Three races remain until the playoffs begin and there are a lot of drivers who want to be part of the elite 16. Unless something dramatic happens, the field is practically locked. That means there are going to be some desperate drivers looking to make big moves – and that is the definition of drama in the Cup series.
Bristol has a reputation for being a wild card track – but for drivers who can stay out of trouble, there are a lot of opportunities to accumulate streaks. Make this week’s picks based on the numbers and hope that all five or six drivers on your roster stay out of trouble.
1. Kyle Busch
Busch enters this weekend with back-to-back wins in the Cup series at Bristol. He swept all three divisions last year, so it doesn’t take a Crystal ball to rank him No. 1 this week.
2. Kevin Harvick
Bristol has not always been Harvick's best track, but he found the rhythm in 2015 and has rattled off six consecutive top-10s since. He has even found Victory Lane in the 2016 Night Race.
3. Kyle Larson
Last year, Larson swept the top 10 at Bristol – but what has really caught our eye is the second-place finish he scored this spring.
4. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin is a short track king. In his last 13 races on courses less than a mile in length, he finished in the top 10 on 10 occasions and in the top 15 twice more.
5. Chase Elliott
Bristol is not the first place one thinks of as an Elliott stronghold, but recent momentum during the year plays a factor as well and he has a current, four-race top-10 streak.
6. Jimmie Johnson
While everyone is discounting Johnson, this could be one of his best performances. He finished third this spring at Bristol and has been worse than 11th only once in his last eight starts.
7. Ryan Blaney
In six starts at Bristol, Blaney has been an all or nothing driver with an 11th and 10th countered by three results outside the top 30 and a 22nd. He was the class of the field this spring, however, before getting swept into an accident.
8. Joey Logano
When he has stayed out of trouble in the past four years, Logano has been virtually guaranteed to finish in the top 10 at Bristol.
9. Kurt Busch
Silly Season is in full bloom with Busch intimating that he has not been given the proper respect with his current team and that he might be looking around. He thrives on controversy, however.
10. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer has finished outside the top 15 only three times in the last 13 Bristol races, but two of these came in the past two years.
11. Ryan Newman
Bristol is a rhythm track, so consistent top-10 results are meaningful. Newman has five of those in his last seven races on this track.
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
If Stenhouse can avoid the temptation to go for broke at Bristol, he should be a dark horse contender to finish in the top 10.
13. Martin Truex Jr.
Perhaps it is because he has not yet earned a victory on a short track – and (perhaps) that contributes to some over-driving – but Truex has only one top-10 in his last 12 Bristol races.
14. Erik Jones
In three previous starts at Bristol, Jones has been all over the board with a 17th, second, and 26th. He has the skill, but needs to avoid trouble to be a good value.
15. Alex Bowman
Bowman has been solid on short tracks in Hendrick Motorsports equipment with two top-10s in three starts this year. He also has an 18th, however, and that raises a little concern.
16. Daniel Suarez
Suarez is closing in on a top-10 at Bristol. In three starts there, he's gone from 18th, to 15th, to 11th this spring. A little luck will be needed to improve again.
17. Brad Keselowski
With back-to-back wins in 2011/2012 at Bristol, Keselowski certainly knows how to get around this track. His last four efforts were all outside the top 20, however.
18. Jamie McMurray
McMurray finished 19th this spring, but prior to that he has seven consecutive top-15s on this bullring. Only one of those was a top-10, however.
19. Paul Menard
Last year, Menard finished 16th in both Bristol races. This spring, he was 13th. Fantasy owners can expect him to finish in the mid-teens again.
20. Aric Almirola
In his new ride with Stewart-Haas Racing, Almirola has finished 17th or better in three short track starts. His best effort on these was a sixth at Bristol.
21. William Byron
He has not yet scored a top-10 on a short track, but Byron's consistency with three straight top-20s is enough to make him an interesting pick.
22. Austin Dillon
Dillon is coming off a solid finish last week at Michigan and could carry some momentum with him. His last two efforts on short tracks ended in 15ths at Bristol and Richmond.
23. Trevor Bayne
Before sustaining crash damage this spring, Bayne had a four-race streak of lead lap finishes at Bristol. He could be one of this week's best differentiators.
24. Matt DiBenedetto
In three starts on short tracks this year, DiBenedetto has improved each time: from 32nd at Martinsville, to 21st at Bristol, and 16th at Richmond.
25. AJ Allmendinger
The trend is not in his favor: Allmendinger has faded nearly 10 spots in each successive short track race this year from eighth in Martinsville to 17th at Bristol and 27th at Richmond.
26. Michael McDowell
Short tracks are drivers' courses, so any lack of horsepower should not be the primary concern. Still, McDowell has finished outside the top 30 twice in three races this year.
27. Bubba Wallace
Wallace showed a lot of promise this spring at Bristol with a 16th-place finish, but he was 25th or worse in his other short track attempts.
28. Kasey Kahne
Now that Kahne has announced his retirement from full-time NASCAR racing, it is going to be difficult to recommend Kahne in this modestly funded team.
29. Chris Buescher
Buescher's 36th-place finish this spring was attributable to crash damage, but the fact remains he has not scored a top-25 on this bullring in the his last three starts.
30. David Ragan
Ragan has only one Bristol top-10 in 23 starts, but he came close to adding another this spring when he finished 12th.
31. Ty Dillon
Dillon scored a top-15 last spring at Bristol, but the remainder of his efforts has been 25th or worse and it's difficult to recommend him with those numbers.
32. Ross Chastain
Chastain has made one previous start at Bristol, but he didn't get much experience. He made only three laps before retiring with an accident in the Food City 500.
33. Landon Cassill
With a 20th in the StarCom No. 00 this spring, Cassill may well have been the best fantasy value. His results have tailed off a bit since then, however.
34. JJ Yeley
Yeley's last four starts at Bristol have come for three different owners, but the results are consistently in the low-30s.
35. Corey LaJoie
While he had a great run at Pocono a few weeks ago with a 27th, the remainder of LaJoie's last six races have been outside of the top 30.
36. Reed Sorenson
Sorenson has a pair of top-30s in the past three seasons. He missed that mark this spring and finished 32nd, which could make him a good filler pick in the right circumstance.
37. Gray Gaulding
Gaulding returned to Michigan with a new team after a five-week hiatus, but his 33rd with StarCom Racing is pretty much the same as he was earning with BK Racing.
38. Blake Jones
Where he finishes this week is not nearly as important as the experience Jones is getting. In two starts in the Cup series, he improved from 33rd at New Hampshire to 30th last week at Michigan.
39. BJ McLeod
In eight starts so far this season, McLeod has an average finish of about 34th. His only previous Cup start at Bristol ended in a 32nd last summer.
40. Jesse Little
Little hopes his second Cup start ends better than his first: He was 25th at Kentucky. Bristol is not typically kind to new drivers in the big leagues.
41. Timmy Hill
In four starts at Bristol, Hill had never finished better than 37th. He will not make very many rosters unless one is looking for a throwaway pick to maximize the top choices.
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