Back in 2007, Bristol Motor Speedway added variable banking. This allowed cars to run one of several lines but also reduced the physical racing that made the track so beloved. Before long, fans and track owners wanted to turn back the clock.
After the March 2012 race, the banking near the outside wall was ground down about 2 degrees, eliminating the top groove in hopes of restoring some of the old style of racing. The half-mile length gives those that qualify at the back of the pack little separation from the front of the field, and in danger of going a lap down quickly.
Practice sessions: Friday, March 14, at 12 p.m. EDT; Saturday, March 15, at 9 a.m. EDT, 12 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, March 14, at 4:40 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, March 16, at 1 p.m. EDT
Location: Bristol, Tenn.
Length: 0.533 miles
Turns 1-4: 24-28 degrees
Straightaways: 4-8 degrees
Martin Truex Jr. | No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing
"Smoke" not exactly on fire
Over the last five Bristol races Truex has compiled a pair of podium finishes and has finished outside the top 12 only once. In fact, last year's crash marked his first result outside the top 20 since 2009. Perhaps most impressive is Truex's average running position: 13th or better in nine consecutive trips to Bristol. Truex lost out on a surefire top-10 last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when the team was burned by a late call to pit road that didn't pan out.
Paul Menard | No. 27 Richmond Water Heaters/Menards Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Menard is one of only two drivers heading to Bristol with an active streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes in Thunder Valley. Despite qualifying back in 21st for last year's night race; his worst starting position since 2009, Menard led 64 laps en route to a sixth-place performance. After a rocky start to the season, Menard put together a workmanlike performance last week at LVMS to finish third after starting the day outside the top 20.
Marcos Ambrose | No. 9 Stanley Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
The Australian is typically a must-start on road courses but has shown a knack for the high banks of Bristol. In 10 career BMS starts, Ambrose has scored a top-10 finish 50 percent of the time; only twice has he placed outside the top 20. Ambrose hasn't provided many highlights this season but he managed to pick up nearly 20 spots last week in Vegas after starting dead last.
Brian Vickers | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Vickers happens to be the other driver heading to Bristol riding four straight top-10s at the site. In fact, he's put together a series-high three top-fives during that span. Three races into the season, Vickers has made progress each week in both qualifying and finishing position. Last week in Vegas he started ninth and placed 13th.
Carl Edwards | No. 99 Kellogg's/Frosted Flakes Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Edwards is a two-time Bristol winner, capturing both the 2007 and 2008 night races. He managed only one top-10 over the next two years but returned to form in 2011 by finishing second and ninth after qualifying on the front row each time. Since then, Edwards has finished no better than 18th in four chances: two by misfortune and two with bad race cars. Edwards has looked sharp early in the season but his erratic Bristol performances should give one pause, pending how the No. 99 looks in the practice sessions.
Tony Stewart | No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Granted Stewart missed last year's night race because of his broken leg, but you have to go back seven races -- to March of 2010 to be exact -- to find the last time Smoke finished better than 14th at Bristol. It doesn't help that Stewart has started the season in quite a funk. His best starting position is only 20th and he's already finished outside the top 30 twice.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.
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