1. Jeff Gordon Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race Fantasy Analysis – Jeff Gordon is a driver who you can confidently make your fantasy NASCAR pick to win the Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race. He’s a smart driver and it appears he’s gotten back his edge. If the “Old School” Jeff Gordon comes to play Saturday night I really like his chances. The “old school” Jeff Gordon has the right amount of calculated “hate” and isn’t afraid to move people out of the way for the win. Another intangible you have to like about Gordon is how strong he’s been recently. Over the last four races a solid case could be made he had the best car every race. On Saturday night he’ll start in 2nd. This race has been won from that starting position 12.1% percent of the time. In race trim he had a good car. In practice #1 his ten lap average ranked as the 5th best. Over a long green flag run I expect his car to really shine because he always tunes his car for comfort and that attribute usually translates into speed over a long run here.
Starting Position – 2nd
Track History – Jeff Gordon has been very good at Bristol throughout his career. He’s a five time champion and has finished in the top ten 56% percent of the time. In the four combined races on the current configuration he’s been one of the strongest performers and has the 4th best driver rating. This spring at Bristol he had a strong showing and overcame adversity. In March he started in 7th and during the lap 50 competition caution while he was running in the top five he had contact with another car on pit road and as a result he fell back to 34th. He was able to rebound from that problem and just after the mid-point he reached the top ten again and ran there for the remainder of the event. Last August he started near the back but that didn’t increase his difficulty level much. When the checkered flag waved he finished 7th, had an 8th place average running position and earned the 3rd best driver rating. In March 2013 he potentially had the best car but while he was leading he wrecked and as a result he finished 34th. Also in that event he led 66 laps and earned the 7th best driver rating. In the first race on the current track configuration he finished 3rd.
Odds To Win – 7/1
Chassis Selection – On Saturday night Jeff Gordon will be driving the chassis he used at Dover in June. In the race he finished 15th after having handling issues over the last 40 laps. For about 90% percent of that race he ran within the top 7.
Momentum – Jeff Gordon is Mr. Momentum right now. Over the last four races he’s arguably had the best car every race and has been to victory lane twice. Also over these four races he has the best driver rating by 17.4 points. This season on the track as long as he’s avoided trouble he’s been a lock for a good result.
2. Kevin Harvick Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race Fantasy Analysis – On Saturday night Kevin Harvick will start on the pole. This race has been won from that starting position 20.5% percent of the time. One big plus of winning the pole is getting the best pit stall selection. Track position is of utmost importance here and having that advantage is huge. Also in this race Harvick is a 6/1 co-favorite to win the Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race with Brad Keselowski. I think those odds are somewhat surprising considering since 2009 he’s only finished in the top ten once. His last top five finish was in 2008. Also at Bristol he’s only won once and that was nearly a decade ago. His dip in success can be directly correlated to the track changes from the original Bristol layout. This spring at Bristol he was a top five contender but had a late engine failure. One aspect about Kevin Harvick you have to like is that he’s now starting to build up momentum and has four straight top ten results. I expect him to keep the good runs going
Starting Position – 1st
Track History – Kevin Harvick hasn’t been at his best recently at Bristol. Since 2009 he’s only finished in the top ten once. A typical good finish for him over this stretch is a low double digit performance. In March Kevin Harvick had one of the strongest cars. He started in 27th and by lap 100 he was up to 4th. Between laps 100 and 450 he was a driver who consistently ran in the top 8. I would estimate his average running position over that portion of the race was around 5th. With about 50 laps to go his day went up in flames when his engine blew up. Despite not completing a tenth of the race he still had an 8th place average running position and led 28 laps. Last August he had top ten potential but got swept up in the “Big One”. Despite not completing a tenth of the laps in that event he still had a 15th place average running position. In March 2013 he finished 14th but he performed better than his result. In that race he earned the 8th best driver rating and had a 9th place average running position. In the first race on the ground down surface he finished 15th, had a 10th place average running position and earned the 10th best driver rating. At Bristol Harvick has one win but it should be noted his glory days at this venue were before it got repaved.
Odds To Win – 6/1
Chassis Selection – On Saturday night Kevin Harvick will be driving a chassis that’s been widely used at intermediate tracks this season. In its last race it finished 7th at Kentucky.
Momentum – Kevin Harvick now has four consecutive top ten finishes. Over this stretch he’s scored the second most points and has a 4.8 average finish.
Recommended Reading – Bristol Post Practice Predictions (another fantasy take), Bristol Qualifying Results, Practice Speed Cheat Sheet, Happy Hour Speeds, Happy Hour Notes, Practice #1 Speeds, Practice #1 Notes, PROS Rankings, Who will win the Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race
3. Kyle Busch Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race Fantasy Analysis – Kyle Busch is always a popular fantasy pick at Bristol. Since he’s been on the scene in the Sprint Cup Series he’s consistently been viewed as one of the favorites. Heading into the Bristol IRWIN Tools Night Race he should once again be viewed as the favorite because in the spring race he had one of the best cars until he got burned by a caution during the pit cycle. In the three other races on the new surface he’s also performed well. On Saturday he’ll start in 4th. Nearly half of all the Bristol races have been won from a top 4 starting position (49.5%). In both practice sessions today he showed good speed. His ten lap average in practice #1 ranked as the best and his ten lap average in Happy Hour ranked as the second best. The one attribute I don’t like about him is his recent cold streak. To find out about that read the momentum portion written about him in this section.
Starting Position – 4th
Track History – Kyle Busch has had a great career at Bristol. Since 2006 he has 5 wins, has finished in the top five 47% percent of the time and in the top ten 71% percent of the time. Over these races he has the best driver rating, led the most laps and has a 10.8 average running position. Only twice since 2006 has he finished lower than 17th and both of those results were due to wrecks. Minus those events over this span of races he has a 5.7 average finish. One of strength of his at Bristol is leading laps. Over these 17 races he’s led in 13 of them for a combined 1,503 laps. In March he had one of the strongest cars but his race wasn’t incident free. In the event he was burned by a caution which dropped him a few laps down. Later in the race he hit debris which effected his car. Later in the event he spun and was clipped by Kurt Busch who was trying to avoid contact. In the race he led 73 laps but walked away with a 29th place finish. Last August he started in the rear of the field in a backup car and finished 11th. In his primary car that weekend he looked like the favorite to win. In spring 2013 he was impressive. He started on the pole, finished 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating and led 56 laps. In the race he had an 8th place average running position but that underrates how well he performed. During the first round of pit stops while he was leading he got busted speeding on pit road. That penalty dropped him back to 35th. His car worked well in traffic and he didn’t stay back for long. In about 100 laps he climbed up into the top ten again. In the first race on the current track configuration in August 2012 he finished 6th.
Odds To Win – 7/1
Chassis Selection – Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t provide chassis selection information.
Momentum – Kyle Busch has been a very volatile driver recently. He now has three consecutive races where he’s finished 39th or worse. Since June at Michigan he has three second place results but his average finish over the other six races is 35.8.