It wasn't quite Trevor Bayne
winning the Daytona 500 or Paul Menard
winning the Brickyard 400, but seeing Casey Mears
on the pole for Saturday night's Cup race at Bristol is pretty darn shocking. After all, he has made just one start from the top 10 all season and his average starting position is a dismal 27.6 in 2012. That being said, a fast lap in the opening practice followed by a little help from Mother Nature will allow Mears to lead the field to the green thanks to NASCAR
's rain out procedure that sets the field by first practice speeds. Granted, his chances of winning the race are basically nonexistent, but with a good pit stall and great track position, Mears could make a nice sleeper pick.
Of course, the favorite for Saturday's race has to be Brad Keselowski. After all, he is starting second, he is the defending winner of the race, and he is going for a season sweep at Bristol after winning at the track in March. Yes, neither of those wins came on the track's current configuration, but considering he has been the hottest driver in the series the last two months and was fast in practice, it is tough to bet against a Bristol three-peat for Keselowski.
Other big names starting near the front that deserve special attention are Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch. In 19 starts at Bristol, Biffle doesn't have a win, but he does have 15 top-15s and six top-five finishes. Fresh off a win last weekend at Michigan, the point leader will roll off third Saturday as he tries to win his first race in Thunder Valley. Meanwhile, Busch is in desperation mode as he tries to win another race to bolster his chances of winning a wild card spot, and he couldn't come to a better track. Busch is a five-time Bristol winner, and he has won four of the last seven races at the track.
Two drivers that were burned by the rain were Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. Although both are former winners at Bristol, neither was happy with their car during practice. As a result of failing to turn a fast lap, Edwards will have to start 26th Saturday night, and Johnson will start 37th. Both drivers will be facing an uphill battle to say the least, and their fantasy value is definitely shaky.
Based on what we saw in the Truck Series event when Timothy Peters led every lap on his way to the win, the reconfigured Bristol isn't really the one-lane track of old. The outside line is no longer usable, but there is a middle groove that still allows for side-by-side racing, and passing on the bottom is still next to impossible. As a result, track position is going to be crucial, and Mears, Keselowski and the rest of the drivers starting up front are going to start the race with a leg up on the competition. It also means that it could be a very long night for Johnson, Edwards and other drivers toward the back of the pack.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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