Saturday, April 16, 2016

Final 2016 Food City 500 (Bristol) Driver Ratings Following all Practice Sessions

Kyle Busch looked sensational in both of Saturday's Bristol practices.
LAS VEGAS -- Denny Hamlin laid down the fastest lap (126.129 mph) at Bristol Motor Speedway during Saturday's final practice session in preparation for Sunday's Food City 500, but the top story of weekend remains his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch who will be looking to win his third straight Cup race.

During Saturday's early practice session, Busch posted the fastest lap (126.370 mph) while also having the best 10-consecutive lap average, a sign he's going to be very good on long runs. He's won on the high-banked half-mile layout five times over his career, which coupled with his final practice speeds makes him the easy favorite to win Sunday.

Not far behind Busch in the final driver rating are all four of his JGR teammates, which includes Martin Truex Jr. who is using Gibbs equipment. All five drivers start from a top-eight position and all had laps within the top-10 speeds during final practice.

Good luck to the rest of the field trying to stop this JGR freight train, but Joey Logano might present the stiffest competition. He's won two of the past three at Bristol and is the lone non-JGR car starting from a top-five position. 

JGR Quotes:    

Carl Edwards on what it's like to be a part of Joe Gibbs Racing right now?
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s a real testament to Coach Gibbs. You think of everything that he personally has been through, everything that our team has been through – starting this fourth team and all the changes, the different style cars. All of this stuff and those guys have just never quit working. Everybody just builds the best cars they can and everybody works together as well as I’ve ever worked with people. The first guy to congratulate me on the way up there to victory lane was Matt Kenseth and it’s cool to be a part of something like that where everybody is competitive and we’re all pushing forward, but we’re also helping one another. It’s really neat. That doesn’t always yield great results like it is right now, but it is and I’m just going to enjoy it. It’s really neat to be a part of it.”

Denny Hamlin on how the car was in qualifying?
“The car has good speed and that’s one good thing about it. The FedEx Freight car has really had good speed all day. Those last two rounds definitely didn’t go the way we had hoped – the track changed a little bit there and we didn’t quite keep up with it. Overall, pretty happy with the effort. That will get us a good pit stall hopefully and we can have a smooth 500 laps around here Sunday.”

Kyle Busch on if there's any advantage to starting from the inside line?
“The top will probably come in by then so we’re at a disadvantage with an inside spot. It doesn’t matter, long race, we’ll be fine.”

Micah Roberts' Top-10 Rated NASCAR Drivers
Food City 500
Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, April 17, 2016 - 10:16 am (PT)
Rating     Driver       Odds     Practice 1     Qualified    Practice 2     Practice 3
 1. Kyle Busch 5/1                      8th                  5th               1st              5th
Five-time winner with 1,703 laps led in 21 starts; best 10-consecutive lap average in practice 2.
 2. Carl Edwards 8/1                10th                 1st               5th              4th
Three-time winner (2007, 2008, 2014) -- one of the best since half-mile track repaved in 2007.
 3. Denny Hamlin 10/1              1st                   4th             18th              1st
2012 winner, third last fall; 16.6 average finish , 578 laps led. Should be very quick on long runs.
 4. Joey Logano 6/1                  19th                 3rd               6th            12th 
The top contender to derail the fast Joe Gibbs Toyota's. Won two of the past three at Bristol.
 5. Matt Kenseth 8/1                11th                 2nd              8th             10th 
Four-time winner; leads NASCAR loop data in driver rating,  avg. run position, laps in top-15. 
 6. Jimmie Johnson 7/1             4th                  6th            32nd              6th
Only one win (2010) in 28 starts (14.4 average) -- fourth or better in six of past 10 starts. 
 7. Kevin Harvick 6/1                6th                  7th             26th              7th
2005 winner under old layout; runner-up last fall, his first top-five there since 2008.
 8. Kurt Busch 12/1                   12th                26th              3rd             13th
Five-time winner, but none since track repaved -- only three top-fives since 2007.
 9. Brad Keselowski 8/1             3rd                 12th            28th             15th
Became 12th different driver to win back-to-back at Bristol in 2012; sixth last fall.
10. Martin Truex Jr. 15/1          2nd                  8th             13th              3rd
Not his best track (20th or worse last five), but he also never had stellar Gibbs equipment. 

Note: 88 of the 110 (80%) Bristol Cup races have been won from a top-10 start position, including eight of the last nine.

Odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Micah Roberts, a former Las Vegas sports book director, has been setting NASCAR odds since 1994. Follow him on twitter @MicahRoberts7

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