Friday, August 23, 2013

Bristol Post-Practice Notes: Busch Brothers and Gordon Look Sharp

Kyle Busch one-third of the way to a triple at Bristol
Because of the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway being run on Saturday, every Sprint Cup team had to cram all their practice and qualifying sessions into one day on Friday. Of the two practices run, the two-hour early session is the most telling and relevant to race day just because almost everyone used the allotted time to run exclusively in race trim, while the 45-minute afternoon session was used primarily for mock qualifying runs.

In the early session, David Ragan was fastest with a lap at 125.322 mph, which raises suspicion that he likely was in a mock qualifying run. And while Ragan isn’t a candidate to win this week, if thinking there is something to his speeds, he can be fetched at 100-to-1 odds as part of the Field bet. However, we don’t recommend spending your hard earned money that way, especially not at Bristol where not too many surprises happen and the favorites are top heavy.

The drivers we thought would do well at the beginning of the week are still the top candidates to win, but Kyle Busch may have separated himself further from everyone else based on Friday’s practices. Already the top candidate to win Saturday night based on his past history with five wins and a 9.8 average finish, Busch had the fourth fastest lap (124.841) in the early session and was fastest (128.253) during happy hour. Busch also showed a fast average during his 82 laps run in the first session and had the third fastest 10-consecutive lap average among the 26 drivers that ran as many in a row.

Although we still consider Brad Keselowski the second best candidate to win this week, we couldn’t help but be impressed with Jeff Gordon’s run during practices and be reminded about how well he ran in the March race, where he led 66 laps. He’s a five-time winner at Bristol, but has come up empty in his past 21 starts there. With 98 laps to go in March, Gordon was leading but a cut tire sent him into the wall -- as well as Matt Kenseth who was in second -- and he ended up with a 34th-place finish.

During Friday’s practices, Gordon picked up right where left off at Bristol -- before his misfortune -- by having the third fastest lap (124.841) in the first session, while also compiling the second-best 10-consecutive average lap time. His performance alone during the two hour session should move him closer to Busch in the post-practice ratings, but he gets docked for his current form.

However, in an almost identical twist of fate, Gordon finds himself in nearly the same situation he was in last season where he was coming off a 28th-place finish at Michigan and his chances of making the Chase were bleak. The next week at Bristol, he ran third, and then had two consecutive second-place finishes at Atlanta and Richmond to make the Chase.

It could even be argued that Gordon has the best car on the track, but Busch’s moxie and love for Bristol racing gives him the edge, especially considering Gordon’s drought on the world’s fastest half-mile track.

Keselowski finished with the fifth fastest lap (124.776) during the first practice session and should be battling with Busch and Gordon up front during the late stages of the race. He hasn’t won on the season yet, but he’s a two-time winner at Bristol and has the perfect attitude it takes to pile up wins there like some of the greats of the past have done.

Another driver that has piled up wins at Bristol is the older Busch, Kurt Busch, who has five to his credit -- just like his younger brother, but none since 2006. He was sensational in Friday’s practices and also comes in on major high with three straight top-10 finishes, including a third at both Pocono and Michigan. He finished fourth in the March race and should be up there competing for at least another top-5 this week, if not the win.

The best long shot of the bunch looks to be Martin Truex Jr. who had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average in the first session. That shows he’s got speed on longer runs and there are plenty of long runs at Bristol, as in 500 laps long. He’s never won at Bristol, but did finish second in 2011 and third the following year. Truex has always been good at his home track of Dover, and although Dover is a one-mile track, the tracks do kind of run similar since the Bristol cosmetic changes because of the concrete, high banking and multi-grooves. On a side note to that, several crew chiefs have brought their Dover chassis’ this week.

Read More Here........Final Driver Ratings      


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