Fantasy NASCAR preview: Food City 500

by C.J. Radune on March 16, 2009 @ 01:00:01 PDT

 


Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most exciting tracks to watch a race, whether in person or on the couch. It is one of the shortest tracks on the circuit and is also famous for being the steepest-banked track that NASCAR runs on. The high banks create greater speeds than you would normally see on a track this short. This often causes cars to exchange more paint than positions. Bristol was repaved two years ago which added more grooves to a track known for just having one. 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 very important.

Location: Bristol, Tenn.
Shape: Oval
Length: 0.53 miles
Laps: 500
Turns 1-4: 36 degrees
Front stretch: 16 degrees
Back stretch: 16 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Pennzoil/Shell Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Harvick is eighth in points heading to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. He finished fourth in the Kobalt Tools 500 for his first top-five of the season. With an impressive record at the short track, Harvick looks to be a contender Sunday. He has earned one win, nine top-fives and 11 top-10s in 16 career starts at this type of track. Harvick's average finish at Bristol is an amazing 9.6. Given that Bristol is full of contact and wrecked cars, it is quite hard to believe Harvick's record there and the fact that he has just one DNF. Look for him to be near the front of the pack Sunday.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle's average finish from 12 career Bristol starts is 9.8. In the past four races at the track he has only failed to finish inside the top 10 once and that was an 11th-place result. In all of his 12 starts at the track he has only finished off of the lead lap twice. The statistics are remarkable given the uncertain nature of Bristol's racing. He is in the top 10 in points and shouldn't be in major danger of dropping given his Bristol resume. Look for another top-10 drive from Biffle this weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Earnhardt has started off on the wrong foot in 2009. He sits 24th in points with a DNF and just one top-10 finish. He may be able to right the ship this weekend at Bristol, though. In his last five races at the track he picked up three top-fives and four top-10s. His worst finish in that time was in last season's Sharpie 500 when he finished 18th. His record at Bristol is a good one. His average finish from 18 career starts at the track is 11.7 and includes a win in the 2004 Sharpie 500 from 30th starting position. Earnhardt's driving style suits the closeness of Bristol, and if he is to right his season he should start it this weekend.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

After two rough Bristol races his rookie season, Bowyer figured the track out. He hasn't finished outside of the top 10 in his last four starts there since 2006. In total Bowyer picked up two top-fives and four top-10s in those four starts. He also hasn't finished off of the lead lap at Bristol since his rookie year. He is currently second in points, just 43 behind leader Jeff Gordon. Bowyer's new team at Richard Childress Racing is off to a flying start and his record at Bristol indicates continued success.

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

Busch has made a stellar start to 2009. This is arguably his best start to a season in his career. He won the Kobalt Tools 500 and is looking to bring continued success to Bristol, a track where he has been very successful in the past. Between 2002 and 2006 Busch dominated Bristol Motor Speedway. He racked up five wins and two other top-10 finishes in those years but has fallen a bit off form since. Last season he finished 12th in the Food City 500 and 15th in the Sharpie 500; those are still respectable results in what was a poor overall season. Look for Busch to possibly regain his winning Bristol form at the Food City 500.

Temper your expectations

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

While you don't necessarily want to bench Johnson any week, Bristol might be one place you shouldn't expect a win or top-five from him. He has struggled at Bristol in the past, as evidenced by an average finish of 19.6 from his last five starts there. He only has two top-fives and six top-10s from 14 career starts, which is very unlike Jimmie Johnson. He is 13th in points, which is one spot away from the Chase, but it is still early in the season. Still, Johnson may not be the one to pin your hopes on in the Food City 500.

Mark Martin | No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

What looked to be a dream season for Martin has quickly disintegrated into a struggle to remain in the top 35 in points. Martin currently ranks 34th. His car has failed him twice in the four races so far. With results like that, it's no wonder Martin is languishing at the wrong end of the order. In his early days (1996-1999) Martin wouldn't fear heading to Bristol. He picked up a win, six top-fives and eight top-10s in those eight races. Lately, his record has been much different, though. Martin has only seen the top-five once since 1999 and the top-10 just twice. Fantasy owners might want to wait and see Martin's team fix their reliability issues before choosing him again.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

In three years of trying, Truex hasn't cracked the top-10 at Bristol yet. His average finish in six starts at the tiny bullring is 25.3 with an average start of 18.3. Truex hasn't exactly set the world alight with the newly formed Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team, either. After winning the pole for the Daytona 500 Truex hasn't produced much else. He did pick up a 10th-place result in the Kobalt Tools 500, which hopefully is the start of good things. Still, we want to see more consistency from the driver before relying on him. Knowing also that his record at Bristol isn't that great should make most shy away this weekend.

Jamie McMurray | No. 26 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

McMurray's average finish from 12 career starts at Bristol Motor Speedway is 19.4. He has never really excelled at the track. In those 12 starts he did earn one top-five and four top-10s, though. However, his last five Bristol tries haven't been very good. His average finish in that time is 23.8. This season has been better for McMurray. He earned a top-10 in the Shelby 427 and picked up another top-15 result in the Kobalt Tools 500. For most fantasy owners McMurray still isn't more than a second or third driver and that view shouldn't change heading into this weekend's race.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Vickers has picked up where he left off at the tail end of 2008. He is currently 11th in points and already took home a top-five and three top-10s. Bristol has never been a great place for Vickers, though. The Food City 500 may prove to be a speed bump to his recent success. From nine career Bristol starts Vickers hasn't yet finished in the top 10. In fact, he only finished in the top 15 there twice. In short, Vickers may be having a great year so far, but that doesn't make us confident that he will overcome his poor Bristol form. This may be Vickers' bogey track for the first part of the season.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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