Sharpie 500 fantasy NASCAR preview

by C.J. Radune on August 21, 2008 @ 12:50:47 PDT

 


Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most exciting tracks on the NASCAR circuit. It is one of the shortest tracks and the steeply banked turns create a lot of exciting racing. The banking also creates greater speeds, and there tends to be a lot of contact between cars. The track was repaved in 2007, adding two more grooves to the track that was known for having just a single lane. The key to winning on this track is staying out of trouble, and the best way to do that is to stay at the front of the field, making qualifying and efficient pit strategy very important.

Location: Bristol, Tenn.

Length: 0.53 miles

Shape: Oval

Laps: 500

Banking: 36-degree turns, 16-degree straights

Table: Do not bench

Leading the pack

Greg Biffle | No. 16 DISH Network Turbo HD Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle had a strong run in the 3M Performance 400, finishing fourth for his seventh top-five result of the season. He is seventh in Cup points and is working to book his spot in the Chase. With four top-fives and seven top-10s in his 11 career starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Biffle should be considered a contender in the Sharpie 500. His qualifying efforts at the track have been decent (average of 15.6) and he has an average finish of 9.7. While he hasn't led laps at the track since the 2006 Food City 500, he did finish fourth in the 2008 Food City 500 and it is conceivable that he will be up front again this weekend.

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Racing

Busch has been struggling a bit in 2008, but there was a time he absolutely dominated Bristol Motor Speedway. He finished 12th in the Food City 500 earlier this year but boasts five career wins at the unique track. His average finish in the past five starts at the track is 17th, which is quite a dip from when he won five of nine races there between 2002 and 2006. Still, it would be unwise not to pay close attention to Busch at Bristol. This track and this driver have had a great relationship, and regardless of the year, team or car, Busch should be a contender for a top finish.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

One driver who has come leaps and bounds from where he started the season is Sadler. After the season debut at Daytona International Speedway, Sadler endured 10 straight races without a top-10 finish. In the last 10 races he has nabbed two top-fives and four top-10s. Sadler doesn't have the most attractive recent record at Bristol, though. He hasn't finished in the top 10 there since the 2005 Food City 500, but considering his step up in performance he might be in the running for another top-10 this weekend. In 20 career Bristol starts he has one win, three top-fives and four top-10s.

Clint Bowyer | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Bowyer has a tremendous record at Bristol and is in need of another strong finish at the track to get back into Chase contention. His third-place finish in the Food City 500 earlier in the season was one of four top-fives and 10 top-10s so far this season. Bowyer is currently on a string of three straight top-10 finishes at Bristol including back-to-back third-place results. His career average at the track is skewed by a rough rookie season at the track but still stands at 16.2 in five starts. He led 81 laps in March and should be gunning for a top-five in the Sharpie 500 to keep his hopes for the Chase intact.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

Newman has struggled since the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 with just one top-10 result in six starts. He is out of Chase contention at the moment but still managed two top-five and seven top-10 finishes so far this year. Newman is on and off when racing at Bristol with finishes ranging anywhere from 39th to second. His average finish in his last five starts there is a mediocre 19.2 when considering he bagged three top-10s in there as well. If Newman can keep his machinery healthy he should be competitive in the Sharpie 500.

Drivers to keep an eye on

Bobby Labonte | No. 43 Cheerios "Box Tops for Education" Dodge | Petty Enterprises

If there is any track where Labonte could turn in a good result, it would be Bristol. Labonte finished eighth in the 2007 Sharpie 500 and fifth in the 2006 Food City 500. Unfortunately those finishes are sandwiched by four other finishes of 21st place or worse. With just one top-10 result this season Labonte and Petty Enterprises are working hard to end the season on a high note. Labonte and the team certainly have the ability to finish well, and if things go their way you could see them in the top-10 by the end of the Sharpie 500.

Jamie McMurray | No. 26 Sharpie Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

McMurray has had a few strong finishes at Bristol but has also endured his share of hard times as well. He finished the 2008 Food City 500 in the 43rd and final position. He has only had one top-10 result in his last five starts at the track with an average finish of 28.4. In his 11 career starts there, though, he has one top-five and four top-10 finishes. He recently started finishing strongly, ending up outside of the top 10 just once in the last four races; this run has provided him with three of his six top-10 finishes so far this season. McMurray is currently 18th in Cup points, and he could continue his current form on the way to a decent finish at Bristol.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Truex has shown some decent abilities at Bristol even though he has not made a breakthrough for a top-10 finish at the track. His best finish there is an 11th-place result in the 2007 Sharpie 500; he finished 13th in this year's Food City 500. His average finish in five career starts at the track is 23.4, but he did not finish the 2006 Food City 500. Truex is racing for a spot in the Chase but currently sits 16th in Cup points. He will need to turn in consistent top-10 finishes through the next few races in order to move up the standings.

Scott Riggs | No. 66 State Water Heaters Chevrolet | Haas CNC Racing

Riggs has one top-five and two top-10 results in nine career starts at Bristol Motor Speedway. His lone top-five finish at the track came in the 2006 Sharpie 500, and he finished 22nd in the 2008 Food City 500. His 15th-place slot last week was his highest result since he came in at 17th in the May 10 Dodge Challenger 500. With the announcement that Ryan Newman will be joining Stewart Haas Racing next season, Riggs looks like the odd man out. He will be looking to impress future employers with some strong finishes as he closes out the 2008 season. How he responds to the current situation may be a big factor in his future in the sport. Riggs will need to overcome an underperforming car and team to bag his first top-10 finish of the season at Bristol.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Juicy Fruit Slim Pack Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing

After a rough introduction to Bristol, Montoya has shown consistency in his last two starts at the tiny track. His last two results have been 15th- and 17th-place finishes, and he even qualified second for the 2007 Sharpie 500. Chip Ganassi Racing has underperformed so far in 2008, and Montoya is currently languishing in 21st position in the points. The car needs some sunshine, and Montoya may be able to get a few rays at Bristol. While he may not contend for a win, he could flirt with a top-10 finish and should end the night near the top 15.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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