste any more time? It's time for me to dust off the asphalt and give you my picks for Sunday's Emory Healthcare 500.
You always have to look at the last driver to win at the track, but Kurt Busch is a guy who has a lot of momentum at this place. In the spring, Busch came from the 11th starting spot to absolutely dominate the event. He did the same thing last year in the same race to hold out Jeff Gordon in a green-white-checkered finish.
In fact, since joining with Roger Penske in 2006, Busch only has one DNF at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, which came in this race last year.
On the 1.5-mile tracks, Busch has been incredible. Who can forget how he swept the entire Speedweeks down in Charlotte in May? He also outlasted his younger brother in a fuel run last fall at Texas.
When it comes to Atlanta, it will be hard to bet against the blue deuce.
Speaking of the No. 24 Chevrolet, this track could very well be the one where Gordon snaps his winless streak.
Atlanta has been phenomenal to Gordon in his career. Four wins, 14 top-five's and 23 top-10's mean this track will once again provide a great opportunity for success.
However, on Sunday, he also has a little more motivation than usual.
The car he's running has a paint scheme designed by his three-year-old daugher, Ella. With Gordon's own children's foundation on the car, and his daughter's inspiration plastered across the sheet metal, a win would be extremely emotional.
This team deserves a win. Maybe the help of Gordon's little girl will put "Papa's Car" into victory lane.
Does anyone remember who won this race last year? Oh yeah, it was the Budweiser car of Kasey Kahne.
That's big because this race was the last time Kahne went to victory lane. This year, it's been more about the off-track news regarding Kahne and where he would race next year. But, now that his 2011 season is set, it is time for him to end the year with Richard Petty Motorsports on a high note.
Kahne has one other win at Atlanta, plus six top-five's and eight top-10's. He has a strong chance to give Ford its second win of the season. Watch out for the No. 9 Bud car.
It's not often that Junior is outspoken about how confident he is at a track outside of Daytona and Talladega. But leading into this Sunday's race, he has said that he's looking forward to returning to Atlanta.
Junior only has one win at this track, coming back in 2004; however, that season was his most successful of his entire career.
Couple that with eight top-five's, 10 top-10's and an average finish of 12th, he can get the job done as long as the crew does theirs. Junior Nation has been extremely hungry for a win, and extremely angry that karma always costs him a victory.
Can Atlanta finally end the streak?
This track has either been feast or famine for the younger Busch brother. In 2008, he gave Toyota its first Sprint Cup win en route to an eight-win season with Joe Gibbs Racing.
However, other than that victory, Busch only has one other top-10 finish. The highest finish he has besides those two is 12th.
Right now, Busch has a lot of momentum on his side coming off the complete sweep at Bristol. His confidence is high, and the fans seem to fuel his desire.
Look at the reaction he got when he came out in driver introductions at Bristol: The boos didn't phase him one bit, as he said, "Oh, you're all so loving it."
He's definitely loving the limelight and if that's what leads him to victory, look out.
Festivities for Sunday's race will begin at 6:30 p.m. with NASCAR Countdown on ESPN. An hour later, the green flag will wave with Marty Reid, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree making the call.