Advocare 500 Picks

Race: Advocare 500
Date: Sunday September 1, 2013
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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Bristol never fails to disappoint. That is, unless you are Kurt Busch. Busch was leading early in the race with a very dominant car and then had mechanical issues, causing him to lose any type of contention for the win. Your winner ended up being Matt Kenseth. Kasey Kahne gave Kenseth a run for his money, and several folks actually debated whether Kahne could’ve won. The thing about this finish is that at Bristol, you are hard fought to come to victory lane if you are running behind the leader in the closing laps. To get around, a driver generally needs to push his way through and move the leader. Kasey Kahne is just not that type of driver. There were a couple of occasions where Kahne had the opportunity to spin Kenseth when he reached his quarter panel, but Kahne ran a clean race. During his post-race interview, Kahne expressed disappointment in himself for not winning. He admitted that he should’ve won the race and had the fastest car, but he just didn’t get the deal closed.

Kahne will look for redemption this weekend as we head into Atlanta. There are only 2 races left before the Chase field is set, so Atlanta and Richmond are critical. There are still quite a few drivers who aren’t in the Chase. It’s still hard to believe that there are guys like Jeff Gordon outside that window. Unfortunately, he’s running out of time. His team was hoping for a win at Bristol and ended up with a 7th place finish. Pit strategy really threw a lot of teams for a loop. There were at least 2 or 3 different strategies going on, even fuel strategy at the very end. I think that we will see a lot of the same this weekend as drivers and teams do anything and everything to get those wins and valuable points that they need to get inside the top 10.

Atlanta is an awesome race. It’s an unexpectedly fast track. I say that because the cars here get close to the 200 mph range and we are nowhere near a superspeedway. In fact, this track is just over 1.5 miles. It has 24 degree banking in the turns and 5 degrees on the straights. The length of the frontstretch is 1415 feet. The backstretch is close to the same at 1320 feet. It’s a pretty fun track for both the drivers and the fans. The keys to this track are tires and track position. We will see that tires play more of a role here than they did at Bristol. Unlike Bristol where the guys could run 100 laps on the same sets, Atlanta wears the tires quite a bit more and these guys will have to be cautious of that, especially at these speeds. Track position is also quite important, but it’s the tire and pit strategy that will keep these drivers in the right spot throughout the race.

This is a race where picking the winner is going to be tough. The reason behind this is because of the state of the Chase. With only two races left, these guys are going to do whatever it takes to get to the front of the pack. They are going to use some serious pit strategy and definitely think outside of the box and take some risks that they otherwise may not be willing to take. I truly think, though, that we are going to see Kasey Kahne in victory lane. Despite other drivers needing the victory more than Kahne, he has been very consistent and truly has charged to the front. Coming off a weekend where he could’ve won and is disappointed in himself, I think that he is going to be driven to get to the front of the pack. He even has a couple of wins at this track. There are a couple of other drivers to watch. Toyota has claimed to have gotten their engine packages back up to full horsepower, so Kyle Busch has the potential to be at the front. Denny Hamlin, the 2012 winner here, is also going to want to catch a break and try to get to the front. Because he has no chance at the Chase, he’s looking for all-out wins! He’s going to be one to watch. Finally, my pick for Bristol, Kurt Busch, is always pushing towards the front of the pack. If he can avoid mechanical failure, he should definitely make a charge. With the announcement that he’s heading to Stewart-Haas in 2014, I am sure that he would like to give his Furniture Row team a much deserved win. Here’s a look at your rundown for potential winners this weekend at Atlanta:

My Pick to Win: Kasey Kahne
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Brian Vickers

Carl Edwards thrives at this track. He’s gotten his act together in the last few weeks and should have a good showing on Sunday night. Brian Vickers is driving full time for the #55 machine through the end of the year. That team generally does well on high-speed tracks. Vickers is trying to make a name for himself as well and has done a good job at being consistent throughout the weeks that he has raced.

As I said before, there are merely 2 races before the Chase field is set. Bristol definitely didn’t pan out for a lot of drivers the way that they wanted them to. Here’s a look at your current top 12 in the points after the wild Saturday night at Bristol.

Here are your current top 12 after last week’s race:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Carl Edwards
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kyle Busch
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Greg Biffle
10. Joey Logano
11. Brad Keselowski
12. Kurt Busch

Keselowski and Busch are on the bubble. There are 6 points separating 10th and 12th positions. Both of those drivers, as of right now, have to drive their way into the top 10 to have a chance at the Chase. The 14th and 15th place drivers of Truex Jr. and Newman are actually our wildcard drivers because of their wins. Jeff Gordon sits in 13th and also has to drive his way into the top 10 if he fails to get a win at Atlanta or Richmond.

These guys have a hefty load on their shoulders. This Sunday night is sure to bring out some great racing and more attitude than we’ve seen in quite a while. There’s a lot be proven and a lot to be lost in the next couple of weeks as we head into the close of the regular Sprint Cup season!