Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Food City 500
Resurfaced in 2007, Bristol Motor Speedway added new variable banking and remained one of the steepest tracks on the schedule. The added room allows cars to run one of several lines but has reduced the physical racing that has made the track so beloved. Still, Bristol remains among the most popular venues in NASCAR for its two Cup events, the fall night race in particular. The half-mile length gives those that qualify at the back of the pack little separation from the front of the field and in danger of going a lap down quickly, although many of the top drivers can move to the front with ease regardless of starting position.
Practice sessions: Friday, March 16 at 12:00 pm ET, Saturday, March 17 at 9:30 am ET, 12:00 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
Over the last three races at Bristol, Edwards has qualified on the front row and has held an average running position of at least ninth each time. Dating back to 2007, he's won at BMS twice with an average finish of ninth while never finishing worse than 16th. Edwards has already collected two top-10s with one top-five this season and should add another figure to at least one of those columns this week in Thunder Valley.
While each of Kenseth's two wins at Bristol came before the redesign he's remained a consistent performer. In those 10 races Kenseth finished outside of the top-11 positions just twice while holding an average running position of at least 13th in five straight. Last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kenseth appeared to have a top-five finish wrapped up but got squeezed on the final restart and finished 22nd.
After a rough start to the season with a pair of 21st-place finishes Newman left Vegas matching a career-best fourth place result. Over the last nine races at BMS, Newman has collected seven top-10s with a nearly identical average running position on each occasion. With a strong resume loaded with impressive performances at Bristol, Newman is no overachiever and is riding high into his best track.
Since Bristol was redesigned for the 2007 season Busch has made the World's Fastest Half Mile his playground. In those 10 races Rowdy has won half of them, including four of the last six, with six top-fives and eight top-10s. His 1,340 laps led are 632 more than the nearest driver, Jimmie Johnson. Busch spun late out late at LVMS, finishing 23rd, and is without a top-five so far. Positive momentum or not, Busch is the top selection at Bristol.
A 29th-place finish last August ended a streak of four consecutive top-10s at Bristol for Biffle. In the 10 starts since the redesign he's collected four top-fives and eight finishes of 11th or better. After missing the Chase last year Biffle is currently first in points by finishing third in each race thus far. In addition to being the only driver with three top-fives in 2012, The Biff is the only driver that has gone three-for-three in scoring top-10 finishes as well.
Truex had recorded an average running position of 13th or better in four straight BMS races but only scored a single top-15 finish until last August. He would run ninth, on the average, and finished as the runner-up setting new career bests in each category as well as laps spent running in the top 15 with 92.6. Truex has finished 17th or better in all three races this season and is a strong middle-tier driver despite a knack for not always earning the finish he deserves.
Aside from two poor finishes in 2010 Ambrose has been quite impressive in limited action at Bristol. He finished 10th and a career-best third at the site in 2009 before scoring finishes of 15th and 10th a year ago. The Australianís career average running position of 14th is ninth among all drivers in the field. Ambrose, now the focal point at RPM, has recorded two 13th-place finishes so far in 2012 with one DNF due to an engine failure. While not the safest pick, Ambrose could present a nice value.
Over the last five races at Bristol, McMurray has run well at the site despite uneven performances at most other tracks in those three seasons. In that span he's compiled four finishes of 11th or better with an average running position of ninth in three of the last four. Following a dreadful 2011 and two DNFs to start this season, Jamie Mac is coming off a top-10 finish at LVMS. If things are indeed turning around another strong finish at Bristol could be on the horizon.
Temper your expectations
From 2006-08, Stewart managed to lead more than 240 laps in three of the six races at Bristol but failed to record a top-10 finish. Since moving to SHR the owner/driver and defending Cup champion only led a total of two laps in six races at the site. Aside from a runner-up finish in March of 2010 Stewart does not own single top-15 finish in Thunder Valley.
Since 2009, Harvick has only recorded an average running position better than 20th at Bristol once. Despite those lackluster figures he's still managed to record three top-15 finishes over the last four at BMS. While Harvick has finished 11th or better in three straight starts this year, his loop data numbers for this week's venue is by no means inspiring.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. Follow @EricMcClung
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