Bristol, Baby! Yes that’s right, more short-track racing set for this weekend at the World’s Last Great Coliseum, Bristol Motor Speedway. The high-banking half-mile track creates for some thrilling and entertaining racing every time the best drivers in the world show up. Not to look too far ahead, but I’m super pumped the legendary Bristol Night Race is moving to the playoffs in 2020. May just have to get my tickets to that event next season and make the trip down to Tennessee.
Before I dive into my preview, it’s time to reflect on how last week went at Texas for myself and the race in general. From start to finish the race at Texas Motor Speedway was exciting. Several different leaders, varying pit strategies and a handful of guys that could conceivably win the race. After Kyle Busch hit the wall in the closing laps fighting his car it came down to his teammates Denny Hamlin & Erik Jones. When Jones had to pit first, Hamlin won the race through a fuel-only call in the closing laps from his crew chief and penciled in his second win of the season.
As for my picks, I had Kevin Harvick to win the race and while that team hasn’t been quite able to get it together as far as contending for the win, he did secure another top 10 finish after starting 23rd. My other top DraftKings picks all did very well for you, Aric Almriola went from 21st to 7th and ran near the front all day, Kurt Busch went from 30th to the front and finished inside the top 10, Jimmie Johnson started on the pole, led some laps and scored a top 10. Kyle Busch churned some of the fastest laps, led for a while and still came home with a top 10 despite hitting the wall late. My sleeper picks turned out to be duds as both Ty Dillon and Bubba Wallace got off pace with their pit strategy, lost a lap early and weren’t able to get back on the lead lap finishing outside the top 20. It was risky if you wanted those two to build a top heavy lineup, and it bit me in a few lineups, but overall you still should’ve cashed on the top guys.
The World’s Fastest Half-Mile seems to frequently produce some exciting racing with both the high line and low line coming into play in recent years since the track has applied the PJ1. Dirt track racers like Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse love the track and have enjoyed success there due to the nature of the track and no matter what you’re going to have to live on the top at one point or another at Bristol. Tire wear and fall off is very real at Bristol and track position is more often that not paramount.
When I think of Bristol, the first driver I think of is Kyle Busch. He’s the self-proclaimed dominator of the half-mile Tennessee short-track and it’s for good measure. Busch has swept a weekend at the rack-track twice, doing it just two years ago in 2017 and he’s won 2 of the last 3 at the track in the Cup Series winning last spring. No matter how bad it looks, you can never count out the 18 car at BMS. He’s the active wins leader at the track with 7 just ahead of his brother Kurt who has 6 and won the last time the series went to Bristol.
After Kyle the conversation at Bristol shifts to his brother Kurt, who as I mentioned owns 6 wins at the track in the Cup Series himself and it is one of his better tracks. In 36 career races at Bristol he has 18 Top 10’s, 11 Top 5’s and an average finish of 14.67. The way that team has been running, Busch should run up front and contend for another win at the track on Sunday. His teammate Kyle Larson as mentioned also enjoys Bristol with the high-banked corners and the ability to run the top line so well. Larson scored a runner-up finish in both races at the track last season and has led over 489 laps without a win over the last two years at the track. Stenhouse leads the field of drivers in average finish at 11.33 the track in his career with a top 10 in half of his starts (12).
Chase Elliott captured the pole on Friday edging out Ryan Blaney who set a track record in the second round of qualifying. There’s at least a half dozen guys I could see taking the checkered flag on Sunday.
Food City 500 Opening Odds:
-Kyle Busch: 5-1
-Kyle Larson: 7-1
-Brad Keselowski & Joey Logano: 8-1
-Kevin Harvick & Ryan Blaney: 12-1
-Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. & Erik Jones: 14-1
-Aric Almirola: 20-1
-Jimmie Johnson & Ricky Stenhouse Jr: 25-1
Kyle Busch: ($12,900): He’s the King of Bristol and 5 of the last 6 races he’s won he’s started outside of the top dozen. Busch starts 17th Sunday and should be in any fantasy live lineup you have, his salary is so high so you can make the case against using him, but it’ll be a tough call with his track record there, excuse the pun.
Kurt Busch: ($10,700): That No. 1 team has seemingly struggled on Friday’s all season, but they put it all together by the time the race starts. They ran one lap in round one, got loose and missed it on timing. Starting 27th with his stats at Bristol, Kurt Busch is MUST START. Salary is a little rich for my blood, but he’ll be worth it.
Ryan Blaney ($10,300): He broke the track record on Friday. Blaney is the only Penske driver not to win this season despite leading a ton of laps. His chances were thwarted last week with an engine failure and he’s got the track position to control his fate on Sunday. I like me some Blaney on Sunday.
Kyle Larson ($9,500): Larson was the runner-up last year at Bristol twice and is due to break through here. Starts 16th on Sunday and runs the high line better than anyone. I’ll take Larson at Bristol almost every time.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,600): This is one track that the 17 car excels at that’s not a super Speedway. It fits Stenhouse racing background and he’s rolling off 19th. He was top 10 in both 15 & 30 consecutive lap average. Middle tier value this week. Roush Fenway teammate Ryan Newman also falls into this category and comes in at a lesser price at $7,000.
Matt DiBenedetto ($6,700): His career best finish of 6th came back in 2016 at this track. Now he’s with a new team in better equipment and posted top 10 speed in final practice and was also top 5 in consecutive average for 15 & 30 laps. Rolling off 21st, you’ll want DiBi on Sunday. He’s a super dark horse that might even contend for the win.
Winner– Ryan Blaney
I battled this one for a while as I narrowed it down to the Busch bros, Larson & Blaney. The deciding factor for me was Blaney driving for Penske and their success this season and just how fast his car is. I like the 12 car to break through for their first win of 2019 on Sunday.