The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Thunder Valley this weekend for the Food City 500. Bristol, known as the “World’s Fastest Half Mile”, is a 0.533 mile short track with anywhere from 24 to 28-degree banking in the turns. The race is 500 laps of non-stop action on race day. Expect lots of lead changes as 8 different drivers led this race last year. You can also expect a lot of “bump and runs”, and a fair share of “fender bending” as well. Kyle Busch is the defending winner of this race and will lead the way for Vegas betters heading into the weekend. Rowdy likes Bristol and has the history to prove it.
Teams will be using Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials for this event, with a new configuration that will only be used here at Bristol this season. Bristol officials use a special grip compound to create 3 different racing grooves. The straightaways are banked at close to 10 degrees as well, and this track runs much faster than it’s size might indicate. Former Bristol winners in the field are Kyle and Kurt Busch, Keselowski, JJ, Harvick, Logano, and Hamlin.
This week’s picture above is a clue as to who a couple of my favorites are this week, though one of them struggled in happy hour. Read on to find out which one. As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
Kyle Busch (12900) – Busch is a 7 time Bristol winner. He has won 2 of the last 3 races here, with an accident last summer at the race’s onset the only thing between him and 3 straight as he was a heavy favorite that day as well. He still managed to climb back up to 3rd in that race before a late race incident finally dropped him out of contention. He sat on the pole and led 117 laps last spring en route to victory. He also led 156 laps on his way to victory the summer before in 2017, nearly sweeping the stages that day. He’s exceptionally good at Bristol and a definite threat to win this week. Busch slipped a little in qualifying and starts 17th. He’s tough to fit in with that price tag, but there’s plenty of mid tier value you can use to try and get him into at least one line.
Kevin Harvick (11600) – Harvick is working on a streak of 7 straight top tens at Bristol. He’s a recent winner here and is about as elite of a driver as you will find at Thunder Valley. Over that 7 race stretch, he owns the best average finish (5.4), and the best average running position (8.6). He was in position to win last summer before a flat tire put him down laps. He has led 142 laps here in recent races, in addition to having won the summer 2016 event. Harvick is still searching for his first win this season and Bristol is another track where he could get it. He qualified 13th, which leaves some room for positional points, and he could put up some decent Dominator numbers throughout the race as well. He’s not super high on my radar this week, with his salary back where it should be, but he had the fastest 15, 20, and 30 lap averages.
Kyle Larson (9500) – Larson thrives on the high line at tracks and Bristol has one. He’s the best in Nascar at using it here and is sure to be a frontrunner on race day. Let’s talk domination…at Bristol Motor Speedway he has the best average finish (4.8), and the best average running position (4.8), he’s led the most laps (489) and he’s run the most fastest laps over the last 4 races. He should be on everyone’s radar this week. Like Kyle Busch, he slipped in qualifying and starts 16th. That’s perfect for us. Get him into some lines. Larson didn’t make any of the top ten lists for fastest laps in happy hour and instead struggled with handling, scraping the wall at one point. There was a lot of rain here two days ago, and it didn’t help the top groove any. They only apply compound to the bottom line. Late in practice the high line started to come in, however, and that’s a good sign for Larson on race day.
Joey Logano (11100) – Logano is a two-time winner at Bristol. In the last 7 races at “Thunder Valley” he has a 7.4 average finish. Last summer, Logano led 95 laps, and an additional 72 laps in the spring 2017 race. Logano is typically top ten good at Bristol and a top five or win is a real possibility. He starts up front in 7th which isn’t ideal, but he’s a solid pick for dominator points. Not sure how much Logano I’ll have on race day, but he’s a threat to win and decent value.
Ryan Blaney (10300) – Blaney led 221 laps combined here last year. Mishaps cost him good finishes in both races, but he ran up front in both events leading up to those incidents. Blaney has the 2nd best average finish (3.5) this season in the two races (Martinsville, Phoenix) that used the full horsepower package, which will be used at Bristol this weekend. Blaney is one of the best young talents in all of Nascar. He drives good equipment on the best team in Nascar thus far in 2019. Expect to see him up front on race day. I was hoping for a slip in qualifying, but Blaney starts 3rd, which is good and bad for us. He should get some early dominator points, but there’s precious little room for positional points. Blaney set a track record in qualifying (2nd round, so he’s not on the pole). He also had the 2nd fastest 20 and 30 lap happy hour times. He’ll be in at least one line of mine, but how many after that I’m not certain. He isn’t much of a value salary-wise, but he may end up dominating this race.
Kurt Busch (10700) – Busch, a 6 time winner at Bristol, just keeps shattering expectations this year. Everyone expected a huge dropoff when he left SHR (and moved into a Chevy no less), but he just keeps racing his way to the front every week. He’s now teammates with Larson, one of the best Bristol drivers in the series, and oh yeah, he has those 6 wins of his own in his pocket as well. Busch won here last summer, taking the lead on a late caution. He led 24 laps throughout the event. His most recent victory prior to that was way back in 2006 however. Trouble has found him here at Bristol over the years, but he’s older, and has been running smart this year (anyone who watched last week’s race saw the smart decision to back off and not wreck half the field when his brother stupidly dove down into the grass to make a pass late in the race). I like the older Busch’s odds of getting a top ten this week with an outside chance of more. Kurt qualified way down in 27th, which is fantastic for us this week. His salary, on the other hand, has been jacked up. DK finally caught on to the fact that Kurt is a top driver. He’s not my top priority this week with that salary, but he’s in my driver pool.
Martin Truex Jr. (9800) – Truex probably isn’t the first driver you think of when Nascar heads to a short track, and with good reason. He’s never won here, but don’t be fooled. He does run well at Bristol and depending on salary and starting position, he is someone we may want to consider. He led over 100 laps here in 2017, so he is more than capable. That said…Truex and trouble both start with the letter t, so keep that in mind. His races here at Bristol are littered with mishaps, wrecks, and incidents. If qualifying and practice speeds fall into those sweet spots however, he may be someone we can get at bargain ownership. Truex slipped in qualifying and starts 23rd. With all of the other value out there and his history, he may come with a lower than normal ownership this week.
Clint Bowyer (8600) – Bowyer has finished in the top 8 in five of the last seven races at Bristol. He’s a veteran driver who knows his way around Thunder Valley. He drives for one of the top teams in the sport and swept the top ten here last year. He nearly won the summer race here last year after leading 120 laps, with a single late restart costing him the victory. He’s a solid bet for a top ten this week and has a chance for a top five. Bowyer wasn’t in my original write-up due to his starting spot, but he was simply too fast in practice while posting the 4th best 15 and 20 lap averages, as well as the 3rd best 30 lap average. I’ll have limited shares.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7600) – Stenhouse Jr. will look to continue his breakout season at Bristol, one of his better tracks on the circuit. He comes from short track beginnings, and we want to have him firmly on our radar at Thunder Valley. Given his salary, and his short track prowess, he’s more likely to end up in my core this week, than not. Aside from one incident marred event last year, he has an average finish of 9.0 here in the five races prior to that. At his salary, that’s amazing value we don’t want to miss out on. He’s aggressive which can be a risk at Bristol, but that’s what we want…high risk, high reward. Stenhouse is a threat to finish in the top ten here, with a ceiling in that range, and a floor in the high teens. That ceiling is fantastic value given his starting position of 19th. Ricky is in my core this week, and a high priority.
Daniel Suarez (7300) – Suarez, like several others this week, has been mid teens good at Bristol. He has a 15.5 average finish here in four races. He has struggled at time this year since moving over to SHR but had a good week at Texas last week. I think his overall struggles, combined with his history here, put his projected finishing range between mid teens to 20th. He starts 20th, which means there’s nowhere to go but up. I’ll have him in several lines this week, mostly due to salary relief, with a side of value.
Chris Buescher (6400) – Buescher is one of the best DFS drivers in Nascar due to his ability within his salary range. As with every week, it all comes down to where does he qualify? He finished 19th here last summer and that was in a race that wasn’t incident free for him. He ran as high as 4th in that race. His range this week is similar to most weeks for him, as one of the biggest boom or bust drivers in all of Nascar. I have him projected from low teens to mid 20’s. He qualified 25th, and that’s a sweet spot for gpp usage combined with salary relief. Yes, please. Buescher is in my core this week as a cost cutting option to fit in the studs we want to roster.
Other drivers I like and wouldn’t talk anyone out of using are Hamlin (9200), who’s been happy with his car all week, Jones (7800), Johnson (8000), who is still overpriced, and Austin Dillon (7200), who is underpriced.
Salary-savers this week are DiBenedetto (6700), who was very fast in happy hour, Wallace (6200), who has actually led laps here, and it wasn’t a fluke. His average finish here is marred by a lap 3 wreck last year, but he also has a 16th place finish to his credit. That’s very solid for Bubba, or any driver, at his salary. Corey Lajoie (5200), who has shown improvement this season and starts 32nd.
Dominator potentials this week are Logano, Harvick, Blaney, and Kyle Busch.
Fades for me this week are Byron, Menard, and Newman.
Movers this week are Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, and Truex.
My pick to win the race this week is Ryan Blaney. He was dominant here in both races last year, but victory escaped him. He’s been on the verge of winning several times already in 2019, and I think he gets the checkers this week.NASCAR