To some, Bristol Motor Speedway is a wild card, but that’s not exactly true. This is a rhythm track and drivers who manage to hit their marks lap after lap find their way to the front. Figuring out who is going to contend for a top-10 is relatively easy. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the drivers mostly likely to contend for the win are the same that have done so all season. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch cannot be ignored – and if you are in the full season league of the NASCAR.com Fantasy Live contest, you have probably already exhausted them. If you are in the NASCAR America League that resets every 10 races, then anchor those Dominators and supplement with racers who have swept the top 10 on short tracks so far this year.
Kyle Busch has won four of the last six short track races and finished second in another. Two of those wins came in back-to-back races at Bristol. The only thing that might give fantasy players pause is the fact that he crashed out of four of five races from summer 2014 through spring 2017. This is a track on which it is easy to get into trouble – even for a driver who has 21 combined wins in NASCAR’s three national series.
Kevin Harvick has run well on every track type this season regardless of his historic record. At Bristol, he has one victory, a second, a third and three other top-10s in the past three years. That is a six-race streak of top-10s, so the battle for supremacy among the Big 2 will continue to be intense.
Joey Logano is one of four drivers who have swept the top 10 on short tracks this year. He was sixth at Martinsville Speedway, ninth at Bristol, and fourth at Richmond. Team Penske has not been able to step into a dominant role this year and even if Logano manages to contend for a top-five, that is not going to change on the strength of one race. But this is a track where he has been successful in the recent past with wins in the night races of 2014 and 2015.
Clint Bowyer is the fourth driver (along with Harvick, Busch, and Logano) who has swept the top 10 in three short track races of 2018. His victory in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway put him in the playoffs. An eighth at Bristol and ninth at Richmond Raceway earned a lot of points for fantasy owners. Bristol is not his best track, but he has had more success than failure there with four top-20s and a 12th in the last seven races. His greatest achievement was a second in spring 2017.
Kurt Busch continues to chip away at top-10s. He enters the Night Race at Bristol with a current streak of five top-10s. He hasn’t earned a top-five since the rain-shortened Firekeepers Casino 400 this spring at Michigan, but he has easily been the most consistent driver in the field with 14 top-15s (77.8%) in the past 18 races. Busch did not fare particularly well this spring at Bristol with a 22nd-place finish, but he was fifth under the lights last year.
Alex Bowman earned his first top-10 of the 2018 season on the short track of Martinsville, but he was not on a lot of radar screens when the series rolled into Bristol. That is because his four previous attempts on this track back in 2014/2015 all ended in the 30s. Since finishing fifth at Bristol, he’s scored six more top-10s and a few more top-15s. Four of these top-10s came in the last eight races, with another 11th on the short, flat track of New Hampshire and a 14th at the Glen.
Hendrick Motorsports is beginning to turn their season around. It is not yet apparent on fast tracks like Michigan with its heavy dependence on aerodynamics, but they ran well as an organization at Pocono and Watkins Glen – in part because they reportedly have made improvements to the chassis. Bristol is a track that rewards mechanical grip and driver skill. Jimmie Johnson finished third there this spring. He won last spring and has finished 11th or better in seven of his last eight attempts.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. has not yet won on a short track – and he desperately wants to. That might be part of the reason he gets into so much trouble. He’s come close at Martinsville in their last two races, but crash damage sent him home 30th this spring. In fact, in his last 10 Bristol races he has been involved in an accident seven times and finished on the lead lap only twice. This is a good week to take him off your roster and wait for the unrestricted, intermediate speedways coming up on the schedule.