Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bristol Practice Notes: Keselowski looks to be strongest, again

Brad Keselowski is going to be tough to beat at Bristol
Casey Mears was fastest in the final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, but it was Brad Keselowski who impressed the most that has him rated as our top driver to win Sunday’s Food City 500. If he should win, it would be his third Bristol win in his past six starts there.

After giving the appearance of being sluggish in the early practice session Saturday, Keselowski continued an on-going trend the past two weeks of being fast during the final practices by laying down the fourth fastest lap, but what elevated him to the top of our charts was being the fastest on 10-consecutive lap runs.

Because Bristol is a half-mile track, the 10-consecutive lap average doesn’t hold as much weight as it would at Phoenix’s 1-mile track or Las Vegas’ 1.5-mile layout simply because they’ll run more laps during a fuel window. What were trying to gauge is who will likely be the fastest at the end of those runs. For a 1.5-mile track, 10-consecutive laps is a huge tool for bettors because they only go around 40 laps before having to pit. But at Bristol, the driver will go well over 100 laps before having to refuel. If there were only stat provided for us from NASCAR that had 20-consecutive laps, it might be more indicative of who will be fastest when the drivers start putting 80-laps on a single set of tires.

Having said all that, Keselowski put himself above all the other drivers with those average speeds, but it didn’t take much to give him that edge at the betting windows. He comes off a win last week in Las Vegas and was strong the week before in Phoenix, but what really gives him the biggest edge is his tenacity at Bristol. Even with a car that didn’t top the average charts, Keselowski would not have been a driver advised to bet against at Bristol.

The two drivers that looked almost as good as Keselowski in both of Saturday’s practices were Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth, who have eight Bristol wins combined between them, but we still felt Kyle Busch - despite just an okay set of final practices -- deserved to be rated above them just because of his Bristol history, which includes five wins like his older brother. Like Keselowski, Kyle Busch brings the tenacity, and while the new Bristol layout may not evoke as many bump and runs as the past, it still takes a driver with some moxie to get the job done. And not that his win in Saturday's Nationwide series has anything to do with Sunday's Cup race, but it's hard to ignore three straight wins by Kyle in that series.

And that brings us to Kasey Kahne, who got the job done better than anyone at Bristol last season with a win and second-place finish. He wasn’t spectacular in practice, but did have the third-fastest 10-consecutive lap average behind Keselowski and Joey Logano during happy hour. We've seen quite a few drivers take over Bristol in two and three year flashes with multiple wins and if looking for a driver to keep that history roll going, Kahne would be it. However, something will likely have to happen to Keselowski for that to happen.

Rain is expected Sunday, so expect lengthy delays and a strong possibility that the race may even have to run late under the lights or even Monday morning.

Read More Here.....Final Driver Ratings

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