Kevin Harvick will again be favored to win this week just because of finishing second or better in six of his seven starts this season.
However, Bristol Motor Speedway will be some tough competition. He captured his only Bristol win back in 2005, but hasn’t had a top-five finish there since 2008 – a span of 12 races.
The half-mile high banked layout of Bristol should offer a few solid candidates to win this week, and while Harvick will still be very good, he’s not as intimidating there as he is on a down force track. He didn’t win at Texas last week, but he was second again and led 96 laps which now totals him at 766 laps led this season. There are only 2,150 laps run altogether so far, which shows just how intimidating Harvick has been.
Last season we had a couple surprise winners with Carl Edwards and Joey Logano grabbing the checkers. In 2013, it was Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth and before that it was Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, which shows quite a diverse amount of people having success.
This track allows drivers to comfortably run two wide and passing happens on both the inside and outside groove, which takes away some of the excitement we used to love about Bristol where everyone was fighting for that inside line. Despite the cosmetic changes to Bristol, it’s still good old fashioned short track racing on the fastest half-mile track. There should be an opportunity to find a driver at a nice price.
This is the eighth race of the season, but we can’t really use data from any of those races because nothing quite runs the same as Bristol, not even the flat half-mile layout of Martinsville. Perhaps the track that’s most similar is the one-mile layout at Dover, but we won’t see racing there until late May. So we’re kind of on our own for Sunday’s race with Friday and Saturday’s practices being extremely pivotal to the betting equation.
Here’s a look at the top candidates to beat Harvick this week:
Brad Keselowski: He’s a two-time winner and finished second in the fall Bristol race last season. He’s finished third or better in four of the past seven Bristol starts and should be considered the best candidate to win, especially since five-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch isn’t racing.
Matt Kenseth: He’s a three – time Bristol winner and has been outstanding there in every type of layout with two different teams. He finished third last fall and last won in 2013.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: His only win came in the fall of 2004, but he’s averaged an 11.9 finish in the 20 races since which is fourth best among all drivers over that span. He had a rough 2014 at Bristol, but his team has been dialed in for almost every race this season.
Jimmie Johnson: This isn’t his best track and his only win there came in 2010. He’s had a top-10 finish in eight of his last 12 starts there.
Kurt Busch: He used to be the King of Bristol until his brother took over. He’s a five-time winner, but the last one came in 2006. He should have a car as good Harvick’s and be contending for the win.
Roush Fenway Racing: They’ve been absolute junk all season, but if last season is any indication, they should run well at Bristol. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished second and sixth and Greg Biffle was 10th and 12th. Biffle has never won at Bristol, but always seem to be right in the mix of things with the leaders.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].