It’s time for some short track racing on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway, and while I may not like the layout which changed in 2007 to allow multiple grooves on the track, it’s still short track racing at high speeds.
Something always seems to happen that excites, and it usually comes from drivers getting in post-race arguments. It would probably smarter to watch the final 20 laps and wait for the fireworks to occur, but you have to get that entire story of what’s happening in the race.
You have to feel the emotions, like the high of Kevin Harvick leading 184 laps in the spring Bristol race looking to win his third win of the season and first at Bristol since 2005. He was third at the time when Jimmie Johnson, Jeb Burton and David Ragan all spun out in front of him and relegated him to 38th-place finish.
There actually wasn’t any real fun scuffles after the race, but you thought there might be some words. Harvick’s the defending Sprint Cup champion. He had the swagger of winning twice already and finishing in the top-two in six of seven races prior. And just like that, Bristol took him out, failing to see that he was the master on the planet.
In the old days, before the progressive banking, the battle for bottom around the track was everything and it created drama. Now they just kind of go around in circles in two jam packed lanes. But I still like it. No, I love it. Night racing in Bristol, where the sponsor colors on all these cars look the brightest and best among all tracks.
Now, back to Harvick. I don’t want to say his swagger is gone, even though he hasn’t won since Phoenix, but I do think he’s feeling some pressure from Joe Gibbs Racing. He knows these guys are peaking at the right time now. And while Harvick is still running well, the other guys may have passed him with not only better cars, but also momentum.
The Gibbs cars couldn’t get the right package together to start the year, but they’ve got something working now while winning six of the past eight races. Kyle Busch was the entire talk of July with four wins in five races, then Matt Kenseth came along to win two of the past three. Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards haven’t been as strong over that span, but they’re getting close.
The think about Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth this week is they should be be considered co-favorites to win, which is a big statement because Harvick has been that ‘it’ guy favored in almost every race other than the roads and restrictor-plates.
Kenseth won the April race to give him four for his career. He’s won twice each on the old and new layouts. Equally tough and respected at the same time, which gives him kind of edge. He uses that nice thing well and doesn’t get too many cheap shots on him. In short confined areas like Bristol, you don’t want to give anyone and excuse to punt you because it’s so easy.
Kyle Busch has five wins, but none since 2011. The five wins tie him with Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch for the most among active drivers. Gordon, still searching for that first win on 2015, hasn’t won at Bristol since 2002.
I think we’re going to see all four Gibbs car run well, with Kyle Busch and Kenseth leading the parade again. Edwards has always been good at Bristol with three wins and Hamlin has a 2012 win.
Jimmie Johnson only has one Bristol win (2010), but has finished fourth or better in past two starts, including runner-up in April. Brad Keselowski has two wins, the last coming in 2012. He was runner-up last fall.
I’m not going to recommend a wager on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at 100-to-1 odds, but I couldn’t fault anyone for taking a shot with him in match-ups or the daily fantasy stuff. He’s been sixth or better in his past three Bristol starts. It’s obvious he likes this track and he also has some confidence. And even though Roush Fenway Racing has been garbage lately, they always been good at Bristol for whatever reason. Kurt Busch, Edwards and Kenseth continually rocked this place for the organization.
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].