Though the Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 grabs all the headlines entering this weekend's action at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, the other two parts of that tripleheader will generate plenty of excitement on their own.
Friday's Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200 (like I said before, is that a Georgia race name or what?) for the Camping World Truck Series marks that divison's 13th trip to Atlanta. Headlining the entry list is two-time and defending AMS winner Ron Hornaday Jr., the circuit's all-time leader in both wins (51) and championships (four). The only other past Atlanta winner in the race is Sprint Cup star Kyle Busch, piloting his own No. 18 Dollar General-sponsored Toyota Tundra in his first truck race of 2012. Busch hasn't raced in the series since last November at Texas when he infamously wrecked Hornaday and was parked by NASCAR for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races that weekend.
The CWTS highlights NASCAR's young, up-and-coming stars, and there will be no shortage of them on display come Friday. Series leader Timothy Peters, driving for Georgian Tom DeLoach, is the most-recent series winner after leading every single lap at Bristol last Wednesday. He holds a 17-point edge on Texan James Buescher, with Ty Dillon - the grandson of Richard Childress and driver of the same No. 3 truck his older brother Austin claimed last year's title in - 25 points off the top spot.
Other young contenders include Justin Lofton, Miguel Paludo, Parker Kligerman, Cale Gale, and Joey Coulter. They go up against veterans like Todd Bodine, Matt Crafton, and Johnny Sauter. Getting into the mix along with his brother will be Kurt Busch, racing for Atlantan Billy Ballew in a joint venture with Busch's Sprint Cup owner James Finch in a No. 51 Silverado sponsored by Bill Holt Chevrolet. Aric Almirola, another Sprint Cupper, will drive Richie Wauter's No. 5 Ford.
Among the local stars to watch for is Griffin's Max Gresham, who's family owns the famous Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson. He'll be piloting the No. 8 Made in USA Brand Chevy Silverado. Other Georgians looking to race Saturday include Tucker's Ryan Seig in the No. 39 Silverado and Watkinsville's John Wes Townley in the No. 09 Zaxby's Toyota (note: we here in Georgia don't claim the latter driver).
With the exception of Kyle Busch, a four-time winner at AMS in the CWTS (and a 30-time winner overall in the division), fans can look ahead to the 130-lapper and just about expect to see a series regular snare the checkered flag.
It is a different story in the Nationwide Series, where the winner of Saturday's NRA American 300 will probably be taking the green flag a little under 24 hours later in the Advocare 500. Sprint Cup invaders have been a part of the Nationwide Series since its inception, and six such drivers will be racing the 195-lap event.
Kyle Busch will be piloting his self-owned No. 54 Monster Energy Drink Toyota Camry as he seeks his first-career NNS win at Atlanta, as well as his first win of the 2012 season in a series he had dominated in previous years. Joining him in the Toyota stable will be his Sprint Cup teammate for Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin will be wheeling the No. 18 SportsClips Toyota for Gibbs. Absent from this weekend's race is six-time 2012 winner Joey Logano, who's No. 20 Toyota is not entered in this weekend's event.
Kevin Harvick, who won the 2009 NNS race at Atlanta in dominant fashion, will be behind the wheel of Richard Childress Racing's No. 33 Chevy. That car is carrying sponsorship from Augusta-based Bad Boy Buggies. Also in an Impala for the Nationwide race is Kasey Kahne, who is driving the No. 38 Great Clips car - one of three entries for Turner Motorsports.
Brad Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide champ, will be in Roger Penske's No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge, while teammate Sam Hornish Jr. - who is competing full-time in NNS competition and is right in the thick of the title battle - will be in his No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Challenger.
While the winner will more than likely be one of those six drivers, don't count out the series regulars just yet. Leading the way into Atlanta is Elliott Sadler, driver of Childress' No. 2 One Main Financial Chevy. He currently holds a 19-point edge on defending champ Ricky Stenhouse in Jack Roush's No. 6 Cargill Beef Ford Mustang. Also in the hunt is Sadler's teammate Austin Dillon in the No. 3 Advocare Chevy. Expect solid runs from Justin Allgaier in the No. 31 Brandt Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports, Brian Scott in Gibbs' No. 11 Dollar General Camry, Cole Whitt in the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned Spinmaster NASCAR Bashers Chevy, and Michael Annett in Richard Petty's No. 43 Pilot Travel Centers Ford, as well.
While they aren't considered pre-race favorites to contend for the win or a top-five finish, Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana have certainly been well-promoted as the weekend approaches. Patrick, competing in both the Nationwide race in her No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Earnhardt Jr. and the Sprint Cup event for Tony Stewart, is making her first appearance at AMS. She is currently ranked 10th in points in her first full season as a stock car driver. Extreme sports icon-turned-stock car racer Pastrana, meanwhile, is making his final of eight scheduled starts in the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota.
Georgian racers competing in their figurative backyard this Saturday are Smyrna's Kyle Fowler in the No. 08 Ford owned by Randy Hill, Chase Miller of Canton in the No. 46 Key Motorsports Chevrolet (a start-and-park ride, unfortunately), and veteran Reed Sorenson from Peachtree City in Fred Biagi's No. 98 Carroll Shelby Motors Ford.