Bristol is the last great coliseum of racing!
If you’re a true race fan this track is on your Mount Rushmore of favorite tracks. In the race tire drop off will likely decide the winner. With that said you want to make sure your fantasy pick is happy with their car over extended green flag runs. This race could easily be a high-attrition event with so many drivers having problems across the practice sessions.
Right now the weather for Sunday isn’t looking the best. Threatening rain will be in the Bristol area all day tomorrow so it would be smart to have Monday free if you can. For weather updates I would recommend you follow @NASCAR_WXMAN on Twitter.
Also just so you know this post is a combined Confidence Ranking Picks post and After Practice Predictions post this week. Next week things will resume to normal so thank you for understanding.
11) Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson is a driver who you can’t count out at Thunder Valley. Last season he had a tough year here. Last August he never really ran in the top ten and he had issues in the race. Around the mid-point he got minor damage to his nose and then on lap 359 David Reutimann spun and Johnson busted his radiator. In March last season he finished a misleading 22nd. In the race he had top five potential but he melted the bead on his tire with about 50 laps to go. When that incident happened he was running around 5th. In the first race on the reconfigured Bristol (August 2012) Jimmie Johnson had one of the strongest cars. He started deep in the field, led 52 laps and finished 2nd. In 7 of the 8 Bristol races prior to 2013 Johnson had a result in the top ten. His only finish outside of that mark was when Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked him in 2010. At Bristol Johnson will start in 11th. He’ll be driving an old down force chassis that seen extensive track time in 2013.
12) Ryan Newman – At Bristol Ryan Newman will be starting in 9th. He’ll be piloting a brand new chassis that was tested at multiple venues this off-season. At Bristol Ryan Newman is always a top ten threat. In 54% percent of his starts he had a result within that range. Since August 2008 he’s had a result in the top twelve 72.7% percent of the time. Last August at Bristol Newman had a good car but he got swept up in the”Big One” late in the race. If that didn’t happen a top ten finish looked very likely. Despite his wreck he had a 10th place average running position and earned the 12th best driver rating. In March last year he finished 7th with a car that ran much of the race in the teens. In the first race on the current Bristol track configuration Newman was running in 10th around lap 170 but he was involved in a wreck. In the last two races this season Newman has finished 7th. I’m sure plenty of fantasy racers would be happy if he walked away with that result a third straight week. In Happy Hour Newman had the 8th best ten lap average.
13) Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch can by no means be overlooked at Thunder Valley. From a career standpoint it’s arguably his best track. He’s a five-time winner here but his most recent victory was in 2006. On Sunday Kurt Busch will start in 13th. The chassis he’ll be piloting is the exact one Newman drove last August. In that race Newman looked like a top ten contender but he got swept up in the late “Big One”. Last year at Bristol Kurt Busch looked very good on the track. In August he looked like a top five contender but he had problems in the race. In March last year he also had adversity in the race but it wasn’t as severe. In that event he was running in 4th but had a loose wheel and had to make an emergency pit stop. He was able to rebound from that and still finish 4th. His driver rating for the event also ranked as the 4th best.
14) Jamie McMurray – McMurray is a driver who many will overlook this weekend. He’s a skilled driver at Bristol and over an extended period of time he’s been one of the best drivers. Since August 2009 he’s scored the third most points, has the 4th best average finish (11.2) and a respectable 14.8 average running position. Also since August 2009 he’s finished 11th or better 66.6% percent of the time. Last August at Bristol McMurray was mediocre. He started in 20th and finished 19th. In March last year he had a strong performance. He started in 6th and finished 10th. His 10th place finish didn’t come easy for him. On lap 70 he was running in third but he got too high on the track and spun on his own which dropped him back to the thirties. On Sunday McMurray will start in 17th. In practice #2 McMurray said, “That shows a little bit of promise”.
15) Marcos Ambrose – Marcos Ambrose is a quality sleeper pick this week. He’s starting up front in 5th and he was quick in both practice sessions. In practice #2 his ten lap average ranked as the 3rd best and in Happy Hour it ranked as the 4th best. Bristol is now a venue where drivers have to attack the track and that’s been a strength of his. In his career at Bristol he has a 15.9 average finish and has had a result in the top ten 50% percent of the time. The only other tracks where his top ten percentage is 50% or higher have more than 4 turns. On the current Bristol track configuration Ambrose has been solid. He has two top tens and a 10.7 average finish.
A Few Words About Other Drivers:
Paul Menard currently has four consecutive top tens at Bristol but once again he’s on baby watch. With the race possibly going to Monday his chances of missing the race increase. From a performance standpoint I think he’ll be solid. Martin Truex Jr. has solid sleeper potential this week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish in the top ten. He was quick in practice and last year his team was very strong with Kurt Busch behind the wheel. I really don’t think Greg Biffle has the handle on the 16 car this week. With that said I would be cautious about picking him. Kyle Larson is a talented driver at Bristol. I wouldn’t overlook him this week. Even though his career is still young he might have a knack about performing well here.
Drivers to Avoid:
Carl Edwards – Carl Edwards doesn’t typically run 10 consecutive laps in practice but in Happy Hour he did. In final practice his ten lap average ranked as the 27th best. That’s right at the bottom of the charts. Tire wear is big this week and in my opinion it seems like when that’s the case Edwards usually starts off the race well but drops off as the laps count down. Last August Edwards had a great car at Bristol but had an engine failure. Last spring at Bristol he got some early damage when he got sandwiched between Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Burton. When it comes to long runs I just have little faith in him.
Tony Stewart – I would absolutely avoid Tony Stewart this week. 500 laps around the Bristol bull-ring won’t do him any favors. Even if he wasn’t hurt I wouldn’t recommend him. Bristol has been a tough venue on the schedule for him for quite a bit of time. Since 2009 he only has one top ten result and has only finished on the lead lap 4 times. Last spring at Bristol Stewart wrecked within the first 10 laps of the race. In August he missed the race due to injury. In practice it sounded like Tony Stewart made gains but I think he was so bad he had nowhere to go but up. Early in the race Tony Stewart could easily go a lap down because he’ll be starting the race in 37th. The chassis he’ll be piloting is brand new. His ten lap average in practice #2 ranked as the 18th best.
Brian Vickers – Brian Vickers is tied with Paul Menard for the most consecutive top tens in the series. Will that happen on Sunday? I’m thinking it will come to a screeching halt. His strength at Bristol was running the high-line. That’s looking extinct from what we’ve seen this weekend. Also Brian Vickers is starting near the back. The race might have a high attrition rate and now that he’s a full-time driver once again I think he’ll throw caution to the wind.