The Labor Day weekend often means three or four days off from work, time at home to relax, and the final weekend to cook out for the summer. It signals the end of the warm months and the beginning of the football season.
But for NASCAR, it means that the Chase is on the horizon and the intensity level is at a high where no adjectives could describe it.
Last weekend, Bristol hosted one of the more exciting night races in the last few years at their popular speedway. This weekend, it's still a fast track, but it's one that's three times the size. It's the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
When NASCAR realigned the schedule with the addition of Kentucky Speedway, a few tracks had to sacrifice one weekend. A few years ago, Atlanta decided to step out of the Chase and host a night race on a weekend that used to be held at the Auto Club Speedway. The first night race in Atlanta saw a near sold-out crowd see Kasey Kahne take the victory.
More than that, fans and even NASCAR officials praised the speedway for hosting the Labor Day weekend race.
The last two Atlanta weekends have given many teams a huge boost leading into the Chase, but this year's field is closer than ever. Six drivers have locked into the 2011 Chase, with Jeff Gordon officially being locked in during the middle of the week. But, the final four spots and the wild cards are still up for grabs.
But enough about the Chase, it's now all about victories. The writers have made their choices. Take a look at who they have decided will win Sunday's Advocare 500:
Misan Ayuka: Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart's season has been very hard this year. Only two top-fives and nine top-10's, both career lows. Yet he is 10th in points and as long as he doesn't wreck or blow up is pretty much locked into the Chase.
Smoke has been great at Atlanta with three and is the defending winner of this race as he won it indominating fashion last year. Stewart's intermediate program has been good this year so expect big things out of Stewart at Atlanta and maybe just perhaps he can turn his season around.
James Broomhead: Kurt Busch
No reason given.
Kelly Crandall: Matt Kenseth
He dominated Texas, he dominated Charlotte and Atlanta is the sister track to those two.
Billy Fellin: Kurt Busch
Let's hope that Busch walked over to the other side of the Penske shop and seen whatever Keselowski is doing to be on a hot streak. But Busch has won 2 of the last 4 Atlanta races and another win for him would bump him up post-Richmond, so I'll take the 22.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
No reason given.
Christopher Leone: Brad Keselowski
That $3 million Sprint reward is quite an incentive.
Kara Martin: Tony Stewart
No reason given.
Ryan O'Hara: Carl Edwards
He's been the strongest running here lately and I can't pick Tony or Kurt because of their recent performances.
Dustin Parks: Brad Keselowski
Why not, this kid is on an absolute roll. I am going as far to say not only is he a lock in the Chase just with the wild card, but I am saying he will make the top-10 and make those three victories this year count for a lot more.
Sure, that may mean someone on the bubble currently inside the top-10, namely Junior and Smoke, will get knocked out. But, Keselowski has found something and it is working. Five top-10's, four top-fives and two wins in the last five weeks are statistics that cannot be denied.
If he wins this weekend like I'm predicting right now, he will make the top-10, and will put a stamp on being a legitimate contender for the championship. Yeah, that's not a typo...you heard me.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
I almost went with one of the Summer Showdown participants, but I'm thinking this is the week the No. 48 team puts it all together and starts to show the rest of the drivers why they are the reigning five-time champions.
Kyle and Brad will probably be two of the favorites, and who knows they just might rekindle last season's rivalry and something bad could happen.
Rob Tiongson: Brad Keselowski
Why not go with the racer who's on a torrid hot streak? BK has been sensational, scoring top-three finishes in every race last month and his worst finish in the past six races is a ninth at Indy.
So you can't go wrong with that Blue Deuce, and three's three million reasons to pick this guy!
Standings following Bristol:
Sal Sigala Jr. (818) Kyle Busch finished 14th (4)
Kelly Crandall (804) Kyle Busch finished 14th (3)
Michael Hirshbein (803) Kyle Busch finished 14th (5)
Christopher Leone (787) Kyle Busch finished 14th (3)
James Broomhead (785) Tony Stewart finished 28th (2)
Billy Fellin (778) Kyle Busch finished 14th (2)
Ryan O'Hara (733) NO PICK SENT (2)
Kara Martin (730) Kyle Busch finished 14th (1)
Rob Tiongson (726) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 16th (2)
Misan Ayuka (723) Kyle Busch finished 14th (3)
Dustin Parks (711) Kevin Harvick finished 22nd (0)
Final Thoughts: The Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured in 1997, with the backstretch becoming the frontstretch, and the quad oval configuration was added. In it's first race, speeds nearly hit 200 mph in qualifying. Since then, it's become the fastest track on the circuit and a favorite among fans and drivers.
With only one race this year, this speedway and this race have become increasingly important on the schedule and the race just to make the Chase. The field could become much clearer, but we all won't know until the green flag waves.
It's a unique race as coverage on ESPN is on Sunday beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown, with the race to begin approximately an hour later.
Summary of Picks: