NASCAR heads for Bristol for the second short track race of the season.

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This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Thunder Valley at Bristol Motor Speedway. This is the first of Bristol's two races in 2019. This track is one of the hottest tickets in NASCAR and it has some of the highest banking on the schedule. For a track the size of Bristol, the banking makes for some of the best racing all season. The term "the Bristol stomp" may have originated as a popular dance craze from the song by The Dovells back in the 60's but here it is a reality. While there is limited space to pass, the best way to get around someone here would be to knock them out of the way. This has been a way of life for this track ever since its inception into the NASCAR schedule all the way back in 1961 and this week should be no different.

Last week, Denny Hamlin was able to hang on and claim his second win of 2019 at Texas Motor Speedway. The race had many intriguing moments all throughout the day. Overall, there were 26 lead changes. This comes as a breath of fresh air seeing how critical many fans and drivers have been of this 21 year old track over the last few years. One of the main headlines of this race was the apparent resurgence of seven time champion Jimmie Johnson. After winning the pole on Friday, he went on to lead 60 laps and claim a fifth place finish. While it wasn't a win this team seems to be on the verge of finding their rhythm especially with Dover (Johnson's best track) coming in the not too distant future.

On Thursday, It was announced that longtime Broadcaster and NASCAR Hall of fame member Darrell Waltrip will call it a career when Fox ends it's coverage of NASCAR in June. This was first reported on by polarizing journalist Jenna Fryer. She wrote an article earlier this week talking about how a change will benefit the coverage that Fox puts out. Some of the terms she used to describe Waltrip's commentary were "stale." She also took issue with him talking too much about the "good ole days." of when he raced as well. This article did not sit well with most of NASCAR's community. Drivers like Kenny Wallace called her article "degrading" to the NASCAR legend. In the grand scheme of things, DW is an icon to this sport. He blazed the trail for a lot of drivers to go into broadcasting after their careers were over, and if there has been one thing that doesn't go over well with the NASCAR faithful, it's to be critical of one of the sport's heroes. At the end of the day, While it may have not been Fryer's intent to "degrade" Waltrip, I think overall she could have used better verbiage to describe Waltrip's commentary style. When all is said in done though, this sport would not be what it is today without DW's contributions on and off the track. I for one will miss hearing him in the booth in 2020 and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.

The driver to watch this weekend at Bristol has to be Kyle Larson. Over his career, Larson's results here have been up in down but every time we have seen him run at this track, he has always been a contender to win. I see him finally breaking through this week and conquering this track that has been so difficult on him in the past. If he is to win, this would come at the best time possible considering this has been a seemingly difficult track for the young driver. Look for Larson to take his Camaro to victory lane.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR at Bristol preview

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This week NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night race. With the playoffs approaching this is definitely one of the wildcard races that can truly make or break a driver's chances of getting into the playoffs. Nicknamed the last great colosseum, Bristol Motor speedway is one of NASCAR's most iconic race tracks on the schedule as it's close quarters racing has always been a big hit among fans. The track is an half-mile oval with 22 degrees of banking like you would see at a much bigger racetrack. While the track has been widened over the years, it is still common practice to see drivers use their bumpers to knock someone out of the way. It should be must-see TV come Saturday night.

Last week, Kevin Harvick was able to rebound after a flat tire and win Michigan. This was the second time in two years that Harvick was able to win Michigan's fall race as he was able to save just enough fuel to get his Mobile one Mustang to victory lane. The race was fairly tame compared to what we have seen over the past two months but it was still a fairly intriguing event. Like we usually see at this track, fuel strategy was the deciding factor in who finished were. In the closing laps, both Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano ran out of fuel as they ran second and third eliminating them from victory. Some of the good stories we saw out of last week's race was how great of a run Ryan Preece had as he was able to claim an impressive seventh place finish. This is the rookie's third top ten of the season as he was able to drive all the way up from 29th to finish where he did. Overall, this has been a difficult season for him but if he can continue to improve like he did last week at Michigan, he should have a bright future in this sport.

It appears as if NASCAR's famed "silly season" is upon as drivers look to secure a ride for next year. The first domino to fall is Matt DiBendetto as it was announced that he will not be returning to the #95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he has done in this car. This season he has four top 10 finishes and two top fives and was definitely gaining ground so it is sad to see a good driver lose his ride. The driver that will move up and take his place appears to be rookie driver Christopher Bell. While he has remained quiet about what he will be doing next season, it would be safe to assume that he will be next in line to drive this car considering car owner Bob Leavine's relationship with Joe Gibbs. As much as I hate to see Matt lost his place, I think that it is a far cry to say Bell doesn't deserve to be Cup racing. This young driver has been lighting it up in the Xfinity series and I think he will translate well in 2020. As far as it goes for DiBenedetto, he isn't without options. With Toyota's newest crop of young drivers such as Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliand being a few years from being ready to be in the cup series, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Matt to scale down into the Xfinity series for a year or two driving for Gibbs. I think this could help his career as here he will be able to compete for a championship besides you never know what other opportunities could arise in the not to distant future.

Coming into Bristol, the driver that I have winning is Kyle Larson. In interviews and on social media, Larson has called this track his favorite and it makes a lot of sense considering how good his results have been. Larson currently has an average finish here of 7.50, the third highest amongst active drivers.This track almost perfectly complements his driving style considering the best line to run around here is the outside and if you have watched him race, you can tell that's his preferred line. This track also being a short-track really plays a lot into why he has been so good here as well considering he has been racing at tracks just like them around the country when he races his dirt car. Over the years, he has always been close here but this week I think he gets it done and gets his first win of 2019.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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