NASCAR at Bristol: Jeff Gordon and Five Drivers to Watch Tomorrow
Ah, Bristol. One of the most exciting racetracks on the Sprint Cup Series schedule has also been one of the most difficult thus far, as extreme right side tire wear forced Goodyear to throw teams a curveball with new tires.
But you know that drivers still love the tracks, fans still love it, and every driver that made the race is going to be gunning extra hard for a victory. Whether it's one of the three drivers who have won races already this year or one of the 40 that haven't, expect a hell of a battle for Bristol honors.
We've got six drivers for you that have a shot at taking the top spot tomorrow, and we'll go through them based on starting order. Ready?
Starting 24th: Jamie McMurray
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Jamie Mac got to do something pretty cool on Wednesday, when he swapped rides with fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver and two-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. Dixon took the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet to the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway, while McMurray ran the No. 9 Target Dallara-Honda on the narrow Barber Motorsports Park road course.
You have to wonder if driving that different type of car will give McMurray any new strategies for how to wheel the stock car around Bristol, which shares the narrowness with Barber if little else.
Starting 12th: Kyle Busch
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I'm on the record saying that Rowdy is my pick for this weekend. This picture explains half of it. The other half comes from his victory as an owner in the Camping World Truck Series race at Darlington last weekend, as Kasey Kahne took his third victory in four career series starts.
In other words, Busch is going to come back angry after a bad spin on the hometown Vegas roulette wheel, and after taking that win last week, you know he's hungry for more. A lot more.
Starting 7th: Jeff Gordon
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I don't think he's doing so with that walkie-talkie, but Gordon's been embracing Twitter this season through his website's account @JeffGordonWeb, and that ability to engage with the fans just might be motivating him. When he won the second race of the year at Phoenix, he specifically mentioned it - there aren't a lot of folks that do that when they win, really.
We'll see what Gordon can do at Bristol - can he win his first race there since the fall of 2002?
Starting 6th: Jimmie Johnson
What a fun couple of weeks it's been for Johnson. If you thought Jeff Gordon sharing a Twitter handle with his PR folks was interesting, just look at the fiasco JJ and his representative, Kristine Curley, have had with @DoubleJ48.
Johnson decided to start tweeting at Vegas, right after teammate Gordon won at Phoenix, and soon took over the account bearing his name. Then they tried to get him his own name, managing to lose the @DoubleJ48 handle in the process (Jimmie now tweets at @JimmieJohnson, Kristine at @KristineC48).
To add to the fun, Johnson and ex-teammate Brian Vickers will be picking each other's introductory songs tomorrow. Look for something appropriately humiliating for both drivers.
Starting 2nd: Greg Biffle
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Da Biff is 32nd in points. It's been a rough year thus far. And since we don't know how this new points system, with one-point gaps on everything instead of three, is really going to play out yet, we have no idea just how far back he really is yet. Will a strong Bristol finish propel Biffle up the standings, or will this weekend be more of the same tough luck for the No. 16 team?
Starting 1st: Carl Edwards
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Have you looked at Cousin Carl's finishes lately? Dude's on a tear. He's always been a feast-or-famine driver (nine wins in 2008; a couple of winless gaps that have spanned multiple seasons), but right now he's in a hell of a feast. In the past five races, he's had shots to win all five. He's won three. Trevor Bayne beat him to the line at Daytona, and he got wrecked at Phoenix, but other than that, he's been simply en fuego.
The guy who wins the season finale from the previous year is always a trendy pick to challenge Jimmie Johnson for the title - look at Denny Hamlin, the 2009 Homestead winner, and his performance last year - but if Edwards keeps this torrid pace up, it won't even be a contest.