Race: Food City 500
Date: Sunday March 17, 2013
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Time: 12 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Phoenix was a somewhat “uneventful” race when compared to Daytona. But all in all, I think that we got a pretty good idea that side by side racing is possible with these cars. Sorry Denny Hamlin! Matt Kenseth came away with the win, the first for his Gibbs career, after just 3 races. That must’ve made Joey Logano feel good after having a major streak of no wins and then Kenseth taking his ride and putting it into victory lane.
This weekend, we are headed to our first short track of the season. Bristol hosts some of the best, and arguably the best, races in NASCAR. When they decided to change the configuration, both fans and drivers were disappointed. Thank goodness they decided to reconfigure the track back to the old style. The races are much better than in the last few years. The initial reconfiguration really ruined the style that we were all used to. It took away the excitement of short track racing.
That being said, we get to go back to old Bristol racing and watch an awesome short track event this weekend as the drivers head east. This track is a 0.533 mile concrete oval with 24 to 30 degree variable banking in the turns. The straights are also variable at 6 to 10 degrees. Each straightaway is a mere 650 feet. Compare that to Daytona’s 3800 feet and you could fit nearly 6 Bristol straightaways down the stretch at Daytona! That’s a crazy difference. It really puts into perspective the kind of different tracks that these guys race on.
This weekend is all about track position. As different as it is from Daytona, drivers have to maintain that position. These guys can go down a lap so quickly here. Not only that, but so many drivers end up a lap down that catching that Lucky Dog break is really much more difficult than the bigger tracks. Another factor is fuel strategy here. Because of the short nature of the track, there are tons, and I mean TONS, of cautions here. We generally run into the problem of green-white-checkered finishes where the drivers are at their last drops of fuel. We will have to see how that pans out here this weekend.
In terms of the winners, I think that we are going to see the typical from Jimmie Johnson, as in out front. We are also going to see a lot of determination from 5-time Bristol winner, Jeff Gordon. Although he’s had a bit of a rocky start, Gordon should prevail pretty well here. I don’t know if he’s got the power to take the win, but I think that he will be up front and a contender. My pick to win this weekend is Brad Keselowski. He has had a lot of determination in the last few weeks. He was coming on strong at Phoenix last weekend and really still has the momentum from a championship last year. He has won here before and I think this weekend will be a repeat. One other very strong competitor to watch is Kyle Busch. After his forceful push to the front at Phoenix after going a lap down, Busch is proving that he’s a contender this year. Regardless, he’s got countless wins here between the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series, and Cup Series. He’s going to be one to watch for sure. Here’s the rundown of your potential winners:
Winner: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Jeff Burton
Burton is good at these short tracks, as he’s a Virginia boy used Martinsville and Richmond. Edwards has had success here in the past and is doing relatively well so far this year despite his hardships at Daytona.
Let’s check out your top 12 in the points after Phoenix:
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Carl Edwards
6. Mark Martin
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Greg Biffle
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Aric Almirola
11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12. Paul Menard
Hopefully, we will see the old school racing like that of the early to mid 1990s. That was some of the best Bristol racing in my opinion. It will be interesting to see the difference in the Gen 6 cars and how they run versus the COT from years prior. Stay tuned this weekend for an awesome race of bumpin’ and grindin’ on the short track of Bristol Motor Speedway.