In short, Bristol a must-see Saturday nite special

March 11, 2008 6:00 PM
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Finish Line by Micah Roberts | One of the nice things about the NASCAR Cup series is the diversity in tracks.

After three straight weeks of fast paced intermediate track racing, the greatest traveling show rolls into Bristol for some good old fashioned Tennessee short track racing. Bristol just isn’t any ordinary short track like we’re used to seeing for your local Saturday night special races.

ROBERTS TOP 5
at BRISTOL
1.
#07
  Clint Bowyer
25-1
2.
#18
  Kyle Busch
8-1
3.
#29
  Kevin Harvick
12-1
4.
#9
  Kasey Kahne
25-1
5.
#88
  D. Earnhardt Jr
10-1
EVENTS
WINS
TOP 10s 
5
2
16 of 30

No, Bristol is a whole new animal unlike any in the world.

The half-mile track is banked 36 degrees in the turns and 16 on the straights. It’s basically like a roulette wheel with the cars acting like the ball. The speed obtained by these cars due to the banking is amazing. At a short track like Martinsville, the top qualifying time doesn’t even reach 100 mph because of how flat it is. At Bristol, qualifying speeds reach up past 125 mph.

Even though Bristol is faster than any other short track in the world, it keeps that short track feel. Basically, that means drivers like to play bumper cars with each other. Because the speeds are slower than most tracks, the drivers get a little more aggressive.

If drivers know that they really can’t hurt each other too much on the track, they’ll definitely race harder and tougher. Look for lots of pushing and shoving after the race and also expect fines to be levied by NASCAR to a few drivers for their uncontrollable action.

To be successful at Bristol, it definitely takes a special driver. Only the best of the best win at Bristol. Look at the history of Bristol winners and you’ll see one Cup Champion after another all the way down the line. That tells me it takes a smart driver, who stays out of trouble and is full of confidence. It takes a driver who can muscle his way through the field.

The one exception through history of winners was Elliott Sadler in 2001, which only happened because of a hard experimental tire that Goodyear was trying out. That made it possible to run almost an entire race with a single set of Goodyear tires.

In recent history at Bristol, the brashest drivers on the circuit have been winners. Kurt Busch always races like he has a chip on his shoulder and it has carried him to five Bristol wins.

Kevin Harvick has toned his act down lately, but Bristol is the type of track that he just won’t be able to control himself.

Toyota finally got its first win in NASCAR last week thanks to Kyle Busch taking Atlanta and they just might be poised to win again this week. Kyle won this race last season driving a Hendrick Chevy and his teammates, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, are two of the best short track drivers in NASCAR.

Stewart hasn’t won at Bristol since 2001, but he always seems to be near or close to the front. So far we have seen the Gibbs trio run very strong at a plate race and three intermediate tracks, but we haven’t seen them run the Toyotas on a short track. Last season Hendrick was by far the best in the COT program with Roush and Childress getting stronger as time went by. It’s likely that Gibbs will be just as strong as they have been everywhere.

We’ll look for Childress to run strong again this week with all three of his drivers making the Top 10. Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, and Harvick all finished in the Top 8 during this race last season with Bowyer also finishing third in the fall. Bowyer will be a nice payout of over 25-1 if he comes in.

BRISTOL DRIVER AVERAGES
Carl Edwards, winner of the Las Vegas 500, took the checker flag in the August
race at Bristol with Kasey Kahne finishing second. Bristol is the favorite track
of Las Vegas native Kurt Busch, who has won five times at the Tennessee venue.
Driver
starts
wins 
03-I 
03-II
04-I
04-II
05-I
05-II
06-I
06-II
ave
Denny Hamlin
2
0
14
10
10.0
Kevin Harvick
12
1
7
2
3
24
1
37
2
11
10.6
Matt Kenseth
14
2
2
4
5
9
16
1
3
1
10.7
Greg Biffle
8
0
5
22
12
11
9
3
7
19
11.0
Jeff Gordon
14
1
9
28
9
14
15
6
21
5
12.6
Sterling Marlin 
14
0
6
17
4
6
11
29
17
32
13.4
Kurt Busch
12
5
1
1
1
8
35
10
1
37
14.0
Jimmie Johnson
11
0
8
5
16
3
6
36
30
10
15.5
Tony Stewart
14
1
26
23
24
19
3
8
12
22
17.6
Kyle Busch
4
0
28
33
8
2
17.8