If you ask NASCAR fans what track they want to visit the most, a strong majority are going to say "Thunder Valley." A few others may say the "Bull Ring," while others may say the "World's Fastest Half-Mile."
Whatever name this track goes by, one name says it all—Bristol.
This 0.533-mile oval has brought about the best, and sometimes worst, in NASCAR. Drivers beat on sheet metal, then sometimes on other drivers. Heated exchanges in the garage go right along with the cooling champagne shower in victory lane.
Without question, this is the favorite track of the fans. When Bristol goes under the lights, the tempers go up. Saturday night will surely be interesting.
So, with that said, allow me to dust off who I will be keeping my eye on in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol.
There is no better track than Bristol for a driver that is always up on the wheel. Considering how "Rowdy" has not been to victory lane since Richmond earlier this year, there is no better timing for this race.
Let's not forget, he did sweep this track last season, and also won the first race in this style car back in 2007. However, both those races were with the wing. I do not expect the spoiler to play a factor in handling, as this track is not about aerodynamics.
An average finish of 10.1 means that Busch will be hard to beat. Couple that with his winless-drought in the Sprint Cup Series, he is going to be hungry.
Look out for the Doublemint Gum Toyota.
I really do not know if I'm putting Gordon in this category because I hope he gets a victory, or out of sympathy. Then again, this track has been great to Gordon in the past.
He has five wins at this track, but his most recent came back in 2002 after a bump-and-run on Rusty Wallace. However, couple that with 14 top-five's and 20 top-10's, and you have a strong contender.
This streak of running near the front and having a disappointing finish must be getting old. With his new son looking on, Gordon is ready to get a win.
The No. 24 will be good, and for once I believe if he takes the checkered flag, he will show as much emotion as he did when he won his first race.
This week, both Busch brothers are in this category, but of the two I believe the No. 2 Dodge will have the advantage.
With five wins already at this track, it is safe to say Kurt owns the joint. But, it can also be credited to the car. Penske and that No. 2 have always done exceptionally well at Bristol, whether it was Kurt or Rusty behind the wheel.
Five wins, six top-five's, and 11 top-10's are excellent statistics. There is no question that this team is made to win at this track.
The Miller Lite Vortex Dodge is going to be tough, no doubt about it.
He may have the nickname "Cousin Carl," but I don't expect that persona to come out at this track. This time, you all can expect an aggressive Edwards to make his way around the track.
He already has two wins, with his last coming in this race in 2008. That race was highlighted with a confrontation with Kyle Busch where it was the No. 18 car going for a spin after the checkered flag.
Will something similar happen this year?
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I believe there will be a lot of people questioning this pick, but statistics do not lie. This is Junior's best track outside of Daytona and Talladega.
He won this race back in 2004, and has seven top-five's and 12 top-10's. Let's be honest—Junior is very good here.
Will he win? That's a tough call, but he can be competitive. Watch out for the Amp Energy Chevrolet, he could be the ultimate sleeper.
This track is going to bring out the best and worst in every driver. That is the reason Bristol is the most popular stop on the circuit by the fans. It will be a fun race to watch, that is for sure.
Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown on ESPN. Race coverage will then switch over to ABC an hour later with Marty Reid, Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett calling the action.
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