2010 Irwin Tools Race Preview and Picks to Win

Race: Irwin Tools Night Race
Date: Saturday August 21, 2010
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
Channel: ABC
by Virginia Vroom, Professional NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

Penske had one major win and one major loss this weekend as Brad Keselowski took the checkers in the Nationwide race at Michigan and Kurt Busch blew his motor in the opening laps of the Sprint Cup Race. Should Busch’s motor held up, he surely would’ve been a contender for the win.

As we move on to one of the final races of the regular Sprint Cup season, we are headed from the big tracks to one of the best if not the best race of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway. There’s nothing quite like the short track racing at Bristol as these guys bang and bump their way to the end. If these guys don’t have doughnuts on their fenders, they were doing something wrong here. Aggressive driving is what it takes to win here as well as to be simply competitive.


Bristol is one of those tracks where a driver cannot drive ‘safely’ because doing so puts one in a very bad predicament which usually leads to the end of the race for that particular guy. You have to be willing to push your way through the crowd including lead lap cars and lap cars as well in order to get to the front. Track position is key here, but having better tires within a position or two of the front pack could make or break a driver’s chances at winning.

This short track is just over a half-mile with 36 degree banking in the turns and 16 degree banking on the straights. The frontstretch and backstretch are both a short 650 feet.

Sometimes all a driver needs are those two right/left sides to get him that extra speed, but in the event of a green-white-checker here, you better believe that the drivers are all going to stay out and push their way to the front. What we see at Michigan, Talladega, and all of the other tracks 2 miles and over are the importance of tires and track position. Here at Bristol, it boils down to making sure you’re up front all the time. Being mired in traffic is a bad idea because of the gaggle of cars that generally cause some pretty nifty wrecks here.

So, that being said, the most important thing here is being out front and staying out front and being aggressive enough to push through the traffic. Because of the mentality that it takes to win here, it’s no surprise that Kyle Busch is one to watch. With his aggressiveness and want to win, he’s definitely a contender here. Tony Stewart is also someone to watch because of his ability to be aggressive. While we haven’t heard a lot from him or about him, Stewart has been making up ground over the last several weeks coming home with solid finishes and even being strong up at the front of the pack at Michigan last week. Kevin Harvick, last week’s winner, though, is my pick for this week. Harvick has found his confidence this year, maybe because of his Nationwide and Camping World Series ventures. He’s definitely got the attitude to win here this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson is the defending winner of the Spring race here, so he’s never one to count out. Kyle Busch has won the 2 races previous to Johnson. I think it’s Harvick’s turn though. He has won this race once back in 2005 and is setting up to take the checkers this weekend. Harvick is turning into a bit of a Jimmie Johnson in his consistency and ability to maintain the top spot in the points.

Here’s a recap of your current top 12 in the points after Michigan:

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

Mark Martin is in 13th with only 35 points separating him from Clint Bowyer. He’s got a few more opportunities to climb into that 12th spot. Stay tuned this weekend as Bristol is going to prove who is in and who is out of that Chase.