BRISTOL, Tenn. – Dubbed the “Last Great Coliseum” because the half-mile track is surrounded by 160,000 seats and towers above the area hillsides, Bristol Motor Speedway is the site for this week’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoor Series events.
No matter which race you follow, you will be guaranteed some action.
Saturday Night Under the Lights
The Cup cars will make 500 laps around Bristol’s high-banked concrete oval. If you’re looking for a favorite, look no further than that driver named Busch – both of them. Kurt and Kyle Busch have won 14 races at the track since 2002.
Kurt, a six-time winner, is defending champion of Saturday night’s race and is already locked into the Playoffs. Younger brother Kyle is an eight-time Bristol winner and hoisted the trophy here in April earlier this year. He’s won three of the last four Bristol races and is the winningest active driver here.
“I remember watching when I was a kid – I wasn’t there racing, yet – watching Kurt win his first race at Bristol and then having the epic battle with Jimmy Spencer,’’ Kyle Busch said. “That was a lot of fun to watch and see how Kurt was able to get his first win there and, of course, the years that I’ve been able to put cars in Victory Lane.”
The only driver to interrupt their streaks was seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson when he won in Spring of 2017. He’ll be up on the wheel as last week’s disastrous race at Michigan left him 16 points out of the Playoff cutoff point.
There are four drivers hovering around the cutoff point of 16th place. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez and Johnson are racing for the final two Playoff positions on points with three regular season races remaining.
Heading into Bristol, Newman is 15th with a 10-point advantage over Bowyer in 16th place. He holds a six-point edge over 17th place Suarez and a 12-point edge on Johnson in 18th. The four positions from Newman to Johnson are separated by 22 points.
Keep an eye on last week’s winner, Kevin Harvick, as it seems he’s hitting a great stride heading towards the Playoffs. Harvick is a two-time Bristol winner, doing so in 2005 and this race in 2016.
“So, we’ve had a lot of things we’ve had to overcome to get to this point,’’ Harvick said. “But it’s kind of like last year when we started off on fire, we won eight races and then didn’t win the championship.
“In the end, you want to win that championship and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”
One former series champion who has NOT won at Bristol is Martin Truex, Jr. In 27 starts, he’s earned only a pair of top-five and three top-10 finishes. He has a little extra incentive with one of his sponsors having the race title sponsorship on Saturday.
“The Bristol night race is one that every driver wants to win,’’ Truex said. “It’s a big weekend for Bass Pro Shops sponsoring the race, so we want to do our best to have a good run for them.
“If you look at the stats, Bristol hasn’t been one of our better tracks because we’ve had so many crazy things happen over the years that cost us good finishes. Like last year, we were racing for the lead in the last 100 laps and get wrecked. Then in the spring this year, we made our way to the top five and were in a good spot but had a loose wheel.”
Well, one way to fix all of the Playoff contenders and non-Bristol winners is to drop the green flag and see how it goes. That takes place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN-TV and PRN Radio.
Xfinity Fun with Five to Go
Bristol will be the last short track the series competes on in the regular season. The track has hosted 74 races, producing 48 different pole winners and 47 different race winners.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson won last season’s Bristol August race and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell won here earlier this season.
With five races to go and each of the six drivers with at least one win already clinching their spot in the Playoffs, six postseason positions are still up for grabs. The six drivers who have clinched their spot are Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Michael Annett.
For the others looking to claim the berth in the Playoffs, the same goes for them as it has for all three National Touring Series – win and you’re in. There are 300 laps on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN-TV and PRN Radio to see who repeats, who remains in and/or who wins their way in.
Trucked up Thursday
When the green flag waves over the Truck Series on Thursday night at Bristol, there will be eight drivers competing to become champion at season’s end. The others are fighting for checkered flags and race trophies.
Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Austin Hill, Ross Chastain, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Tyler Ankrum will battle it out over the next seven races for that title.
Of those eight, the only previous race winner in the event is Sauter. He has two other ThorSport Racing teammates to contend with championship hopes in Enfinger and Crafton.
GMS Racing has two entrants in Friesen and Moffit. To make things even more interesting is the entry list shows several drivers make their first series start – ever – and doing it Bristol should prove interesting.
When the checkered flag waves after 200 laps around the high-banked concrete oval, there will be on happy driver and some with hurt feelings.
You can see it all on FS1-TV, or hear it on MRN Radio at 8:30 p.m. ET.