The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will have three monsters to tame this weekend. The first is the track itself, as Bristol Motor Speedway is a tiny half-mile bullring where tempers can fly in a hurry. The second is the VHT on the track and whether or not a second groove will show up during the race–as many drivers hope for. And last but not least, the weather. Rain has been in the forecast all weekend long and actually caused qualifying to get rained out, meaning Kyle Larson is on the pole (click here for the full starting lineup).
The weather did hold off on Saturday, allowing teams to get two practice sessions in. The results of those can be found here: Practice #2 — Happy Hour. As always, our in-depth notes are also very helpful, and those can be found here: Practice #2 — Happy Hour. Rain is in the forecast for Sunday as well, and people that know a lot more than me when it comes to weather estimate that there’s about a 20% chance of racing, so keep in mind that we’re probably looking at a Monday event.
Final Top 25 Ranking For The Bristol Food City 500
1. Jimmie Johnson – Starts 11th – DraftKings Price: $9,700 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
The “eye test” isn’t very scientific when it comes to handicapping NASCAR races, but it’s better than picking your fantasy drivers out of a hat. And here at Bristol, where the green flag runs are much longer than the recorded ten-lap averages, it’s not a bad idea to watch the cars as much as possible during practice and just see how they look in the corners. So if you were watching FS1 on Saturday morning, you’d know that Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Chevrolet looks damn good this weekend. Jimmie went out there and ran 97 laps in Practice #2 and then during Happy Hour he put another 77 laps on his car and wound up 5th on the overall speed chart and 7th in ten-lap average. Those two things–the high number of laps ran and the results–tell me one thing: Johnson has a car that can win this race on Sunday. Surprisingly enough, “Seven Time” has only one victory here in Thunder Valley (back in 2010) but he does have four finishes of 7th or better in the last five races here and is also coming off of that win back at Texas a few weeks ago. Don’t be surprised if the #48 Chevrolet leads a handful of laps this weekend and challenges for the win.
2. Kyle Busch – Starts 7th – DraftKings Price: $10,600 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Whenever the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stops at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch is one of the favorites. He’s a five-time winner here in the top echelon of NASCAR and has numerous additional victories in the lower series, too. With that being said, over the last few years, the Fantasy NASCAR players with the most success at Bristol have avoided Rowdy entirely. Granted, he has led quite a few laps here as of late–including 256 in last year’s August race–but the point of the matter is that Kyle Busch has finished 29th or worse in four of his last five starts in Thunder Valley. And it should be noted that some of those bad finishes came down to equipment failures. Whether that was due to the team being too aggressive or just bad luck, I don’t know, but if it was due to aggressiveness, don’t be surprised if they have problem again this weekend. I say that because the #18 Toyota was the fastest car in both practice sessions on Saturday and seemed to have good long run speed as well. Purely looking at this from a historical and speed perspective, Kyle Busch is probably the guy to beat heading into Sunday’s Food City 500.
3. Chase Elliott – Starts 2nd – DraftKings Price: $9,400 – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
In addition to having an awesome paint scheme this weekend, Chase Elliott is also flying under the radar a bit. That’s good news for Fantasy NASCAR players. He did have that spin during practice on Friday but that’s nothing to be concerned about. As far as practice goes, Chase was 14th-fastest during Practice #2 and then wound up 4th in Happy Hour later that day. His ten-lap averages ranked 3rd and 10th, respectively. Chase has made two career Cup Series starts here at Bristol Motor Speedway and has averaged a finish of 9.5 while posting an average running position of 12.5. However, with the way this #24 team is running this season, and with how much speed the car seems to have this weekend, there’s no reason to think that Elliott won’t be able to stay out front all day and come home with another top 5 finish–just like he did at Martinsville a few weeks ago, the only other short track we’ve been to thus far in 2017.