Food City 500

NASCAR preview: Cup series heads to Bristol

Kyle Busch is a monster at Bristol. Kylebusch.com

The Monster Energy Cup series heads for thunder valley at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. When you ask a lot of people who are not familiar with the sport what tracks they have heard of, usually they name three: Daytona, Talladega and Bristol.

This is the mecca of all short tracks in this country. When you ask most drivers who race on the short tracks in the southeastern part of the country what race tracks they hope to make it to, Bristol is usually the first place they mention. This track is a 0.533 mile coliseum. There are 162,000 seats that surround the speedway, making it the fourth largest sporting venues in America and eighth in all of the world.

In 2007, Bruton Smith decided to widen the track from one lane to three. This was NOT well received by many of NASCAR’s old guard. Personally, I thought the product the new Bristol provided was fantastic. It provided more side-by-side racing, passing and closer finishes. What upset a lot of the “fans” of old Bristol was the decrease of wrecks and drama that came with it. Due to the criticism, Bruton Smith decided to make it a two lane race track instead with the outside line being the optimal place to pass. This move has been met with acclaim seeing how the track usually draws the biggest crowds on all of the circuit.

There is a very strong chance that this race will be rained out. There is a one hundred percent chance of rain on Sunday around when the race starts at 1 p.m. More than likely the race will be run Monday afternoon. (Pro tip for anyone that will attempt to watch the race at work: if you are going to do it make sure it’s on your phone and not on the TV in the office; believe me it’s not a good idea.) The favorite going into this race has to be of course Kyle Busch.

Last week Busch was able to claim his first victory of the season at Texas Motor Speedway and he is going to a track he has dominated over his career. He has won here six times including last year in the fall race and has led 2,115 laps.

Even though he has been almost unbeatable in the fall night race, it has been a different story for the spring race. For the past five seasons he has either not raced due to injury or has cut down a tire. You would have to go all the way back to 2013 to find when Busch had a top five here in April when he finished second to Kasey Kahne.

This string of bad luck will not follow him this week, as Busch will break out of his funk and have a good finish. The driver I predict will win is Erik Jones. Bristol is a special place for Jones; he made his debut in 2015, substituting for Denny Hamlin, who was suffering from spasms that flared up during a rain delay. It was here when the 18-year-old phenom was given the chance of a lifetime. He went on to a 26th place finish, and was tapped to substitute for Kyle Busch ,who was recovering from injuries and Matt Kenseth who was suspended later that year.

Last year after more time in the Xfinty Series he was moved up to full time in the 77 car for Furniture Row racing. The defining moment of his rookie season was last year’s fall race at Bristol. He led a race high 260 laps but was not able to fend off Busch.

Regardless, he went on to finish second for his best effort in the cup series. This year I think he will break through. This track caters to his driving style seeing how he cut his teeth on dirt.

This track is maybe the closest thing to a dirt track in NASCAR. My darkhorse driver this week is Trevor Bayne. The 2018 circuit has been a season to forget for the 2011 Daytona 500 champion but I think he gets back into the right direction. Bristol Motor Speedway is his home track. Bayne also has the third highest average finish here since 2016, so I see no reason why this won’t continue in 2018.

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