The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Bristol this week for the Food City 500.
The race at Bristol is one of the best races for fans to watch, but it is incredibly tough on the drivers. The high-banked half-mile race track does not provide drivers enough room to race without letting their tempers get out of control. Passing at Bristol usually involves pushing another driver out of the way. This type of racing usually leads to angry drivers after the race.
Fantasy NASCAR players must select drivers who will start up front Sunday. There is no race track in the series where track position is more important than at Bristol. Drivers who qualify up front will have a huge advantage of pitting on the front stretch. Take advantage of track position when selecting your drivers this week.
This will be the week for fantasy NASCAR players in the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing game to select some new drivers for their team. Kasey Kahne is a great option in Group A, and Brian Vickers is an excellent choice for Group B. Mix in a couple of risky picks for your team this week. It may pay off for you when the checkered flag is waved.
The strategy for Fantasy Live at Bristol is to select drivers who start upfront. I cannot emphasize this enough. Since there are 500 laps in the race, your team could potentially score 250 bonus points. Do not worry about drivers coming from the back this week. Track position at Bristol is too important to ignore.
The progressive banking at Bristol was removed from the track before the fall race in 2012. For that reason, the stats for the past four races will be used to predict the top drivers for the race Sunday.
Racing for the Win
1. Brad Keselowski: Penske Racing has been one of the hottest teams in NASCAR in 2014. Keselowski and Joey Logano have figured out how to take advantage of the new qualifying procedures. The Penske drivers have started on the front row for both races using the new format. At a racetrack where track position is everything, I like Keselowski’s chances of going to Victory Lane in back-to-back races. He's a two-time winner at Bristol, and he should be on every fantasy team this week.
2. Kyle Busch: Busch needs to start racing up front, and there is no better track for him to do that at than Bristol. Busch has five wins at Bristol and 12 top-10 finishes in his 18 races. He usually runs up front and leads many laps. Do not forget about Busch when selecting your drivers for Sunday.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt is off to a great start this season. He is the leader in the point standings and has finished the first three races either first or second. Earnhardt has the fourth-best average finishing position in the last four races at Bristol. When the checkered flag is waved, he will be up front.
4. Kasey Kahne: Kahne dominated both races at Bristol last season. He won the spring race and finished second in the fall. He has finished the last three races at Bristol in the top 10. This is one of Kahne’s best race tracks. He is a great pick for your team this week.
5. Jeff Gordon: Gordon has five wins and 23 top-10 finishes at Bristol. He is one of the best drivers to ever race in Thunder Valley. Does he still have what it takes to go to Victory Lane? I think he does. Gordon has finished all three races this season in the top 10. He is an excellent choice this week.
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won the last race at Bristol. In his career, he has three wins and 18 top-10 finishes there. He has not been as good this season thus far as he was in 2013, but this is one of his better race tracks. Kenseth will finish in the top 10 Sunday.
7. Clint Bowyer: Bristol is one of Bowyer’s best tracks. He has the second-best average finishing position in the last four races at Bristol and the fourth-best driver rating. Bowyer has not looked very good this season, so expect him to finish in the top 10 but not in Victory Lane.
8. Denny Hamlin: Last season, Hamlin struggled at Bristol, finishing both races outside the top 20. That had more to do with his back injury than his ability to drive a car around the race track, however. Hamlin has finished 43.8 percent of his races at Bristol in the top 10. He will increase that percentage this week.
9. Joey Logano: Logano has been fast at each race track this season. Bristol is not one of his best tracks, but when he is given a good car, he usually runs up front. In the last race at Bristol, Logano started sixth and finished fifth. He will have another good race at Bristol Sunday.
10. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson could easily qualify up front, lead many laps and go to Victory Lane in Sunday's race. He has the ability to dominate at any race track on the circuit. He has not been great lately at Bristol, though, finishing both races last year outside the top 20. Even so, look for Johnson to race inside the top 10 this week.
11. Kevin Harvick: Harvick may have had the car to beat in the race at Las Vegas, but a mechanical problem sent him to the garage. If he dominates the race at Bristol, he will be the clear favorite to win the championship. Bristol is not Harvick’s best race track. His average finish at Thunder Valley is 13.4, but his success this season makes him an interesting choice for your team.
11. Brian Vickers: If you go by pure stats for the race this week, Vickers should be the favorite to win. He has the series-best average finishing position and the fifth-best driver rating in the last four races at Bristol. Vickers has never finished outside the top 10 in a Michael Waltrip Racing car at Bristol. He is the best sleeper pick in the field this week.
13. Paul Menard: Menard is another sleeper pick this week. Richard Childress Racing has had fast cars this season and that, combined with Menard’s past success at Bristol, makes him a great value pick for Sunday's race. He has the third-best average finishing position in the last four races at Bristol. If you were ever going to select Menard for your team, this is the week to do it.
14. Kurt Busch: Busch was often the best driver in the field at Bristol when he raced for Roush Fenway Racing. He won four of the 10 races he started at the track for RFR. The old Busch may make an appearance at Bristol this week. Stewart-Haas Racing will provide him a better car than what he had the past two seasons. Look for Busch to have his best finish of the 2014 season Sunday.
15. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has had a lot of bad luck this season, experiencing engine problems in two of the three races this year. His luck has to turn around sometime, though, and it could happen this week at Bristol. Truex has seventh-best driver rating and one win in the last four races at Bristol. If you feel like taking a gamble this week, this is your driver.
16. Carl Edwards: Edwards has struggled at Bristol since the race track was reconfigured. In his last four races at Bristol, he has not finished any of the races in the top 15. And he's only finished one race in the top 20. Edwards will be better this year, but he won't be good enough to finish in the top 10.
17. Greg Biffle: Biffle has been an average driver lately at Bristol. He has started in the middle of the field and finished in the top 15 since the race track was reconfigured. Expect the same type of results from him again this week.
18. Ryan Newman: Newman has been good but not great in the last four races at Bristol. He has two top-15 finishes and two finishes outside the top 20. He will be fast in qualifying but will fade once the race begins.
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse is another good sleeper pick this week. He has competed in two races at Bristol in the Sprint Cup Series, finishing both races in the top 20. There is no reason to think he cannot do it again this Sunday.
20. Tony Stewart: Bristol is one of Stewart’s worst race tracks. In the last four races at the track, he only has one top-20 finish. He should add another top-20 finish this week, but not by much.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has finished three of the last four races at Bristol inside the top 20. He could be the surprise of the field this week. If you need a good driver at a cheap price, Allmendinger is worth the gamble.
22. Jamie McMurray: McMurray has had a fast race car in every race this season. He will have another fast car this week, but he does not have the talent to finish up front. Expect McMurray to run around the top 20 Sunday.
23. Casey Mears: Mears is running engines from Richard Childress Racing, and it seems to have really helped the team. He has finished two of the first three races in the top 15. He would be a great value pick this week.
24. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose has had success at Bristol in the past, but he is off to a bad start in 2014. His best finish this season was his 18th-place finish at Daytona. Ambrose will have a hard time staying on the lead lap this week.
25. Austin Dillon: Dillon is the best rookie in the field this week, but that is not saying much for him. Rookies generally struggle in their first race at Bristol. A top-25 finish Sunday would be respectable.
26. Aric Almirola: This is not the race track on which to use Almirola for your fantasy team. His average finishing position at Bristol is 26.33 in his career. Use Almirola on the larger race tracks.
27. Kyle Larson: It is hard to know what to expect from Larson this week. He grew up racing open-wheel cars. Usually, that type of racing style leads to success at Bristol. He is still a rookie, though, and there is not much room to hide on the race track. Larson will take his rookie bumps this week.
28. David Ragan: Ragan started 17th and finished 12th in the last race at Bristol. Do not expect the same results from him this Sunday.
29. David Gilliland: There is nothing special about Gilliland at Bristol. He usually finishes somewhere near the top 30. He will do it again this week.
30. Danica Patrick: Patrick has struggled in her three starts at Bristol. Her best finish is 26th in the race last fall. She will be lucky to finish in the top 30 Sunday.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch
Group B: Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Joey Logano
Group C: Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson
Fantasy Live Picks
Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, Brian Vickers, Reed Sorenson
Fox Fantasy NASCAR Picks
Captain: Brad Keselowski
Driver 2: Jeff Gordon
Driver 3: Kyle Busch
Driver 4: Kasey Kahne
Driver 5: Clint Bowyer