Last Updated: 2017-04-19
After a week off to celebrate the Easter holiday with family and friends, the roar of NASCAR is back this weekend at the loudest track in the country. Bristol Motor Speedway is the site for this weekend’s Food City 500, the eighth feature-length race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. This is the first of two scheduled stops at Bristol, with the next one coming on August 19.
Affectionately known as “Thunder Valley”, the concrete half-mile is one of the toughest tickets to grab in the world of NASCAR, especially for the night race in April. The track actually measures 0.533 miles with banking in the 26 to 30-degree range. Weather used to be a bigger factor for this race when it was held in late March or very early April, but it was moved to mid-April in 2015. Five hundred laps around the track generally take a little over three hours with the speeds that this race has been run at over the last three years.
Bristol Motor Speedway holds 162,000 spectators and has been one of the top draws in the sport for a long time. It will be interesting to see how attendance figures look for this weekend, as NASCAR has been having some attendance issues at other tracks around the country.
Heading into this race, the standings are certainly interesting. Kyle Larson is at the top of the pecking order with 315 points. Chase Elliott is second with 298 points. Martin Truex Jr. is third with 275 points. Brad Keselowski is fourth with 274 points, but only because of a 35-point penalty for failing a post-race inspection at Phoenix in the fourth feature-length race of the year. There’s a huge gap to fifth, where Joey Logano sits with 243 points. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, and Kevin Harvick, who also lost points due to a penalty, round out the top 10. Remember that NASCAR officials changed the scoring system to include points for the first 25 percent and second 25 percent of the race and also points for the Daytona Duels at the start of the season.
Looking at the odds for this weekend’s race, Kyle Busch is the 5Dimes Sportsbook favorite at +550. Toyotas have done very well at Bristol over the last few years, Busch included. He has three career wins at Bristol, two behind the wheel of a Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. He hasn’t won this race since 2011, but JGR drivers have won each of the last two, with Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards taking the checkered flag. Busch is a two-time winner of the night race in August as well, with his last win there coming back in 2010. Busch has been close to a win a couple times. He was second on the short track at Martinsville and led the most laps. He also led the most laps at Phoenix and finished third. Busch finished 38th here last year and missed the race in 2015. He was 39th in the night race, but led the most laps. He also led the most laps in the 2015 night race.
Brad Keselowski is +650 to take down his third win of the year. Keselowski was victorious at Atlanta and on the short track at Martinsville. He had a string of five straight top-five finishes snapped by finishing sixth at Texas. Keselowski won this race back in 2012 in a Dodge, but he hasn’t had the same success in a Ford. He won the 2011 night race. Keselowski has finished 18th, 35th, and 14th the last three years in this race. He was 33rd, sixth, and second in the night race over the last three years. He generally runs well at Martinsville and has had success here, so he’s always a decent bet on the small tracks.
Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate, Joey Logano, is +700. Logano has never won the spring race at Bristol, but he’s a two-time winner of the summer race. He won back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 before Kevin Harvick won last year. Logano has been on a really nice run this season. He won the first stage at Phoenix, but finished 31st. Outside of that bad finish, he’s been no worse than ninth in any race and no worse than sixth in a feature-length race. He’s finished fifth, fourth, and third over the last three events, so we’ll see if he keeps that pattern and finishes second or if he can break through.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson are both +750. Larson has really come on strong, but he was 17th at Martinsville with the pole, so maybe short tracks aren’t his thing. Harvick can win just about anywhere and he does have a win here in this race, as well as one in last year’s rain-delayed night race. Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. are both +875 in this spot, with each winning a stage on the short track at Martinsville. Either one would be a decent pick. They have both been consistent this season. In Truex’s favor is the fact that Toyota has run pretty well here in recent years.
The value isn’t totally there on Matt Kenseth, who hasn’t been highly thought of this season, but the 45-year-old has been very successful at this track. Kenseth won this race in 2015 and has three career wins in the fall race. At +1100, it’s clear that his track form has skewed the price a little bit, but he’s worthy of consideration given his past successes. He ran into trouble and finished 36th last year. His team isn’t clicking right now, but he’s still a consideration.
Those really looking deep down the board may want to consider Kurt Busch. It’s been a while since Kurt Busch went to victory lane at Bristol, but he won this race four out of five years from 2002-06. He had a clean sweep in 2003. Busch’s win in the Daytona 500 with the restrictor plate was a sign that he can still race in traffic and be right there to benefit if something happens. With a half-mile track, things are definitely bunched up.
Racing begins on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET with Fox carrying the 2017 Food City 500.
Full odds for the race as of 4/19:
Kyle Busch +550
Brad Keselowski +650
Joey Logano +700
Kevin Harvick +750
Kyle Larson +750
Chase Elliott +875
Martin Truex Jr +875
Matt Kenseth +1100
Jimmie Johnson +1150
Denny Hamlin +1650
Clint Bowyer +2000
Jamie McMurray +2750
Dale Earnhardt Jr +2750
Ryan Blaney +3300
Kurt Busch +3300
Erik Jones +5500
Kasey Kahne +5500
Ryan Newman +6600
Austin Dillon +8000
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +8000
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
After a brief swing through the Lone Star State, the NASCAR drivers are back near the Appalachian Mountains for the next couple of weeks. Bristol, Tennessee is considered the birthplace of country music, but it’s probably more famous for being the home of the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. Bristol Motor Speedway is definitely one of the most unique and awe-inspiring tacks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit. It holds upwards of 160,000 spectators and is the loudest track in NASCAR.
High banking allows drivers to fly around this .533-mile track with the nickname Thunder Valley. It’s a race that drivers definitely get excited about and we tend to see a lot of tremendous racing here. This is the first of two stops during the season at Bristol, with a day race in the spring and a night race in the summer. This one is the Food City 500 and it has been a pretty wide open field over the last decade or so.
Before we look ahead, we’ll take a look back at what has happened already. Kyle Busch used the momentum of his first win of the season at Martinsville to go to Texas and pick up his second win in as many weeks. Busch now stands alone in first place with six top-five finishes and two victories. Jimmie Johnson also has two wins, but his results haven’t been as good as Busch’s in the races he has failed to win. Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Brad Keselowski are the other winners through seven races.
The new aerodynamics package has led to a lot of exciting racing and it seems to have spread out the playing field a little bit. Busch’s six top-five finishes are far and away the most, with four from Jimmie Johnson, three each from Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. We’ll get a good taste of how things will go with less downforce in the steep corners at Bristol. That could be fun, and also a little bit scary for drivers and spectators.
Fresh off of his first two wins of the season, Kyle Busch checks in as the favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook at a price of +470. Kyle is a three-time winner in this event and he can tie his brother for the most wins in the spring race among active drivers. Kyle could have tied his brother’s mark last season, but he was injured from a crash at Daytona to open the year. It has truly been a boom or bust event for Busch. He has three wins and a second, but also has finishes of 29th and 32nd in recent years. Outside of a 25th-place finish at Auto Club Speedway, he’s been the most consistent driver on both NASCAR stock car circuits this year. Kyle has two additional wins at this track in the fall.
Two drivers are co-second favorites this week. We’ll start with Kevin Harvick at +600. Harvick only has one win in the spring race and zero wins in the fall race. Overall, Bristol Motor Speedway has not been kind to the Harvick team. He finished 38th last year after finishing 39th the previous year. He hasn’t finished in the top-five in the spring race since 2008. He did finish second in the night race here last year, but his overall results are pretty similar. This seems like a price without value.
The other driver with that +600 price tag is Joey Logano. Logano hasn’t been able to grab a win here in April or May, but he has won each of the last two races in August. Logano has been really inconsistent this season. His race results are sixth, 12th, second, 18th, fourth, 11th, and third thus far. He even had the pole two races ago at Martinsville and couldn’t capitalize. Last year, Logano was 40th, after finishing 20th, 17th, 16th, 23rd, 27th, and 38th. Yet, he’s finished first, first, and fifth in his last three night races in August. That seems to be the reason why Logano is priced pretty high this week, but this is not a race that has come easy for him. Logano has the most points of any driver without a win this season.
Matt Kenseth is going off at +750 this week and he is the reigning winner of this event. It was the second straight year that the Food City 500 needed a green-white-checker finish, but Kenseth was able to persevere through the restarts and grab the win in the longest running of this race at 511 laps. Kenseth has three night race wins. He really hasn’t been able to get on track this season, so perhaps this is the week. Kenseth hasn’t finished higher than seventh through seven races.
At +825, Jimmie Johnson is worthy of consideration. He’s been one of the most consistent drivers this season and he finished second and fourth in the two Bristol races last year. Johnson only has one win here, but he was certainly in contention last year. He’s had an excellent car most weeks this season and has been one of the few drivers consistently able to give Joe Gibbs Racing a run for its money.
Looking for a long shot? Kurt Busch is undoubtedly your guy. The “other” Busch, as he’s basically become, quietly has five top-10 finishes through seven races. This race is a good one for him. He hasn’t won here since 2006, but he does have five career wins at Bristol, including four in the spring race. At +1250, this is too good of a price to pass up. It’s been a while since he’s won, but we rarely see guys with so much success at a track priced so far away from the leaders. There’s a reason for it, but he’s going to hit the starting grid with some confidence.
The drivers will start their engines a little bit before 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. FOX will have all the coverage you need.
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