It should come as little surprise that Kyle and Kurt Busch are two of the names to watch for this weekend. The Busch brothers have combined for 9 wins. Kurt has 5, Kyle has 4. Kyle is the top driver in terms of points earned over the last 2-10 races and Kurt isn’t too far behind. It’s also worth nothing that Kyle is the only driver with an average finish less then 10th at the track among active drivers.
The Roush Fenway Ford’s of Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and Greg Biffle will also be worth keeping an open eye on. Edwards is fresh off a victory at Las Vegas while Kenseth looked to have the car to beat until early tire problems ruined most of his day.
Edwards has two career wins, Kenseth three. Biffle has yet to strike victory lane in Tennessee but he does have 10 top-10’s in 16 starts and his 10.8 average finish trails only the aforementioned Kyle Busch.
Five times Jeff Gordon has found his way to victory lane at Bristol but the last time was back in 2002. Gordon has had a mixed back of results in recent years but if you are betting that ‘Big Daddy’ is back then he’s a great choice this weekend.
It’s not often that Jimmie Johnson isn’t the top choice at a track. Johnson has won at Bristol but also has just 9 top-10’s in 18 starts. Those are hardly horrible numbers but coupled with less then desired results to open this year make him a secondary pick this week.
The likes of Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are more or less in line with the comments about Johnson.
If you are looking for a sneaky driver then Marcos Ambrose is your guy. Ambrose has a top-5 and two top-10’s in four starts though it’s worth noting both were recorded in 2009. Ambrose is coming off a great run at Las Vegas and RPM is looking up this year.
Jamie McMurray attempted to run down Kyle Busch in one event last year, only to fall short. That shouldn’t be a reason to expect big things from McMurray though. He’s gotten off to a dismal start to this season and there are better options then the 6/16 top-10’s he’s gathered at the .5 mile track.
Another driver I can almost never recommend is Kasey Kahne. Kahne has always seemed more about hype then stats. Some will compare him to Dale Earnhardt Jr but truthfully there was once a time I thought Earnhardt Jr was a title contender. Kahne has made 14 starts at Bristol picking up three finishes inside the top-5 and five of tenth or better.
As for Earnhardt he’s a better option. He’s finished tenth or better in 12 of his 22 starts. He’s also in the top-10 in points this year and many are starting to whisper that ‘Junebug’ is getting closer to finding victory lane. It’s unclear if the magic is with the crew chief change to Steve Letarte or something finally clicking for Jr in the COT.
One thing that will be interesting to watch this week during qualifying is if one of the “start and park” teams can find a way to get a great starting position. Last year Dave Blaney started third in the spring race and was involved in a crash as he attempted to navigate to the back of the pack and pull down pit road.
Earlier this week Roush Fenway Racing made a spoof of David Ragan trying to find all of the teams trophies from Bristol. Ragan guided the camera around and gave a little information on how some of the trophies were earned. He even found his Nationwide trophy from a few years ago. That being said that is the only trophy Ragan will be finding anytime soon. He’s managed just one top-10 finish in Thunder Valley and following heart break at Daytona seems to be spiraling down.