Irwin Tools Night Race Predictions – Bristol Motor Speedway

Race: Irwin Tools Night Race
Date: Saturday August 23, 2014
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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What a win! Jeff Gordon is out to prove the nay-sayers wrong! He won his 91st race at Michigan on Sunday. That is also his 3rd win of the season. He’s out for the championship, y’all! It was a hard-fought battle between Gordon and 2nd place Joey Logano, who actually led the most laps. What it really boiled down to was the restarts. For something that Gordon has been known to struggle with, he stepped up when he needed to. The last restart was when he got Logano at his quarter panel and pulled himself around to take the lead. There was no looking back from that point. Logano was noticeably upset, but this was one of those races that experience won. It’s been 13 years since Gordon won Michigan, but he managed to do it again. The last time that Gordon won both Michigan and Indy in the same season, he won the championship. Just throwin’ that out there. You never know.

This weekend, we are headed to one of the best and most action-packed tracks on the circuit. Bristol is a balls-to-the-walls type of race. It’s much different than it was in the days of old, but there’s still some pretty significant moving around that happens here. Basically, if you come out of this race without a donut on your door, you’re doing it wrong. This is a place that you can get away with a little contact. It’s a tough place to get around and a tough place to stay on the lead lap. This is a track where rookies typically struggle as well. It definitely plays into the hands of the veterans. Speaking of veterans, word got out today that Stewart will not race again this weekend, leaving Jeff Burton to fill his spot. It will be interesting to see if Burton can manage a decent run the in #14 car while Stewart sits another one out.

Much like Martinsville, this place is pretty symmetrical. The frontstretch and backstretch are a very modest 650 feet each. Unlike Martinsville, this place has banking. The turns have 36 degrees with the straights coming in at 16 degrees. Coming from the 3000 feet straights and 200+ mph speeds at Michigan, these guys are going to have to make big adjustments. With those kinds of stats, you can probably take a guess at the most significant issues that drivers will face this weekend. While tires meant a lot at Michigan, track position is going to be the name of the game this weekend. Guys who qualify well will stay up front and have the advantage with the tight pit road that we see here. This is a place where pit road is actually a factor in the race. Look for the top qualifiers to be the ones up front throughout the night.

The March race that we had here was dominated by rain. Ultimately, Roush came out on top with Carl Edwards taking the win and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. taking second. I’m calling that an anomaly and wouldn’t count on that again this weekend. Even if it does rain (because rain is in the forecast for Saturday night as of right now), don’t expect to see those guys pulling the 1/2 finish again. If we look fairly at the stats and the potential winners this weekend, look no further than your 1/2 finishers of Michigan. Logano led here in March. Gordon is just an awesome short track racer. Coming off a win is just that much more momentum coming into Bristol. Ultimately, I think that we may see Gordon pull a double and win this weekend as well. Here’s a look at your rundown for potential winners this weekend:

My Pick to Win: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Kyle Larson

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I was torn between Larson and Burton for the Dark Horse spot. Burton actually has a good rep at this place, but this is one of Larson’s best tracks. Even though it’s a challenge for the rookies, Larson is proving that he is more than just that title. He’s figured this place out and has the ability to drive the top line. Not only that, but Larson has figured out the diving move to get under another driver for the pass out of the turns. He will use this to his advantage this weekend for sure.

Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:

1. Jeff Gordon
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Joey Logano
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Carl Edwards
8. Kyle Busch
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Aric Almirola
11. AJ Allmendinger
12. Kurt Busch
13. Matt Kenseth
14. Ryan Newman
15. Clint Bowyer
16. Greg Biffle

It looks like every driver that has clinched at least 1 win is now in the Chase. Matt Kenseth is still searching. The irony is seeing guys like Aric Almirola sitting in the top 10 who would’ve been a Chase contender solely based on points in years past. His efforts will be thwarted unless he can come up with a win or manage to be very consistent in the next 3 weeks to be one of the few guys to make it in solely on points. This weekend will likely be a game changer for some. Stay tuned for another amazing night race at Bristol Motor Speedway!