Before catching fire in the Chase for the Championship, there had to be a spark for Tony Stewart's charge to winning the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. For Stewart and his No. 14 team, that jolt came on Labor Day Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Heading into September, Stewart's season resembled anything but the look of championship form. He had just one top five finish since the third race of the season at Las Vegas and had yet to win a race. Stewart was also mired back in the points standings in 10th place, meaning a bad race in Atlanta could contribute to him not qualifying for the Chase at all.
But something happened in Atlanta in the AdvoCare 500. Stewart ran near the front most of the race, finishing third behind an epic duel between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. That seemed to be just the jolt Stewart and his team needed. Five Chase victories later, Stewart was the 2011 Sprint Cup champion, winning in one of the most exciting title chases in NASCAR history.
Stewart's title ended one of the most exciting races in the sport's history, but it may not have even happened if not for Labor Day Weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.