NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series continues this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, where points leader Jimmie Johnson and reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski will go head-to-head with 41 other drivers on the fast and furious half-mile track.
Bristol gives credence to the saying "rubbing is racing." One of the most unpredictable and exciting tracks on the NASCAR circuit, the Food City 500 at Bristol will offer drama around every turn. Only two things are guaranteed this weekend: tons of contact and plenty of bad blood.
Here, we'll get you set for Sunday's much-anticipated Sprint Cup Series showdown in Bristol.
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.
When: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Start Time: 1 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: RaceView (paid subscription required)
Contenders to Watch For
Denny Hamlin, Toyota
Denny Hamlin won the most recent Sprint Cup race at Bristol last August. He led for 70 laps after starting eighth. That said, he will have high expectations this weekend considering he's starting third, right behind pole-sitter Kyle Bush.
Hamlin is due for some good luck this weekend after failing to win the past two weeks despite starting inside the top 10 in each race.
Although luck is nothing to bank on, most of the time it's a requirement in order to take the checkered flag at Bristol, where dents and scratches are a given and track position is earned. Hamlin has proven he can tame the concrete track in the past, so don't be surprised if he emerges as a contender late on Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
Junior has been flying under the radar this year, but that doesn't mean he isn't having success.
Earnhardt hasn't won yet, but he's been right in the mix, having posted three top-10 finishes in three races, including two top-five finishes at Daytona and Phoenix. Although he's been known to shine on restrictor plate tracks like Daytona and Talladega, he's no doubt a threat on the aggressive half-mile speedway.
Earnhardt will be at a disadvantage on Sunday, however, as he'll start alongside Ryan Newman in Row 16, 31 spots back of the leader.
But if his past performances this season have taught us anything, it's that he can't be counted out.
Brad Keselowski, Ford
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski won this race a year ago, leading 232 of the 500 laps en route to his first win of what turned out to be a championship campaign.
The 29-year-old is already off to a strong start in 2013, having finished inside the top five at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas over the past three weeks.
He'll start seventh on Sunday at Bristol, meaning it's likely only a matter of when, not if, he'll make his push to the front.
Keselowki may be a champion, but he's still improving, if you can believe it. He posted five wins and 13 top-five finishes in 2012 after recording three and 10 in 2011, respectively. Now, he's on pace to surpass those marks with three top-five finishes already heading into Sunday.
Starting Grid (via USA Today's Nate Ryan)
|1||Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne|
|2||Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers|
|3||Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray|
|4||Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart|
|5||Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano|
|6||Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth|
|7||Jimmie Johnson, David Gilliland|
|8||Casey Mears, Jeff Burton|
|9||Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick|
|10||Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola|
|11||Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose|
|12||Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle|
|13||David Reutimann, David Stremme|
|14||Scott Speed, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|15||AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan|
|16||Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|17||Dave Blaney, Michael McDowell|
|18||J.J. Yeley, Mike Bliss|
|19||Travis Kvapil, Joe Nemechek|
|20||Bobby Labonte, Josh Wise|
|21||Danica Patrick, Landon Cassill|
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