NASCAR Picks for Bristol
Length: 0.533 miles
Location: Bristol, Tennessee
Additional article: Food City 500 Practice Recap: Drivers to Watch
One of the nice things about the first weeks of the NASCAR season is that you get a chance to see how drivers run at a variety of tracks. From the restrictor-plate racing at Daytona to the flat corners of Phoenix to the high speeds Las Vegas, the Cup Series has already visited three very different tracks. The trend will continue this weekend when the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for some short track racing. Granted, attempts to undo the recent changes have yet to bring back the bumping and banging that made the track famous, but there is always going to be something unique about jamming 43 cars onto a half-mile track.
From a fantasy perspective, the constant changes are kind of an annoyance. Not all the drivers that dominated on the track's original configuration continued their success when the progressive banking was added. Meanwhile, some of the drivers that had excelled on the new track seemed to take a step back last summer when Bristol unveiled its latest layout. One race is too small of a sample size to say for sure, but there is a good chance that we are just beginning to figure out which drivers will flourish and which will struggle on the latest version of Bristol. It could be an interesting weekend in Thunder Valley.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Remember when Bristol was one of his worst tracks? Well, Johnson has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last eight starts at the track, including four straight. During the stretch, he has finished in the top-five on five occasions, including four finishes of third or better.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
People often think of aggressive drivers as having the most success at Bristol, but Kenseth's smooth style has its place, as well. After all, his 10.3 average finish since the 2003 season is tied for the second best in the series, and he has 15 top-10s in the 20 races during the stretch. More importantly, he has six top-10s in his last seven starts at Bristol, including four finishes of sixth or better.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
The defending race winner has actually won two of the last three races at Bristol. Granted, he did have a bad outing at the track last fall, but the back-to-back victories that preceded it speak for themselves. Overall, Keselowski is an underrated short track option, but he won't be for long if he keeps winning races at Bristol.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he hasn't been quite as dominant at the track lately, Busch is still one of the best in the business at Bristol. He is a five-time winner at the track, and his 10.3 average finish is tied for the second best among active drivers in the last 20 races. Busch finished sixth at Bristol last summer, and he is also a threat to go to Victory Lane at the bullring.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Despite some occasional bad luck at Bristol, Hamlin always seems to have one of the fastest cars. He has managed to finish seventh or better six times in his last 10 starts at the track; more importantly, he finally broke through and won at Bristol last summer. With the monkey off his back, Hamlin could go on a serious roll in Thunder Valley.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Edwards has a bad year at Bristol in 2012, but honestly, he disappointed just about everywhere. In his 11 previous starts at the track, he posted a 9.2 average finish and went to Victory Lane twice. Don't write of years of solid finishes because of one bad year.
Brian Vickers, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He will make his 2013 debut this weekend, and if last season taught us anything, Vickers should be an excellent fantasy play this weekend. After all, he picked up a pair of top-five finishes at Bristol in 2012, and he was a serious factor for the win before settling for fourth in the night race. Take advantage of him being in the field this weekend.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
For the most part, Kahne has been wildly inconsistent at Bristol, compiling a 19.7 average finish. That being said, he is in the middle of his best stretch at the track, picking up four finishes of 11th or better in his five starts. Kahne still isn't a lock to finish near the front of the field by any means, but a top-10 is certainly possible.
Martin Truex, Jr., #56 NAPA Auto Parts, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
It took him 11 starts at Bristol to crack the top 10, but Truex has been on a roll at the track lately. He has a 5.3 average finish in his last three starts, finishing in the top three in two of those starts. Don't let his 18.7 average finish at Bristol fool you. Truex has plenty of value this weekend.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon provides a nice balance of safety and upside this weekend. In his last 10 starts at Bristol, he has finished in the top 15 eight times. Gordon also has four top-five finishes during the stretch, including third-place finishes in two of his last three starts at the track.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
After a mix of good and bad results at Bristol throughout his career, Bowyer looked strong in his first year at the track with Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished fourth in the March event and followed it up with a seventh-place run in the night race. Bowyer has typically been a solid short track option, and he should make a nice addition to fantasy rosters this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
The good news is that Junior's 9.8 average finish in the last 20 races at Bristol is the best in the series. The bad news is that he has gone five races at the track without cracking the top 10 and nine without cracking the top five. Junior's value comes from his consistency, and while he is definitely a safe pick, don't count on an elite finish from him either.