Dustin' Off the Next Race: Food City 500 at Bristol

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Dustin' Off the Next Race:  Food City 500 at Bristol
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After having to wait two weeks for some NASCAR action, the sanctioning body makes the move to the most popular track on the circuit.

It may only be a half-mile in length, but the moments this track has brought the sport is several miles long. All the bumps, wrecks, and confrontations...it all means one track. To quote the driver of the No. 88, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, "It's Bristol, baby."

Call it whatever you want, Bristol, the "Bull Ring," or the ever popular "Thunder Valley." It all means that short-track racing is in season.

Judging by the action we all witnessed in Atlanta two weeks ago, it's only appropriate that the Sprint Cup Series makes it's first trip to Tennessee. What is going to be interesting is the actions that happen during the race and the reactions that happen afterwards. It will certainly be an interesting afternoon.

So now, let's dust off the Food City 500 and look at my picks for this Sunday's 500-lap event.

 

FAVORITES

Kyle Busch

I've got to stick with this guy for this race despite a horrible qualifying effort. Last year, this track was tied right around the hand of the No. 18 Toyota as Busch swept both races. He's got the momentum at this place.

But more importantly, that starting spot also means that Busch can put his aggressive driving to use. Starting 38th, he will find a way to get to the front. Sure, he may get under the skin of a few drivers, but that's to be expected because it's a short track. It's practically a rule to bump and slam other cars.

He may be in the back, but by the end of the day, Rowdy will be out front.

 

Kurt Busch

Now here's a guy with momentum on his side.

Coming off a victory in Atlanta, Kyle's older brother is riding high. His victory came in dominating fashion, much like last year, but it also was a huge boost for Penske Racing. In all the dealing with Brad Keselowski's incident, people got the chance to cheer for this organization at day's end.

Bristol has been an incredible track for Kurt, as he got his first-ever victory at this track. At the same time, he also felt the wrath of the fans after a victory, since he and fan-favorite Jimmy Spencer had a major run-in a week earlier.

But you cannot bet against the No. 2. He starts outside pole, and will definitely be out front for most of the afternoon.

 

Jeff Gordon

Here's a driver that years ago, much like the Busch boys, dominated this track. Although he only has four victories at Bristol, three of those wins came in this race.

Gordon and the entire DuPont team seem to bring a great package when the spring race comes on the schedule. This year already appears to be no different as he will start fifth.

Considering the hard luck he experienced in Las Vegas, this team needs a victory. Atlanta was a disaster for all the Hendrick cars, the entire organization is looking forward to getting back to the track.

Although not on everyone's radar, Gordon can still prove he can win at this track.  Look for a good run when the green flag flies.

 

SLEEPERS

 

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Theoretically, Junior can go in either category. A former winner at this track, he certainly knows how to get around this place.

At the same time, the last time he went to victory lane at Bristol was in 2004. But he's ran strong at this track each race. One win, seven top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes show this is one of his best tracks. So how can he not be a favorite?

Simply, he's in a rut. This team has been in a rut ever since Junior went to victory lane at Michigan two years ago. There's little momentum, and despite some bright spots, they cannot put together a complete race.

At this track, a complete race at the least means a lead-lap finish. He'll have to blister this track if he wants to win. Surely, he will be fun to watch.

 

Carl Edwards

Sure, he's a former winner, but Edwards has the wrong kind of momentum on his side. After his Atlanta incident, all eyes have been squarely on him regarding his wreck of Brad Keselowski.

Edwards has won at Bristol, but that also had some controversy after the checkered flag flew. Kyle Busch put him in the wall on the cool-down lap, but then Edwards decided to spin him out.

Talk about making an impact, but Edwards needs a different kind of impact on Sunday.

 

There was no shortage of headlines coming into Bristol, and it's a guarantee that more will come after the finish.

We won't know for sure until 1 p.m. Sunday when the green flag flies on FOX for the Food City 500.

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