NASCAR: 5 Surprising Predictions for the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol
Bristol Motor Speedway is known as the roughest and toughest track in NASCAR, so it's appropriate that a driver whose nickname is "Rowdy" has won four of the last five Bristol Cup events.
Drivers make it around the World's Fastest Half Mile in about 15 seconds or less, and the banking at the .533-mile oval is 26 to 30 degrees banking in the turns. The frontstretch and the backstretch are a mere 650 feet long, leaving little to no time for drivers to react to events ahead of them on the race track.
Needless to say, tempers often flare on and off the track at Bristol, as we saw in the truck race Wednesday night. Bristol races often shake up the standings in the aftermath of carnage on the track, and I think we can expect to see some of that on Saturday night.
Will Kyle Busch continue his Bristol dominance? How will the race affect the Chase standings? Read on to find out.
Kyle Busch Will Not Win but Will Get into a Fight with Someone
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Kyle Busch has been nothing short of spectacular at Bristol during the last five races.
The only driver even close to his 125.2 driver rating during that time is Jimmie Johnson, with an average rating of 120.1. Busch has seven Top 2 finishes in his last 10 Bristol starts, including wins in four of the last five events.
Don't expect to see him start up front, however, because he's never qualified better than ninth in 13 attempts.
I think Busch's relatively poor qualifying will catch up to him at Bristol on Saturday night. Bush is an aggressive driver with nothing to lose in the three races leading up to the Chase. He's already locked into the field, and the only advantage he can gain is by winning additional races.
I think a wreck will end Busch's night early at Bristol, leaving him fuming and, quite possibly, fighting it out with a Harvick or a Montoya before all is said and done.
Brad Keselowski Will Get More Coverage for His Danica Tweet Than His Race Result
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Following Danica Patrick's announcement yesterday that she's moving to NASCAR full-time in 2012, Brad Keselowski had some controversial tweets about the GoDaddy.com driver.
Keselowski stated that Patrick's "assent up the ladder of the sport thru various branding 'techniques' (swimsuit ads etc) only serves to undermine the...future credibility of female races who wish to make it based on skill, mental toughness and a never give up attitude. That to me is wrong. Essentially, she has opened a pandoras box for all female racers. If she doesn't succeed, no female will get the chance for years to come."
Wow. This is a guy in the middle of his best stretch ever in Cup competition, but he just had to give his opinion on the IndyCar star's move to NASCAR. Not sure that was the best decision at this point.
There Will Be a First-Time Bristol Winner
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Kyle Busch may have dominated Bristol lately, but don't be surprised if there is a new winner in victory lane on Saturday night.
Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer are top candidates to earn their first career Bristol win. Three of the four are challenging for a Chase spot, while Newman would love to gain bonus points to help him in the Chase.
Newman and Biffle are both in the midst of hot streaks at Bristol. Newman has five Top 10s in his last six Bristol races and led 26 laps there earlier this year, while Biffle has scored four straight Top 8 finishes and has led 154 circuits during that time.
Hamlin and Bowyer are fighting it out for the second wild card spot, and each of them would love nothing better than to score a win this weekend. Neither driver is dominant at Bristol, but Bowyer does have three Top 4 finishes in 11 starts. Hamlin is fully capable of challenging for the win as well because he had four straight Top 6 finishes from 2008–2009 and once led 177 laps in a single Bristol race.
Tony Stewart May Drop out of the Top 10 as Bowyer Moves Up
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Tony Stewart is currently just 24 points ahead of 11th place Clint Bowyer. That lead is down from 42 points just two races ago.
Bristol could see that lead shrink further still. Stewart is not great at Bristol with just eight Top 10 finishes in 25 starts. He's finished 17th or worse in four of the past five Bristol races, and his career average finish of 17.0 is his worst at any track.
Bowyer, meanwhile, has five Top 10s in his last ten Bristol races. He does have two finishes of 35th or worse in that time, but those were both due to engine problems and not driver mistakes.
Don't be shocked to see Stewart's lead against Bowyer drop to single digits or evaporate entirely after the race at Bristol on Saturday night.
Joey Logano Will Score a Top 10
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In five Bristol Cup races, Joey Logano has zero Top 10s and has led just two laps at the track.
However, after finishing 38th in his first Cup race at Bristol, Logano has improved his finishing position in every start he's made there since until his last race, when his finish slipped from 18th to 23nd.
There is an additional reason for Logano to feel hopeful about his chances for a top finish: His qualifying at Bristol has been exceptional, with three starts inside the top eight, including a pole in the spring 2010 race.
So far, he hasn't been able to translate good starting position into a good finish above 500 laps of door-to-door action, but Logano has shown increased maturity on the racetrack as his career progresses. If he qualifies well, I think Logano will finally put it together at Bristol, staying out of trouble and coming home with a Top 10 finish.