Track position means everything at short track races, but that doesn’t necessarily mean starting position. The Monster Energy Cup Series drivers have 500 laps to run here on Saturday night, and although qualifying up front is a bit of an advantage to start the race, as long as a driver is able to stay on the lead lap throughout the event, he/she should be able to get to the front–as long as they have the car to do so. And this weekend, there are a lot of good drivers starting deep in the field, so we’re going to see a lot of movers (and losers) once the 2017 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race goes green.
There were two practice sessions here at “The Bullring” on Friday, following by qualifying in the evening. Erik Jones will lead the field to the green on Saturday night with Kyle Larson alongside, and the full starting lineup can be found by clicking here. The practice speeds from those two sessions can be found here: Practice #1 — Happy Hour, and, as always, our in-depth practice notes can be found here: Practice #1 — Happy Hour.
Final Top 25 Ranking For The Bristol Night Race
1. Matt Kenseth – Starts 5th – DraftKings Price: $9,400 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Matt Kenseth had a disappointing end to the Michigan race last season, but that doesn’t discount the fact that the #20 Toyota has been super fast now for the last couple of months. This weekend is no exception. Kenseth went out in the first practice session here in Thunder Valley on Friday and laid down the 6th-fastest lap, and then wound up 13th-fastest in the Happy Hour session along with having the best ten-lap average. For what it’s worth, Erik Jones said that the #20 and the #18 Toyotas were the best cars this weekend. Kenseth is actually a four-time winner here at Bristol, and came home 4th in the first race here this season. That makes it four top 5s in the last eight races for him at this track, two of which were also wins. I’m not saying Kenseth is going to be in victory lane for sure here on Saturday night, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
2. Kyle Larson – Starts 2nd – DraftKings Price: $10,500 – Yahoo! B Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
Kyle Larson is going to be a factor on Saturday night. He sat on the pole here back in April and led a race-high 202 laps before finishing a career-best 6th, and there’s a good chance he does even better than that in this year’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Larson has made seven career starts at this track and has came away with four finishes of 12th or better, and now that the #42 Chevrolet is consistently one of the best cars in the field, Larson will be able to build on that as he attempts to fully dominate a race here and get his first win. The #42 Chevrolet was just 16th-fastest in Practice #1 on Friday but had the 4th-best ten-lap average, which is much more indicative of speed at a short track. In Happy Hour, Larson ranked 2nd and 6th on those two charts, respectively. He may have an ugly paint scheme on the car this weekend but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fast.
3. Kyle Busch – Starts 18th – DraftKings Price: $10,800 – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: High Risk**
In all reality, Kyle Busch probably should have won the pole this weekend. At least top 5. However, the #18 Toyota got loose during the second round of qualifying, and because of that Rowdy will have to start from mid-pack back in 18th on Saturday night. That’s not a very big deal, though, especially when you consider the fact that in all five of his Cup Series wins at this track, he’s never started better than 12th. You know what they say, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. Anyway, the #18 Toyota is one of the best in the field this weekend, and Kyle will get to the front eventually. He was 2nd-fastest in Practice #1 on Friday and wound up 5th-fastest in the Happy Hour sessions. In terms of ten-lap average, he ranked 7th and 2nd in those two sessions, respectively. So you may be wondering why I’m labeling him “High Risk.” Well, we’ve seen this before. Kyle Busch has had one of, if not the fastest cars here for the last three years, but his best finish over the last six Bristol races has been 8th, and that’s his only result above 29th. You can call it bad luck or what have you, but more often than not it seems like a mechanical issue. However, if–and that’s a big if–the #18 Toyota can stay together on Saturday night, Kyle Busch is a definite threat to win.