Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool: Picks for the AdvoCare 500
There are some tracks on the circuit that simply can be described in one phrase. Martinsville is NASCAR's version of "rush hour." Bristol can be described as "NASCAR's coliseum" and Daytona has long been known as the "World's Center of Racing."
This weekend's race is at a track that is popular among drivers and now even more popular because of the weekend the race occurs. It's a trip down to a state known for growing great peach trees, and is the home of Food Network's great cook, Paula Deen.
It's time for Atlanta, a track that since 1997 has been incredibly "wicked fast."
Since the reconfiguration that year, the 1.54-mile speedway has been so fast that consistently each year it was the fastest track on the circuit, but since the repaving of Michigan was completed that is no longer the case. Still, this track is not uncommon to see cars sliding off the corners like sprint cars, and hanging on for dear life trying to make passes.
Since the track took over the Labor Day weekend from the Auto Club Speedway, attendance has gone up and excitement at the track has been at a fever pitch. The fact that it is now a Sunday night race also makes it very unique.
One of the most popular tracks on the circuit welcomes the drivers this weekend, and the writers are prepared with their picks. As the Chase nears, victories and points are critical. Here's a look at their choices for the AdvoCare 500:
Misan Akuya: Tony Stewart
Smoke had fast cars the last few weeks, only nothing to show for them. Last week he and Matt Kenseth tangled which resulted in Smoke throwing his helmet at Kenseth.
Stewart is strong at Atlanta with three wins, and he loves to slide around. With not a lot of grip, Atlanta sounds perfect for him. Look for Smoke to be contending and trying to get that win that breaks the four way tie for the points lead once the chase starts.
James Broomhead: Brad Keselowski
He had a mare at Bristol, but I'm keeping the faith with BK that he can repeat his run down the 2012 stretch to the Chase.
Kelly Crandall: Jimmie Johnson
Finished second here last year, has been on a momentum swing as of late. Why not another win as the Chase nears?
Billy Fellin: Jimmie Johnson
I was going to go with Edwards, but that "win or crash" mentality scares me. The 48 is just solid right now.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Jeff Gordon
Got a good feeling about Gordon making the Chase this year. More than likely that means a win at Atlanta would be necessary.
Kara Martin: Jimmie Johnson
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
Dustin Parks: Jeff Gordon
For some reason this week has been a huge signal to pick the 24. I'm working at a different store this week, and all day Monday they had me working on the 24th register. The next day I was on register 5 all day, and was tempted to go with Kahne as the signal, but practically every transaction had 24 items.
Then I went looking at statistics, and it makes sense. He's got five wins here, four of which have come on the current configuration. He won this race last year after waiting two days to take the green flag.
It's all there, and I just have to believe that with him so close to getting that second win to secure his spot in the Chase, he's gonna get it done.
Patti Rodisch: Greg Biffle
This week was simple for me even though last week I came close to making the right pick. Greg Biffle has been strong on intermediate tracks this season. AMS is not exactly his best track but he has three top-fives and nine top-10 finishes here.
I like Biffle because he has been the most consistent this season this type of track. His disappointing run last week at Bristol locked him into the Chase for 2012 and now this team can push the envelope the next couple weeks. Biffle should be a contender this weekend and with nothing to lose he could be very dangerous this weekend.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
When you talk about speed, it's obvious the HMS cars have figured out a way to get more thanks to NASCAR,who approved a softer bushing in the rear end. Chad Knaus is a mastermind when it comes using NASCAR approved parts to make his driver faster.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
Alright, this race is pretty much now or never, and seeing as I made up tremendous ground last week, I'm going to follow the 24 team, either with successful or futile results.
Doesn't hurt to pick a driver who's won five times at Atlanta Motor Speedway (four in the "new" configuration) and last year had a spirited battle with Five-Time in the final 12 laps. Should be fun and I'll either look be a genius or I'll be damned.
Chicken nuggets should be sent to me if I win, chocolate chip cookies if I lose.
Standings following Bristol:
Sal Sigala Jr. (826) Brad Keselowski finished 30th (3)
Billy Fellin (819) Brad Keselowski finished 30th (4)
Kelly Crandall (781) Brad Keselowski finished 30th (3)
Christopher Leone (778) Brad Keselowski finished 30th (2)
Rob Tiongson (774) Kasey Kahne finished 9th (4)
Misan Akuya (764) Jamie McMurray finished 27th (1)
Ryan O'Hara (763) Jeff Gordon finished 3rd (2)
Kara Martin (759) Kyle Busch finished 6th (2)
Dustin Parks (759) Brad Keselowski finished 30th (1)
Patti Rodisch (752) Jeff Gordon finished 3rd (2)
James Broomhead (750) Brad Keselowski finished 30th (3)
Michael Hirshbein (715) Kyle Busch finished 6th (1)
Final Thoughts: Since Atlanta went from holding two races each season down to one a couple years back, the fans have flocked to Georgia to see their heroes do battle. Adding in the added excitement of being one of three straight night races, and the fact the Chase is drawing near just adds to that.
The top-10 could mathematically be set once the checkered flag waves, but the battle for this year's wild card spots has been even more intense. Either that battle will have two clear winners, or it will become even more cloudy.
One guarantee is that come 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, things will get crazy and wild.
Summary of Picks: