2009 Sharpie 500 Preview and Picks

Race: Sharpie 500
Date: Saturday August 22, 2009
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Time: 6:30 pm ET
Channel: ESPN

Bristol Motor Speedway has been called one of the best tracks in racing. In fact, it’s one of the most beloved by the fans because of the excitement it brings, especially under the lights on a warm Saturday night. This track will eat drivers alive if they’re not careful. Bristol is notorious for its wrecks and for the laps that leaders put on the other drivers on this half-mile.

Bristol is notorious as the fastest half-mile in racing. At just over a half-mile, there’s some pretty good banking too. The turns are 36 degrees with the straights are 16 degrees. It’s a fast track that discriminates against no one. It takes out the veterans just as quickly as it takes out the rookies. That’s why this track is so exciting. It’s pretty unpredictable what will happen here. The frontstretch and backstretch are both a short 650 feet, just long enough for the guys to get in the guys before slamming on brakes to dive into the corners.

There is a LOT of side by side action here as well as lapping. Few cars end on the lead lap. In fact, I’ve watched races at Bristol where 10 or less cars are left on the lead lap. Lap cars become quite the issue because some of those guys race just as hard as they would if they were going for the lead. You hear a lot of complaints from some drivers about that.

Besides lap cars, drivers here have to battle with tire wear. Tires at Bristol are critical because they are worn out and beat down with all of the braking that does on here. Brakes are critical as well. If you lose your brakes, you’re in a lot of trouble at this track. The name of the game for winning at Bristol is to stay in the race. If you damage your car or get involved in a bad wreck, your day quickly comes to an end. If you can manage to stay on that lead lap and run, you’ve got a good chance at a decent finish.

If we take a look at past winners here, we will see that the Busch brothers account for a great amount of wins. Kyle Busch was the winner here for the spring race. He also won here in the spring of 2007. His brother has 5 wins here. Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Burton have all won here as have Jr. and Jeff Gordon. It’s difficult to judge who will win here solely because of the unpredictability of this track. One minute Jeff Gordon could be leading and the next he could be in 40th if he gets wrecked. Granted that I have to choose since this is my job, I am going to go by past winners as well as how these guys are running this season.

My Pick: Kurt Busch

Kurt has an exceptional record at Bristol. He’s truly talented here and loves this track. I am going to say that Kyle has a pretty good shot as well, especially after winning the truck race last night, but I do not think that Kyle is nearly as strong as Kurt this season. Kurt has been consistent, and this is a track that he can easily win at.

Other names to look out for here are Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Stewart and Gordon are short track masters. Their strength mostly lies in the Virginia short tracks though at Richmond and Martinsville, but I would definitely put those two at the top as well.

Here is a look at your current top 12 in the points as we head into Bristol:

1. Tony Stewart
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Carl Edwards
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kurt Busch
7. Juan Montoya
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Ryan Newman
10. Greg Biffle
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Mark Martin

Make sure to catch this race. Bristol on a Saturday night is one of the best races of the season. It’s exciting and definitely a turning point for a lot of these drivers. We only have 3 races left before the Chase too, so the heat is on.