Kevin Harvick will be on the pole, but Tony Stewart, who'll start 12th, will be in the spotlight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Stewart is competing for the first time since the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in an Aug. 9 race at a dirt track in upstate New York.
Points leader Jeff Gordon was impressed when Stewart ran close to 190 mph in practice Friday at the 1.54-mile tri-oval. Stewart was a bit slower in qualifying at 187.907 that night.
Gordon and other drivers said the return to racing will provide therapy for Stewart, who was visibly emotional as he read a prepared statement Friday.
"The best thing for him is to be in that race car," Gordon said.
Said Harvick, Stewart's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing: "Being in that car cures a lot of problems for a short time."
In his prepared statement, Stewart said he skipped the last three races "out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way."
"It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted," Stewart said. "I missed my team, my teammates and missed being back in the race car. I think that being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."
Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, one of Stewart's primary sponsors, released a statement Saturday expressing support for Stewart in his return. Morris said he met with Stewart last week.
"It made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this incident," said Morris, who described Stewart as "one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met."
Sunday's race is the next-to-last before the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Stewart can make the 16-car Chase field with a win Sunday or next week at Richmond, thanks to a waiver announced by NASCAR on Friday. NASCAR requires its drivers to compete in every event to make the playoff, but Stewart received the waiver that is normally applied to a driver who misses a race for medical reasons.
Gordon and other drivers supported the decision to grant Stewart the waiver.
"The whole intent of eligibility for the Chase is just so that somebody doesn't go just take a vacation after winning a few races," Gordon said.
IndyCar: Will Power won his first series championship, finishing ninth in the final race of the season at Fontana.
Tony Kanaan won the 500-mile, double-points race at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway for his first victory of the season, but Power drove an intelligent race with just enough aggression to preserve his healthy points lead.
After briefly taking the lead late, Power comfortably held off second-place teammate Helio Castroneves and wrapped up Team Penske's first title since 2006.
Starting from the back after a poor qualifying run, Power patiently picked his way through the field to the front. After a restart late in the race, the Australian roared into the lead, showing he wasn't about to back into his first title.
NHRA: Tony Schumacher won the Traxxas Nitro Shootout to earn $100,000 in the U.S. Nationals in Clermont, Indiana. Schumacher, a seven-time Top Fuel season champion who has nine NHRA victories at Lucas Oil Raceway, beat Richie Crampton in the bonus event with a 3.748-second run at 328.54 mph. The run also locked in Schumacher as the qualifying leader with two sessions left.