When a track goes under a reconstruction, it seems to change the attitude of the track, and how teams approach it. Teams prepare for one race a different way than they would the second, especially if the change happens mid-season.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway had that experience in 1997. In the spring, their oval track design would be the final race held on such a setup. During the months that followed, it was a major overhaul for the track. What was the frontstretch became pit road, and a new design came into play, much like that of Charlotte and Texas, which debuted earlier that year.
What it brought was incredibly fast speeds for the time, but also some exciting action.
Now, Atlanta only has one race, but with a new car that has proven to be fast everywhere it goes, this track could see speeds that mirror it's early years in the new design. It has made for more fun, more competitive racing, and has brought about some great finishes.
Knowing this, and knowing the Chase is close, the writers had tough decisions to make this week. Yet, they are set to go. Here's who they chose to win the AdvoCare 500:
Misan Akuya: Kasey Kahne
He loves that high line. If Kenseth wasn't using it at Bristol he would have won. Kahne has two wins at Atlanta and has been strong on the mile and a halves all year.
Rob Blount: Kasey Kahne
He’s great on intermediate tracks, and needs to have two solid races to make sure he gets into the Chase. He’s also probably determined to win to quiet the critics who have been calling him “soft” after last week’s race in Bristol.
James Broomhead: Kyle Busch
Kelly Crandall: Jimmie Johnson
He's had a few bad weeks, which means it's time for him to come out and stink up one of these races.
Billy Fellin: Kevin Harvick
Solid and consistent from the 29. I think it'll turn into a win in the ATL.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Kevin Harvick
Kara Martin: Kyle Busch
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
Might as well...
Dustin Parks: Matt Kenseth
Las Vegas, 1.5-mile: win. Kansas, 1.5-mile: win. Kentucky, 1.5-mile: win. Need I say more?
Patti Rodisch: Kasey Kahne
Sal Sigala Jr: Kasey Kahne
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
Let's go with the active leading race track winner for the Labor Day night race at Atlanta. With five wins ('95, '98, '99, '03 and '11) at this facility, simply put, Driver 24 knows how to get around this track.
It's time to get the six pack ready folks.
Standings following Bristol:
Rob Tiongson (837) Kasey Kahne finished 2nd (2)
Kelly Crandall (800) Kyle Busch finished 11th (1)
Patti Rodisch (800) Kyle Busch finished 11th (0)
Rob Blount (776) Joey Logano finished 5th (1)
Billy Fellin (770) Kyle Busch finished 11th (1)
Sal Sigala Jr. (770) Kyle Busch finished 11th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (734) Kyle Busch finished 11th (2)
Dustin Parks (723) Kasey Kahne finished 2nd (0)
Ryan O'Hara (685) Jeff Gordon finished 7th (0)
Kara Martin (681) Kyle Busch finished 11th (0)
James Broomhead (643) Kevin Harvick finished 34th (1)
Misan Akuya (625) Jamie McMurray finished 19th (1)
Christopher Leone (561) Kyle Busch finished 11th (0)
Final Thoughts: Obviously with picks all over the board, the standings will be jumbled at the end of the night. But, what is guaranteed is that Atlanta will once again hold a spectacular event on Labor Day weekend. Since it got this date a few years ago from California, it's been a raving success.
It appears 2013 will not be an exception.
The green flag waves Sunday night shortly after 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Summary of Picks: