Sunday, May 31, 2020
Friday, May 29, 2020
|Kyle Busch goes for his 9th Bristol win.|
Venue: Bristol Motor Speedway
Television-Time: FS1, 3:35 p.m. ET
Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway will be the ninth NASCAR Cup Series race of 2020, and fifth since restarting the season two weeks ago.
What’s makes this race unique from a betting perspective, probably more than any Bristol race I’ve ever bet, is that there is an extreme unknown factor putting the bookmakers and bettors both at the same disadvantage.
There are no practices or qualifying and they’ll be racing with the race package featuring engines with 750 horsepower and a shorter spoiler that has raced only once this season, at Phoenix Raceway, the last race before the nation shut down.
The Phoenix race won by Joey Logano is a good starting point to review. We saw four drivers lead at least 60 laps, three of which had more then Logano. There were 20 lead changes altogether with Team Penske showing some strength, but Stewart-Haas Racing saw all four of its drivers finish ninth or better led by Kevin Harvick who was runner-up. The flat 1-mile spread at Phoenix races different than Bristol’s high-banked half-mile concrete layout, but from a performance perspective, it’s almost all we have to reference.
While I feel Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and eight-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch should be the drivers to beat, the unknown factor has piqued my interest, the greed interest. Part of it is due to Phoenix and part of it is due to past history.
How about I try and make a case for Matt Kenseth to win? Sure, he’s looked rusty at times since taking over the No. 42, but Bristol is one of his best tracks over his career with four wins, and 15 top-five finishes which is tops among active drivers. He’s led 1,583 laps, second-most among actives, and has completed almost 95 percent of the scheduled laps with just four DNFs in 36 starts.
Kyle Larson started the season in the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing and last fall at Bristol had run the fastest laps during the race and finished sixth. In the March Phoenix race, Larson finished fourth using the race package Kenseth will be using this week.
But it’s the perceived rust factor that allows us to get 50-to-1 odds or higher on the 48-year old to win -- unless you bet in the Washington D.C. area that just got a lousy sportsbook operator.
Kenseth’s last Bristol races were in 2017 and he finished fourth in both. His last Bristol win was 2015. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook opened Kenseth at 80-to-1 odds to win on Friday afternoon.
The other driver that has long odds is Clint Bowyer who has run great at Bristol, but I like him more this week due to his fifth-place at Phoenix and all his SHR teammates finishing in the top-10 with this 750 horsepower package. Bowyer loves this track.
“Just the unknown, being able to go for it, being able to not worry about an aero push or horsepower deficit or whatever the case may be – get ahold of the steering wheel, get ahold of the gas pedal and make something happen and this is a track where you can do that,” Bowyer said.
Bowyer has finished eighth or better in his last four Bristol starts and had a career-best runner-up in 2017, his first season driving for SHR. He’s got seven top-fives in 28 starts, and he’s been close to winning in at least four of those.
Kevin Harvick is a two-time Bristol and I’ve always believed he should have a few more there because it fits him perfectly. I still feel like I was robbed in 2001 when as a rookie he led 137 laps and had the best car but lost to Elliott Sadler who appeared to use the same set of tires that didn't lose grip the entire race.
Harvick has been runner-up five times since then and 12 total top-fives overall which is tied with three others for second-most among active drivers. The Superbook has him 8-to-1 this weekend.
The favorites to win this week are Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott at 9-to-2 odds which says a lot about Elliott’s rise and to some degree Kyle Busch’s fall. He is winless and hasn’t led a lap since the Daytona 500 which ironically turned out to be his worst finish (34th) so far. But Busch has this place figured out.
“Bristol is kind of a finicky place,” Kyle Busch said. “You’re used to running on asphalt every week and so the concrete can throw you for a little bit of a loop. But that place ages and the track changes, there are some little nuances that change with the racing surface and the line, they’re always changing something. We had the old concrete there and then they went to this progressive style concrete and then they ground the top and then they spread the PJ1 on the bottom, and now you run the bottom but you end up going back to the top at the end the race.
“It’s just paying attention to days leading up to it, with the Xfinity race or Trucks in the fall and getting your eyes on the track and seeing what it’s doing,” Busch continued. “We won’t have that luxury now, but we’ll obviously be paying attention to how the race starts and which way track is trending with our Skittles Camry.”
More uncertainty in all facets of this race.
READ MORE HERE....TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION ON VEGASINSIDER.COM
|Busy week for Chase Elliott.|
“We battled hard and finally got our car good enough there at the end. I’m not sure that we had it exactly perfect, but the guys did a great job making good adjustments and good pit stops there to put us in a position, and I think the race going long played into our favor as compared to what Kevin (Harvick) had to work with. Just had some good fortune and things went our way. Just appreciate all our partners for sticking with us. Finally good to get a Kelley Blue Book win. That’s our first win together, so hopefully many more.”
Elliott on how he feels physically after three races in five days:
“I feel really good. I feel like I tried to stay biking and doing things throughout those two months off, and honestly coming back and going back to Darlington where it was hot and then coming into the 600, it kind of just threw us back right to the wolves, and I think that was really a good thing just to really get some hot races and some long races in right off the bat and just jump right to it. I feel good, and I'm certainly tired, it’s been a long week, but I’m going to rest these next couple days and get ready for Bristol. I am looking forward to going and hopefully having a good run.”
UNSTOPPABLE AT CHARLOTTE: Chase Elliott notched his seventh career NASCAR Cup Series win Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he led the final 28 laps on the oval and secured his fifth playoff berth in his fifth full-time season. The 24-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver became the fourth-youngest in history to record seven Cup victories, which have come on six different racetracks, and the fifth-youngest to record 15 NASCAR national series wins.
MILESTONE WIN: Elliott’s win Thursday night altered NASCAR’s record book. He became the eighth driver to win a Cup Series race for car owner Rick Hendrick on the Charlotte oval, making Hendrick Motorsports the first team in history to field eight different winners at one racetrack. The performance also marked Hendrick Motorsports’ 60th Cup victory at a 1.5-mile venue, extending the team’s all-time record. The Charlotte oval became the third track where Hendrick Motorsports has recorded at least 20 points-paying Cup wins, and the organization is now 10 away from tying Petty Enterprises’ all-time record of 268 victories.
TAKE A BOW: Elliott’s win capped off wild week in which he finished a disappointing second in Sunday’s 600-mile race on the Charlotte oval after leading 38 laps and then won Tuesday night’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at the track. His truck victory with GMS Racing made him the 10th driver in history to win at least three races in each of NASCAR’s three national touring series.
NINE’S A CHARM: On Sunday, Elliott will make his ninth NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol Motor Speedway in the ninth race of the 2020 season. In his first eight appearances at the 0.533-mile oval, the driver of the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE has collected three top-five finishes, four top-10s and one pole award (April 2019). He also ranks fourth in average finish (11.5) of drivers with more than six Bristol starts since 2014. In addition, Elliott has posted a top-10 finish in all five of his NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the track.
OUT FRONT AT BRISTOL: In eight Cup-level starts at Bristol, Elliott has led 199 laps. It represents his fourth-highest total of laps led at any track behind only Dover International Speedway (294), Phoenix Raceway (249) and the Charlotte oval (224). Elliott has led laps in six of the eight races run thus far in 2020.
LAST TIME AROUND: In their most recent visit to Bristol in August 2019, Elliott and the No. 9 NAPA AUTO PARTS team collected top-10 results in each stage and led a total of 33 laps en route to a fifth-place finish.
FIRST EIGHT: After eight Cup races in 2020, Elliott is third in the driver standings. He ranks third in laps led (280) and has collected four top-five finishes, five top-10s and one pole award (Phoenix in March). The Dawsonville, Georgia, native holds the third-highest average running position for the season (8.16), and his three stage wins in 2020 are one behind teammate Alex Bowman for the series lead.
BRISTOL KNOW HOW: Primary sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS will once again be featured on Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The familiar blue, white and yellow scheme will be on track for 26 races in 2020. Earlier this year, it was announced that NAPA AUTO PARTS and Hendrick Motorsports will continue their partnership through 2022. Click here to read the full release.
GUSTAFSON HITS 30 AT BMS: On Sunday, No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson will call his 30th NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. In his previous 29 events atop the pit box for five different drivers (Elliott, Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon) at the Tennessee track, he has collected nine top-five finishes, including a win and two runner-up results, and 799 laps led. The win came in 2007 with Busch.
BEHIND THE 9: Gustafson is trying his hand as a host in a new Hendrick Motorsports video series called “Behind the 9” in which he interviews each member of the No. 9 crew. Fans are able to learn about where they came from and the role they serve on the team, with each bringing a unique personality and skillset. Episodes are released every Tuesday on the Hendrick Motorsports Facebook page and YouTube channel. The most recent episode features gas man John Gianninoto.