The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves from the West Coast to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500.
The half-mile short racetrack in Thunder Valley provides race fans with some of the most exciting racing of the year. The battle for the victory almost always comes down to the last lap.
Bristol is a tricky racetrack for drivers. Most drivers are either very good or very bad at Bristol. A driver’s ability to get around the short racetrack has a lot to do with the driver’s background. Drivers who grew up racing on short tracks usually perform well.
This week the top 10 finishers in the Food City 500 will be made up of drivers who have had a lot of success at Bristol and some surprises.
Here are my predictions for the top 10 finishers at Bristol.
10. Kurt Busch
Picking the favorites to finish in the top 10 is easy. Picking a driver who has a best finish of No. 20 this season to finish in the top 10 this week is not easy.
In his career at Bristol, Kurt Busch has five wins, six top-five finishes, 13 top-10 finishes and one pole. He had a streak of four top-10 finishes at the racetrack from 2009-2011.
Busch will give Furniture Row Racing their first top 10 of the season this week at Bristol.
Busch’s odds of winning on Sunday are 75/1.
9. Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin won the last race at Bristol, but I do not see a repeat trip to victory lane this week.
In his career at Bristol, Hamlin has one win, four top-five finishes and seven top-10 finishes. He has the eighth-best driver rating of 89.8, his 337 fastest laps are fifth-best and his average green flag speed of 114.335 mph is eighth-fastest in the series.
Hamlin will just finish inside the top 10, which will be a disappointing day for a team with its sights set on a championship in 2013.
Hamlin’s odds of winning on Sunday are 7/1.
8. Joey Logano
Joey Logano is another surprise pick to finish in the top-10 this week at Bristol.
In the last race at Bristol, Logano finished No. 8. He should be better this year now that he is driving for Penske Racing. Bristol has always been one of Penske Racing’s best racetracks.
In his career at Bristol, Logano has one top-10 finish and one pole. Last year Logano led 139 laps in the race.
Currently Logano is No. 15 in the point standings. He could move into the top 12 with a top 10 finish this week in the Food City 500.
Logano’s odds of winning on Sunday are 40/1.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is off to a fast start in 2013. He has finished all of the races this season in the top 10, and I do not see any reason for that to change this week.
In his career at Bristol, Earnhardt has one win, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes. He has a series-high 837 green flag passes, the ninth-fastest green flag speed of 114.328 mph and a driver rating of 87.9.
Earnhardt will run in the top five for most of the race, but fade to No. 7 at the end.
Earnhardt’s odds of winning on Sunday are 12/1.
6. Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. bounced back last week from a poor start to the 2013 season. After starting the season with two finishes outside the top 20, Truex finished eighth last week.
In his career at Bristol, Truex has two top-five finishes and two top-10 finishes. He came in third in the Food City 500 last season, and he will finish the race on Sunday in the top 10.
Truex’s odds of winning on Sunday are 25/1.
5. Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth will try to make it to victory lane for the second week in a row this week. He turned his season around with his victory last week in Las Vegas.
In his career at Bristol, Kenseth has two wins, 10 top-five finishes, 17 top-10 finishes and one pole. Kenseth has the second-best average running position, the third-best driver rating of 99.8 and a series-high 451 quality passes.
Kenseth finished second in this race last season. He will be up front again on Sunday.
Kenseth’s odds of winning on Sunday are 12/1.
4. Carl Edwards
Carl Edwards got the nickname “Concrete Carl” because of the success he has had on concrete racetracks. This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will race on concrete for the first time this season.
In his career at Bristol, Edwards has two wins, four top-five finishes, seven top-10 finishes and two poles. He has a driver rating of 88.2 and has run the seventh-most laps in the top 15.
Edwards got his 2013 season off to a hot start with a victory at Phoenix and a top-five finish at Las Vegas. He will keep it going this week at Bristol.
Edwards’ odds of winning on Sunday are 12/1.
3. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson is off to a hot start in 2013. He has finished all of the races this season in the top six. He will keep his hot streak going this week.
In his career at Bristol, Johnson has one win, seven top-five finishes, 13 top-10 finishes and one pole. His average running position of 4.8 is fourth-best, he has the sixth-best driver rating of 93.8 and his 455 fastest laps run are second-most.
Johnson will be one of the drivers racing for the victory on Sunday.
Johnson’s odds of winning on Sunday are 5/1.
2. Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski is the defending race winner at the Food City 500. He also won the fall race at Bristol in 2011. He has turned the racetrack into his personal playground.
In his career at Bristol, Keselowski has two wins, two top-five finishes and two top-10 finishes. His average green flag speed of 114.368 mph is seventh-fastest and his 97.4 driver rating is sixth-best.
Keselowski may not qualify up front, but he will be there at the end.
Keselowski’s odds of winning on Sunday are 7/1
1. Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch is the best driver in the series at Bristol. Now that he proved he could drive 400 miles without his engine blowing up, he must be considered the favorite to win the race.
In his career at Bristol, Busch has five wins, seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes. He has a series-best driver rating of 102.3, series-high 556 fastest laps run and a series-best average green flag speed of 114.499 mph.
Bristol is a racetrack that rewards aggressive driving. Busch is the most aggressive driver in the series. He will return to victory lane on Sunday.
Busch’s odds of winning on Sunday are 7/1.
– Chad Robb
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