2008 Sharpie 500 Preview and Picks

Race: Sharpie 500
Date: Saturday August 23, 2008
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Time: 7 pm ET
Channel: ESPN
By Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com

If you know anything at all about racing, you can imagine that a half-mile racetrack and stock cars with upwards of 800 horsepower is not a good combination. Or is it? In fact, Bristol Motor Speedway is one of my favorite races to watch every year. Bristol provides exciting racing as the drivers fight to get to the front of the pack in a mess of cars the run side by side, even sometimes three wide. Three wide on a short track?!?!? It’s happened here before and tends to end in disaster for whatever driver is involved.

Needless to say, it’s actually funny how many drivers love coming to this track. The irony lies in their attitudes once the race comes to an end. Most drivers are throwing helmets, yelling at each other, or refusing media correspondence. Bristol is more like a battleground than a racetrack most of the time. Guys lose their patience VERY easily and never seem to be able to keep their tempers in check here.

So, let’s take a look at the track stats. Officially, Bristol is a 0.533 mile oval short track. The turns have 36 degree banking with 16 degree banking on the stretches. Each stretch is also 650 feet. That’s not a whole lot compared to last week’s race at Michigan where one of the stretches was 3,242 feet alone! This track is comparable to Martinsville because of the size and the manner in which guys drive. Although Martinsville is much flatter than Bristol, a short track will always be a short track. There will never be enough room for all of the drivers. They haven’t figured out how to share well yet.


The best short track drivers are often the most aggressive ones. Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon are most notably the best drivers on these types of tracks. Jimmie Johnson also does well at short tracks in his more recent years. Specifically at Bristol, though, we have Jeff Burton as the defending champ. Kurt Busch actually has one of the best records here, though. We haven’t heard a lot about him this year except for his problems on and off the track, but with five wins at Bristol, he needs to at least be mentioned. Most recently, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch both have wins here. Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon also have wins here.

Going by this year’s performance, which seems to be the best indicator of future runs, I would bet money on Kyle Busch this weekend. Last night, he took his Craftsman Truck to victory lane. To put it plainly, Kyle Busch is incredible. He’s proven that he can race anything with wheels on any type of track. Jimmie Johnson was actually winning at one point as well in the truck race, but ended up losing control of his truck in his debut with the Craftsman Truck Series. He may have something to show on Saturday night as well. While Tony Stewart has been doing better, he just can’t seem to quite get where he wants to be. I wouldn’t put too much pressure on seeing him in victory lane. He may be a contender for a while, but I doubt that he’ll take the checkers. I’m going to have to go with the popular choice this weekend and say Kyle Busch is going to be the one to watchagain.

Here’s a recap of the top 12 in the points:

1. Kyle Busch
2. Carl Edwards
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Jeff Burton
6. Tony Stewart
7. Greg Biffle
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Denny Hamlin

As we saw from last week’s race, virtually no one is safe anymore. This is going to be a crucial race for any driver from 6th back. The idea this weekend is to just survive, as David Ragan put it. This could be a great weekend for some and a disastrous one for others. It’s all in how you play the game, but there’s also a HUGE amount of luck that comes into play with these short tracks. Sometimes you just get in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are a lot of wrecks that involve multiple cars here because there’s no way to get around them in such small spaces. This weekend’s race at Bristol is on Saturday night and it’s going to be quite a show. I’d watch this one if I were you. It’s going to change a lot of driver’s positions and potentially crush a lot of dreams. Bristol has a way of doing that.