With four races in the books, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Bristol Motor Speedway for this weekend’s Food City 500. Kurt Busch will attempt to follow up his win at Atlanta two weeks ago by winning this race for the fifth time.
Hope everybody’s all rested up after the off weekend, but it’s high time that we get into the swing of things and kick this season into full gear. This will be the last race that 2009 owner’s points determine the cars locked into the starting field for this season, so expect some backmarkers to try and push towards the front.
My pick for the weekend stays in the Busch family—I’m picking Kyle to win. Easy, I know. But in his last three Bristol starts, he has accumulated an average finish of 1.3 while leading 861 of a possible 1,503 laps. That’s over 57 percent of his past three Bristol starts. Also keep in mind that Rowdy has led a lap in every Bristol race dating back to the spring of 2006, and has led in double digits in five of those eight events.
My dark horse for the week has to be Marcos Ambrose. Still looking for his first top 10 of the season, mired at 28th in points due to DNFs at Daytona and California, Ambrose has finishes of 10th and third at Bristol in Cup cars. Bristol is known as a track of heavy beating and banging, as are the V8 Supercars that Ambrose drove in Australia before coming stateside.
Three more, as per tradition:
Kurt Busch. I’ve discovered over the years that a solid projection of a driver’s skill at any one track is the amount of top-10s he accumulates. If, over a career of decent length, he finishes in the top 10 about half the time, he is usually judged as a star at that given track. That would be Busch at Bristol… oh, and the five career wins there help too.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been decent at Bristol since joining Hendrick Motorsports, though it was mostly his work with Dale Earnhardt Inc. that currently gives him the sixth best average finish at Bristol of all active drivers. He’s also been fast for much of the year, with an average start of 8.5. Qualifying up front at such a small track gives drivers an inherent advantage, not only because leaders can catch lapped traffic quickly, but also because of their better pit selection—though that mattered more when Bristol separated its backstretch pits from its frontstretch ones.
Finally, let’s not forget that Kevin Harvick has a strong Bristol record. While he only has one win, the current series points leader has 11 top-10s in 18 career starts. Happy’s also in the best equipment he’s had in years, and there’s no reason to expect things to drop off now.