The Sprint Cup Series returns to its roots this weekend with the first short-track race of the 2009 season. Since it was resurfaced, Bristol Motor Speedway has gone from a one lane bullring to a multi-groove, high-banked, high-speed oval unlike any other track on the Sprint Cup circuit. Even with the new surface, Bristol is still home to a lot of beating and banging, and the Frontstretch Fantasy Insiders are going to make sure your fantasy shelves are stocked with talent for this weekend’s Food City 500.
Best Average Finish at Bristol (since resurfacing in August, 2007)
Clint Bowyer, 3 starts, 4.3
Carl Edwards, 3 starts, 6.0
Kevin Harvick, 3 starts, 7.3
Greg Biffle, 3 starts, 8.3
Tony Stewart, 3 starts, 8.7
2008 Food City 500 Top-Five Finishers
Though he’s the only one of the senior drivers at Richard Childress Racing without a win at Bristol, Bowyer has taken to the track’s new surface like a fish to water. The same can be said for the way he’s adapted to his new No. 33 team. Riding a wave of momentum that has him third in Cup points into a race that RCR posted a 1-2-3 finish in 2008, and on a Bristol configuration that he has never finished outside the top 10 on, Bowyer may put longtime NASCAR sponsor General Mills back into victory lane this weekend. – Bryan
Harvick has only won one race at Bristol, but when he isn’t winning, he’s staying near the front. In 16 races at the concrete half-mile, he’s finished outside the top 10 five times. Out of his 11 top-10 finishes, nine of them have been top-five finishes. Harvick has taken to Bristol like a duck to water, and has been able to get near the front and stay there in almost every race he’s run there. Coming off his best finish at Atlanta since his victory in 2001, Harvick is running on momentum and that should mean another strong finish in Bristol. – Mike
Kurt Busch has become almost synonymous with Bristol during his eight year career. He’s scored more than 25% of his victories at the high-banked half-mile in the East Tennessee mountains. While Busch has only managed one top 10 in the last five races in Bristol, he’s been running much better since Penske went to the new Dodge engine last fall. Coming off his victory at Atlanta, Busch is riding a wave of momentum similar to Harvick and could have a great shot at back to back victories, matching Matt Kenseth’s start to the season. Expect a strong showing from the elder Busch this weekend. – Mike
Though he’s typically thought of more for his intermediate-track prowess, Kasey Kahne has proven to be competitive on the resurfaced bullring of Thunder Valley. Kahne has finished in the top 10 at BMS two of the last three times, including winning the pole and leading over 300 laps in the fall race of 2007. Kahne has quietly put together a solid start to 2009, and here unlike the other tracks we’ve been to the horsepower disadvantage he’s faced by running old Dodge motors will not be as visible this weekend. A win’s a long shot, but a solid top 15 is a good bet. – Bryan
Aric Almirola’s eighth-place run in what was then the DEI No. 8 car at Bristol one year ago was the eye-opening performance that landed him a full-time Cup ride for 2009. Almirola backed his remarkable spring performance up with another top 15 in the summer race. These performances when coupled with his solid outings at Martinsville have all the markings of an emerging short-tracker. With the season on the line as Almirola searches for sponsorship, it’s a safe bet that the No. 8 team will be on its ‘A’ game this weekend. – Bryan
Robby Gordon is 29th in points and feeling somewhat comfortable going into Bristol that he’ll be locked into the show once the series starts using this year’s points standings. That is a good thing because Bristol has not been that kind to Gordon over his career. His average finish is 26.9 in the concrete canyon that is Bristol, which doesn’t sound like much, but is third best among the drivers in the C-list pool. Expect Gordon’s comfortable position in the points to make for a little smoother run this weekend and a satisfactory finish for your fantasy team. – Mike
The Final Word
Bristol is almost as much of a wild card as Talladega when it comes to the potential disasters for a fantasy team. With laps between 15 and 16 seconds around the track, it doesn’t take long for a car to come up on an accident with no chance to react and avoid contact. A driver can be having a great weekend and have it all disappear in one wrong moment. On the plus side, the reconfigured track has afforded the drivers multiple racing grooves that might offer them a slight chance to squeak by someone else’s misfortune. Short-track racing is about rubbing, and the new car can handle a lot of rubbing. Expect to see some beating and banging this weekend, with the usual short track suspects at the front when the checkered flag falls.
Results of our experts in the Frontstretch games
Game of Tomorrow
Hat Dance Dynasty
NASCAR Knockout (Average Finish)
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week and the total for the season.
Bryan 375 1185
Mike 343 1195