Quite appropriately Las Vegas supplied us with some false excitement last Sunday as several restarts were needed in the race’s final 50 plus laps to provide some close battles for the lead. But really, it was just a matter of who could get out front. That’s because at those cookie-cutter type 1.5-mile tracks, it’s all about getting clean air. It’s pretty simple–whoever gets ahead of the pack is going to win. Other than the first lap or two after a restart, the leader in each of those scenarios pulled away. That’s why we saw some guys go crazy on the restarts; they knew that was their only chance.
Now we’re on to a real race track at Bristol, the 0.533-mile concrete oval that is one of NASCAR’s great venues. There is no such thing as clean air, especially after the first 10 or 15 circuits when the leader starts lapping the slower cars, or gently or not so gently bumping them out of the way. The reactions to those bumps is one of the things that makes Bristol great. What’s the over-under on the amount of helmets thrown? Three seems like the right number here for a lot of reasons. A driver has to have the right amount of aggressiveness and patience to win at Bristol.
So with that in mind, here’s a rundown of picks for this week.
Top 5 Picks
Kyle Busch – Yes, that Kyle Busch. Somehow he’s managed to keep his cool enough to get five wins here. So, hard to ignore that.
Jimmie Johnson – If there was ever a team on a mission to get into the top 10 in points it’s the No. 48. Just one win here for five-timer, but with Johnson taking the lead, this team is focused.
Matt Kenseth – He’s got two wins here and has run over 5,700 laps in the top 15 at Bristol, quite remarkable. He’s got that right mix of patience and aggressiveness to get back to Victory Lane again.
Kevin Harvick – Just one win here, but he’s never been afraid to use his bumper to get the slower guys out of the way at the short tracks.
Kasey Kahne – Yes, a bit of reach here. At some point he’s got to break through and these short tracks are just like the ones he learned to race on in the Midwest.
Shoulda, woulda coulda, but didn’t – Kurt Busch, yes that Kurt Busch–he has five wins here. But he’s not on a big-time team any longer with the one-car Phoenix Racing in a ride that’s likely to test his patience now more than ever this season.
Here’s a review of last week’s picks at Las Vegas and how they finished.
Matt Kenseth – 22nd. Contended for the lead all day, only to get caught in a late-race scuffle and get pushed up against the wall.
Carl Edwards – 5th. He was not in contention all day and never led a lap, but hung around and rallied late.
Kyle Busch – 23rd. He started in the back in a backup car looked to be marching to the front. After hanging around 10th and 11th most of the day, he couldn’t muster the kind of finish he would have liked in his hometown.
Jimmie Johnson – 2nd. The No. 48 team could have very well won the race, but just couldn’t get around Tony Stewart in those final restarts.
Mark Martin – 18th. I went sentimental here, but it wasn’t meant to be. He didn’t lead a lap.
4 Top 5s
2 Top 10s
Grade for this week: C plus (a good Kenseth finish away from emerging from mediocrity)
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