Irwin Tools Night Race Picks

Race: Irwin Tools Night Race
Date: Saturday August 24, 2013
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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From the speed of Michigan, we are heading into the short track of Bristol this weekend. Joey Logano went on to win after a rather caution-filled and pit strategy style race this past weekend. For Logano, it was significant as it puts him in a position to be a wild-card contender. For other drivers, Michigan was a large failure. Jeff Gordon struggled from the first lap. Teammate Jimmie Johnson fared worse, blowing a motor early in the race. This weekend leaves the drivers and teams with only 3 races before the Chase begins. That means that if these guys are not in the top 10 by now or within the top 12 with a win or two, they have some serious work to do.

Bristol is going to be tough for a lot of teams. This is a pretty brutal race that causes a lot of strife. Tempers will flare, dents will be made, and fights will inevitably happen. Bristol is a 0.533 mile oval with a short 650 foot frontstretch and backstretch. The banking is pretty impressive with 36 degrees in the turns and 16 degrees on the straights. This is a far cry from the over 3000 foot frontstretch of Michigan. One thing that several teams have in their favor is that they are testing at Richmond this week. Although flat and a little bigger at mile, Richmond can still put these guys in a shirt-track frame of mind.

This is going to be an interesting race. There are a lot of dynamics and a lot of variables to consider heading into this weekend. As I mentioned previously, there are only 3 races left before the Chase contenders are locked in. That means that there are several drivers in a position of having to have a win to even be considered an option for the Chase. The drivers that are currently in the top 10 aren’t locked in either. Only a select few at the top are really in a position to be considered “safe”. Because of the way that the Chase is shaping up this year, I think that we are going to see a lot of aggressiveness at Bristol this weekend. Not that we don’t usually see a lot of competition, but there are a lot of very good drivers who are on the outside looking in right now. Those guys need wins. A solid top 10 is not going to do Jeff Gordon much good. Drivers like him are going to be fighting to get up front and to stay up front. The difference in points between the drivers is not significant enough where anyone should feel safe.

That being said, let’s take a look at who historically does well here. We have drivers who thrive on short tracks. Those are generally our more aggressive drivers like Kyle Busch. Busch, in fact, has a total of 5 wins here since 2007. Look for him to be strong and up front this weekend. Other guys to watch are Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. Hamlin generally does well on these shorter tracks including Richmond and Dover. He has a lot of ground to make up. He is not really in a position to be in the Chase at all because of his previous woes this season, but he is still looking for wins and looking to salvage his year as much as possible. Kurt Busch is looking for his first win this season. He has also won multiple times here and definitely wants a win bad enough that he will push his way to the front should he need to. Because of that, I am picking Kurt Busch as our winner for Bristol this weekend. It’s really just a matter of time, in my opinion, before he gets this team a win. He’s got the gumption. He just needs to get out there and make it happen. Here’s a look at your potential winners this weekend:

My Pick to Win: Kurt Busch
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: Brian Vickers

With 3 consecutive starts and 3 consecutive top 10 finishes, Brian Vickers will undoubtedly do well for MWR this weekend and continue his streak. Look for him to be up front contending for a top spot. Truex Jr. may surprise some this weekend. He’s similar to Denny Hamlin in his success on short tracks. He tends to run well and know his way around them, and I’d expect him to do fairly well this weekend.

After Michigan, we saw some big changes in the points standings. Here are your current top 12 after Sunday’s race:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Carl Edwards
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Kyle Busch
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Kurt Busch
10. Greg Biffle
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Martin Truex Jr.

It’s interesting because Jimmie Johnson still has 41 points over Bowyer despite a blown motor early in the race at Michigan. That goes to show how important consistency is on a weekly basis. Now, there are only 25 points separating 6th place and 10th place and only 10 more points out to 12th place. That leaves a lot of room for drivers to drop in and out. Currently, Kahne and Truex Jr. are your wild card drivers. Guys like Ryan Newman and Joey Logano are looking to push them out. We will have to see how Bristol treats the teams this weekend as we head to the best short track on the circuit!

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