Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: IRWIN Tools Night Race

by Eric McClung on August 21, 2013 @ 17:07:40 PDT


Back in 2007, Bristol Motor Speedway added new variable banking. This allowed cars to run one of several lines but also reduced the physical racing that made the track so beloved. Then the track owners wanted to turn back the clock. After the March 2012 event, the banking near the outside wall was ground down about two degrees in an effort to eliminate the top groove and restore the old style of racing. 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. Since we might be looking at a single-groove track, qualifying results should carry some extra weight this week when making your roster decisions.

Practice sessions: Friday, Aug. 23 at 12:00 p.m. EDT, 2:45 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, Aug. 23 at 5:40 p.m. EDT
Race: Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. EDT
Location: Bristol, Tenn.
Shape: Oval
Length: 0.533 miles
Laps: 500
Turns 1-4: 24-30 degrees
Straightaways: 4-9 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Dollar General Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

With a career average running position of 10.8 at Bristol, Kenseth is second to only Jeff Gordon when it comes to getting around Thunder Valley. He's led a minimum of 25 laps in each of the last four BMS starts but was taken out by the aforementioned Gordon in a wreck with 100 laps to go back in March. Kenseth was leading with less than 170 to go in this race a year ago but got into a scrap with Tony Stewart. If he can run a clean race this time around, Kenseth could very well record his third career Bristol victory.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Ford | Penske Championship Racing

Matt Kenseth
Kenseth is a beast at BMS

Over the last four races at Bristol, Keselowski has landed on the podium three times. He won the 2011 night race and the March race the following year. Keselowski led 62 laps this March and finished third. The Blue Deuce could really use a win before the Chase begins, and Bristol is perhaps the team's best opportunity to improve their postseason positioning for the title defense.

Kurt Busch | No. 78 Furniture Row/Sealy Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing

Busch is a five-time Bristol winner and finished fourth in March with an average running position of 10th. That marks his first top-five at the site since 2010. This season, Busch has finished third in two of his last three races and is running very well while fielding offers for a new ride in 2014. Over the last 10 races, Busch has only fallen outside of the top 10 three times.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Over the last eight races at Bristol, Truex has recorded an average running position of 13th or better each time out. He's finished 12th or better in four straight with a pair of podium finishes. Truex has been sound over the last nine races with a win at Sonoma Raceway and only one result worse than 16th.

Joey Logano | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford | Penske Championship Racing

After two straight 40th-place finishes at Daytona International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Logano's postseason hopes were looking bleak. Instead, he's rattled off four straight finishes of eighth or better and won last week at Michigan International Speedway from the pole. In last year's night race, he led a race-high 139 laps and finished fourth. Logano was also running very well in March but was spun out by another car on lap 328.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Over the last eight races, Newman has only placed outside of the top 15 once, a crash at Loudon. In that span, he won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the pole and added another top-five at Pocono Raceway. Bristol is a totally different race track, but Newman has finished 12th or better in eight of the last 10 starts there.

Brian Vickers | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

The season-ending broken leg suffered by Tony Stewart has Mark Martin moving to the No. 14 and allows Vickers to take over the No. 55 for 12 of the final 13 races before taking the seat full-time in 2014. Back in March, it was Vickers that qualified the car fourth; easily his career best at Bristol, and finished in the eighth spot. Last year, he scored a top-five in each BMS race, leading 125 laps in March.

Ryan Truex | No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet | Phoenix Racing

Truex is the younger brother of Martin Truex Jr. and will be competing in the Cup car for the first time in his career. Bristol is a tough opening assignment for the 21-year-old driver who finished 10th at the site in last year's Nationwide Series event. Back in March, the No. 51 was driven by A.J. Allmendinger and came home with a 13th-place showing. Truex is a long shot but worth monitoring through practice and qualifying as a sneaky bottom-tier driver.

Temper your expectations

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Fastenal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Edwards can't catch a break these days at Bristol. In last year's night race, he stayed late in the race to lead 40 laps, but the gamble backfired. Fearing the remaining fuel was not enough to make it to the finish, Edwards would have to pit with four laps to go and finish outside the top 20. He's now finished outside of the top 15 in three straight Bristol races.

Mark Martin | No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Martin hasn't suited up for an outing at Bristol since driving for Hendrick Motorsports in 2011. As a part-time driver, this was among the tracks he elected to leave off his schedule. Martin has seen some success here; he swept the poles in 2009, but his extended absence from the site should keep him off your roster.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's 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. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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