For all those with scores to settle, this weekend might provide the perfect opportunity to do so.
The Bristol Motor Speedway will play host to the 24th race of the 2010 season when the green flag falls on Saturday night. The Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol will also leave just three races before the Chase begins and there is plenty to watch entering the night when 43 machines hit the high banks.
Will Jimmie Johnson be able to sweep the events at Bristol for 2010? In March Johnson finally knocked the bullring off his bucket list but has been win less since June, leaving him in a tie with Denny Hamlin for bonus points. Johnson has also started to backslide through the point standings and desperately needs to regain momentum if he wants to defend his Sprint Cup championships.
There are also drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart who many are finding it hard to believe are still win less this year. While almost doesn’t count, each driver has had the potential to go to victory lane, but hasn’t knocked the door down.
On Saturday they’ll return to a track that they’ve won at before and might not hold back from knocking others out of the way.
Point leader Kevin Harvick will come to Bristol with nothing on his mind but winning. That comes from locking up his spot in the 2010 Chase thanks to his third win of the season last weekend in Michigan. The Shell/Pennzoil team has momentum on their side, but they need a few more wins in order to keep their top seed when the Chase begins.
On the other end of the spectrum, drivers on the Chase bubble will need to somehow manage to keep their noses clean in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer have traded the 12th and final position over the last few weeks as each tries to outrun the other.
Behind Martin come Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray who have both won races this season but haven’t been able to find the consistency they need. Both time and mathematics are running out for these drivers and Bristol won’t be easy on their Chase chances.
Our Creatures don’t have to worry about qualifying for the Chase, they’ll all make it, but now it comes down to crunch time. With the drivers being reseeded when the Chase starts, as will our Creatures, meaning they need to pick a driver over the next three weeks that can earn them bonus points.
Here’s whom they believe will accomplish the feat in Bristol.
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
This week I’m going with Jamie McMurray. Jamie Mac has been good at Bristol with an average finish of 19.27, one top five, five top 10s, but only eight laps led. He ran third late in the race in March, but a late caution and bad pit stop put him in 11th. He was able to rally to finish eighth though. McMurray is only 105 points out of 12th with three races reaming. His chances very much alive and needs to gain 27 points on Clint Bowyer a race if he wants in. His third win of 2010 win would help that effort.
Kyle Brandt: Kyle Busch
He has two wins and an average finish of sixth at Bristol since 2008. Winning the truck race on Wednesday night doesn't hurt either!
James Broomhead: Kyle Busch
Can't really explain this - call it a 'something in my water' pick. Kyle's not had a stellar year (though he's picked up a few wins) but he's still one of the drivers you have to consider for a win just about every single week, and Bristol is a good a place as any for him to add another win and ten points to his post-chase tally. One step further towards the title he must feel NASCAR owes him from 2008.
Kelly Crandall: Denny Hamlin
Both Busch brothers will be favorites and with good reason, but Hamlin has also come close at this racetrack. He finished second last weekend in Michigan and might be regaining his momentum. Throw in the fact that I just don't have good luck with picks lately, why not go out on a limb.
Billy Fellin: Greg Biffle
Roush Fenway has been absolutely tearing it up lately. Biffle won two weeks ago and then the team finishes with all four cars in the top 10 at Michigan. Biffle has done well at Bristol in the past, so I like the 16 to keep up the momentum this week.
Christopher Leone: Kyle Busch
Bristol is one of Busch’s best tracks, and its tendency to produce interesting and exciting on-track action makes it a perfect fit for him. His 10.1 average finish trumps all other active drivers. Besides this spring’s aberration, Busch hadn’t failed to lead in a Bristol race since his 2005 rookie season. He has three wins at the track, and top-two finishes in three of the past four Bristol events. He’s my pick.
Kara Martin: Carl Edwards
While I am guessing the obvious choice would be to pick Kyle Busch since he swept Bristol in 2009, I am going with Carl Edwards instead.
Last week Edwards moved up three positions in the Sprint Cup standings and has practically sealed his fate as a Chase driver without a single win this year. While that might look good on paper, Edwards is the kind of driver that enjoys the win and as we well know, will do just about anything to get it.
A Sprint Cup back-flip is long overdue!
Dustin Parks: Kyle Busch
There is quite possibly no better combination for Rowdy to get to victory lane. Think about it, the last few weeks Busch has been really aggravated with his car, and at some points his team. Who can forget when at Watkins Glen when some of the lead in the car came loose, and then he keys the radio saying, "You guys should be ashamed of yourselves."
If there was ever a track where an angry driver can take out his aggression, Bristol is that track. Let's not forget, this is a great track for him. He has three wins here, including sweeping last year's races. Combine that with five top-fives and eight top-10s, he has a strong chance of getting to victory lane.
At the very least, he will be all up on the wheel on the way to the front. I have to go with the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota.
Patti Rodisch: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Sal Sigala Jr.: Kurt Busch
With five wins at this high speed half mile, Kurt almost grabbed win No. 6 earlier in the season when he finished third behind Tony Stewart, and first time race winner Jimmie Johnson.
Rob Tiongson: Kyle Busch
Nobody's made the concrete bullring known as Bristol look so effortless in recent times like Rowdy, who just might bag his third Cup win at this facility on Saturday night. Needing a win to truly solidify his spot in the Chase, I look for the No. 18 M&M's Toyota team to take it to the house and dominate.
Alan Wade: Kurt Busch
No strategy, no stats—just the first name that popped into my head.
Kara Martin (3,200) Jeff Gordon finished 27th (2)
Billy Fellin (3,148) Jeff Gordon finished 27th (3)
Christopher Leone (3,129) Carl Edwards finished third (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (3,053) Jeff Gordon finished 27th (2)
Dustin Parks (3,033) Carl Edwards finished third (2)
James Broomhead (3,015) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (2)
Rob Tiongson (2,930) Jeff Gordon finished 27th (0)
Misan Akuya (2,928) Tony Stewart finished sixth (1)
Kelly Crandall (2,869) Kurt Busch finished 40th (2)
Patti Rodisch (2,635) Jeff Gordon finished 27th (0)
Alan Wade (1,429) Carl Edwards finished third (1)
Kyle Brandt (732) Carl Edwards finished third (1)
Bristol is about survival and with much on the line Saturday, many will be looking to survive. If the Camping World Truck Series race that was held on Wednesday was any indication, Saturday night could be filled with cautions and tempers.