Short-track racing tends to be both chaotic and exciting, which makes Bristol Motor Speedway the perfect host for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race under the lights.
With only three races remaining prior to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, all drivers who have yet to win will do everything in their power to conquer Bristol. Doing so is easier said than done, though, as The World's Fastest Half-Mile leaves drivers susceptible to crashes and various other miscues.
There is no question that Bristol is one of the most challenging tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit, so this will be a great test for the very best drivers with NASCAR's version of the playoffs approaching.
Here is everything you need to know about Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol.
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee
When: Saturday, Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Steam: ABC.com
Radio: Performance Racing Network
According to NASCAR.com, the qualifying session for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol will take place on Friday, Aug. 22, at 5:40 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Here is a list of the drivers who will attempt to qualify:
|17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|78||Martin Truex Jr.|
|88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
Drivers to Watch
To call Kyle Busch's season a roller coaster would be quite the understatement.
He has certainly had his ups, including an early-season win that solidified his spot in the Chase. At the same time, though, Busch has failed to finish three races and limped to the finish on a few other occasions after returning to the track following crashes or other issues.
As pointed out by Nate Ryan of USA Today, the past several weeks have been feast or famine for Busch and the No. 18 team:
Kyle Busch's last six finishes entering Michigan: 2, 28, 2, 2, 42, 40. Now headed to garage with damage at Michigan. #nascar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) August 17, 2014
He ultimately finished 39th last week at Michigan, which means each of his past three results are 39th or worse. According to Tom Jensen of Fox Sports, Busch is fully cognizant of the fact that he is in the midst of a major funk:
It's been a tough couple of weeks. It's been a struggle. We had an engine deal (at Pocono). Watkins Glen, we got behind and had a fueling issue and trying to get our lap back, we got crashed. And then last Sunday at Michigan, the car was really good—really awesome the first couple laps on the bottom of the racetrack. So I got greedy with it and took it to the outside and just got loose and crashed, got into the wall.
Luckily for Busch, Bristol happens to be one of his best tracks. He has five career victories as well as 12 top-10 finishes in 19 attempts to his credit at Bristol. He has mastered the art of short-track racing, which unquestionably makes him one of the top contenders to win this race.
If he can take the checkered flag for the second time this season, he would put himself in a great spot with the Chase on the horizon.
Several drivers are enjoying an excellent 2014 season, but make no mistake: This has been Jeff Gordon's year.
It has been 13 years since the 43-year-old veteran last won a Sprint Cup title, but with three wins and the top spot in the standings, Gordon very much looks like the favorite.
Gordon guided the No. 24 car to an impressive victory at Michigan last week to end a long drought at that particular track. Winning there certainly bodes well for his title chances based on this statistic, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:
This is the third time Jeff Gordon has won at Michigan. Each of the two previous times he went on to win the Cup series title.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 17, 2014
Since Gordon is entrenched atop the standings and tied for the most wins, he is in a position that will allow him to take some chances.
A fourth win would essentially ensure that he starts the Chase in first place. If he doesn't win another one before the Chase, though, fellow three-race winners like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson still have a chance to pass him.
Gordon has five career victories at Bristol, and he has finished in the top 10 on 24 occasions.
He always seems to find himself in the mix in Thunder Valley, and his recent form suggests that he will definitely be among the top contenders.
While Matt Kenseth probably feels fairly comfortable about his status as a Chase driver at the moment, there are no guarantees for drivers without a win.
Kenseth is fifth in points, but he surprisingly has yet to enter Victory Lane. Even though he is in a pretty good spot, he can't afford to rest on his laurels at this point.
According to Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network, Kenseth is tops in points among drivers who haven't won a race in 2014:
Since there are just three races left, that means at least one non-winning team will make it into the Chase.
Kenseth has the advantage currently, but three bad races in a row could very easily lead to a tumble in the standings. That is why winning one of the next three outings would be huge for the No. 20 team.
With three career wins and 18 top-10 results, Kenseth knows a thing or two about standing tall at Bristol. He won the Bristol night race last year, and there is no doubt that repeating the feat would give him a great deal of confidence and momentum ahead of the Chase.
Along with Busch, Gordon and Kenseth, several other drivers have a legitimate shot to pick up a big victory Saturday night.
Who will win the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol?
Busch's big brother, Kurt, is one of only three active drivers to win this race on five different occasions. He hasn't run consistently well this year, but he does have a win, and a second one would really vault him up the Chase standings.
Carl Edwards is a three-time winner at Bristol, with his most recent Bristol triumph coming earlier this year. The No. 99 team would be tied for the most wins this season with three if it is able to pull off the Bristol sweep.
Earnhardt Jr., Keselowski, Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are all entrenched in the Chase as winners this season. They have all won at Bristol at least once as well and are threats to do so again.
Perhaps the biggest sleeper threat Saturday night is Marcos Ambrose. He fell just short of winning at Watkins Glen a couple of weeks ago, but he has had some success at Bristol, with three top-five finishes in 11 tries.
If anyone off the radar is going to take this race, it will probably be him.
Few races have so many legitimate contenders, so picking a winner is tough. With that said, Kenseth is long overdue to enter Victory Lane, so look for him to finally end his lengthy drought.
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