The drivers hit the track at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday for the short track race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The drivers were getting back to beating and banging for the first of two short tracks in a row.
Check out the winners and losers of the Food City 500:
There is not much more to say about Jimmie Johnson than has already been said. Johnson ran in the top 10 for most of the day and was one of the three best cars on track at BMS. Johnson took advantage of the dominating car all day in Kurt Busch on the last restart.
Johnson collected win No. 50 on Sunday and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Now we head to Martinsville and a track where Johnson dominates every time they hit the track. Johnson leads the series with a driver rating of 125.5.
Johnson knows this track like the back of his hand, with an average finish of 2.5, Johnson rarely runs outside the top five. Since 2005, Johnson has not finished worse than eighth.
If you are going to win at Martinsville, you have to beat Johnson.
With all the talk that was surrounding Brad Keselowski this week he came to the track on Sunday and showed just why he is in the NSCS. It was not pretty early and actually they played the pit strategy all day long. Keselowski though ran a smart race and kept his car clean all day long.
His car was good enough to run in the top 10 on old tires. They finished 13th but this was an impressive run by this team especially after how the season has started. Sunday when they head to Martinsville, they are hoping to continue this momentum.
Keselowski has never raced at this track in the NSCS so Sunday represents another first for him. BMS and Martinsville are two very different race tracks. He will have to really conserve his brakes and not make mistakes on pit road.
I expect Keselowski to be up front once again on Sunday, he may not win but he will be in the mix.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
I was debating on this one pick. There were a few drivers who could have taken this place, but Dale Earnhardt, Jr. deserved this. After the season he had 2009, Earnhardt has come out of the gate focused and ready to contend.
He had a great car on Sunday and made his way into the top 10 early and soon was racing in the top five. He had a car capable of winning on Sunday and that makes his penalty for speeding on pit road all the more frustrating. Unlike last year, Earnhardt and his team rallied to finish a strong seventh place.
Sunday will be a different story for Earnhardt. He has not found the same success in the past that his teammates have but that does not say he won’t win on Sunday. Earnhardt worse finish was last season in the fall of 29th and his best was second in 2008.
Earnhardt has a different type of confidence this season, something we have not seen before. He knows coming to the track each week he is more than capable of winning, something we have not seen since he came to Hendrick Motorsports.
On Sunday prior to halfway the car that was coming to the front was Johnson’s teammate, Mark Martin. He qualified outside the top 10 but it did not take long for him to find his way to the top 10 and soon the top five.
On lap 342, Greg Biffle who was having radio problems did not see Martin coming and forced Martin into the wall. Martin cut a tire and then came down in front of teammate Jeff Gordon and included 13 cars total.
Martin ended up finishing 35th and dropping in the standings, not the day he expected. Martin has had a very good start to the season and I do not expect Sunday’s results to slow him down at Martinsville Speedway.
In comparison his numbers are not as good as Johnson’s but Martin’s results are mixed with an average finish of 14.8. Martin should be up front on Sunday and be right up front when it matters.
Not the start to the season that Denny Hamlin was looking for in 2010. Many tagged Hamlin as the driver to challenge Johnson this season for the title. Early on the team has had their share of tire issues plus they have struggled finding the speed throughout the weekend.
Hamlin on Sunday was running mid-pack when on lap 115 he hit the wall in turn two. The team hit pit road to make repairs and were a lap down. On lap 200, they got the free pass but they were never able to be a factor. He finished 19th.
I expect this weekend for Hamlin to rebound at Martinsville. Hamlin has won two of the last four races at the track, including last fall’s race. His driver rating at the track since 2005 is 109.1, Hamlin to some is considered the next Mr. Martinsville.
He has a lot of work to do after four races this season, his average finish 21.0. If he wants people to consider his a serious contender the results need to reflect that.
The results on Sunday do not tell the entire story in fact it barely scratches the surface. Ambrose had a good car on Sunday. Many had picked Ambrose as the dark horse to win at BMS. He was running in the top 10 but got caught speeding on pit road twice.
His day turned for the worse when Martin and Biffle made contact. Ambrose got the brunt of the damage and went behind the wall to make repairs. He had a fast car on Sunday and was proving that by how well he worked traffic.
Martinsville has not been kind to Ambrose in his first and only two starts last season. He has an average finish of 20.5. I believe that Sunday we will see Ambrose running up front he has shown flashes this season of being a weekly contender.
If there is a driver to watch on Sunday, Ambrose would be it.
Sunday’s race says nothing about how this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway will be. Who we saw last Sunday running up front, will not be the same drivers we see this week.
My first dark horse picks for this week’s race is not really a dark horse. Jeff Gordon was Mr. Martinsville prior to Johnson’s current run. Gordon has 34 career starts at Martinsville and with seven victories, 22 top-fives, 28 top-10s, and 6.8 average finish.
If Johnson is the man to beat on Sunday, Gordon will be right there with him.
My second dark horse has shown in the last year that he will be a contender for race wins. Juan Pablo Montoya. The drivers say that Martinsville is like a mini road course. You have to take care of your brakes.
Montoya has shown he can run up front, with an average finish of 11.0. Montoya needs to qualify well so that he does not spend the entire race trying to get to the front and saving his brakes.
Weather could be a factor this weekend once again. With rain expected at the track Friday morning that could impact practice for qualifying and qualifying all together. Saturday will be the best day for on track activities.
Sunday could be a different story with growing chances for showers in the afternoon, teams could be racing to halfway on Sunday.
The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 is Sunday, March 28, on FOX at noon EDT.