NASCAR PREVIEW – Irwin Tools Night Race
The NASCAR haulers make the trek from Michigan to Bristol, Tennessee for the 2015 edition of the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. Matt Kenseth won the spring race here, but if the past is any indication, anything can happen and tempers usually flare on the Saturday night in August when they race at this track.
What: Irwin Tools Night Race (500 laps, 266.5 miles)
Where: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN
Irwin Tools Night Race Start Time: Saturday, August 22nd 7:30 PM EST
Bristol Motor Speedway is the closest that NASCAR gets to The Colosseum in Rome. The 0.533 concrete oval provides fans a true stadium experience as the entire track is surrounded by two levels of seating. The corners are banked from 24-28 degrees and the straightaways have 6-10 degree banking. Add that to the fact that you have 43 cars in the field at the start of the race and a 40 foot wide racing surface and quickly there is little room for error; and with 650 foot straightaways there is also little room to pass, but that does not stop them from trying.
While you rarely see “The Big One” at Bristol, you get a see a number of little ones that usually result from racing in tight spaces and frustrations boiling over onto the track. One thing to consider when evaluating this race is that in 109 previous races at this track the race has been won from the pole 23 times (21%), from a top-5 starting position 63 times (58%) and from a top-10 starting position 87 times (80%). Since passing is difficult due to the small track size, qualifying along with pit strategy play an important part in evaluating possible results.
We will try to narrow down the contenders and pretenders to provide you with some NASCAR picks if you are looking to play this race.
Contenders and Picks
Matt Kenseth (5-1 Stations) – Kenseth is fresh off a win last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway and has 4 wins, 13 Top 5 (42%) and 20 Top 10 finishes in 31 races (64%) at Bristol Motor Speedway. Since making the switch to Joe Gibbs racing before the 2013 season, Kenseth has finished 35th (crash), 1st, 13th, 3rd and the aforementioned 1st in the spring 2015 event. Expect Kenseth to put up another strong performance at one of his favorite tracks.
Kyle Busch (5-1 Stations) – Kyle Busch won four of the five races at Bristol Motor Speedway from 2009-2011, but he has cooled off considerably at this track in recent years. After starting on the pole in the 2013 spring race where he finished second, his three most recent appearances at BMS have resulted in finishes of 11th, 29th and 36th. Kyle missed the spring race here as he was recovering from leg and foot injuries, but no one can argue that over the past six week he is the hottest driver on the circuit. A healthy and hungry Kyle Busch could return to form here on Saturday night.
Joey Logano (7-1 Stations) – Logano and his Penske Racing team seem to definitely perform better in the night race at Bristol compared to the spring race which is run in the afternoon. In his past 3 spring performances at BMS, Logano has finished 17th, 20th and 40th. Logan must get fired up for the night race as he has finished 8th, 5th and won this race last season while leading 76 of the 500 laps.
Brad Keselowski (6-1 Stations) – Keselowski and his Penske Racing team have only raced 11 times at Bristol 11 times as a Cup driver. He managed back-to-back wins here in the August 2011 and followed that up in March 2012 with another victory, but he also has 3 finishes of 30th or worse at this track. It should be noted that he was the runner-up in the 2014 night race, but has not shown the consistency that Logano shown in his recent performances at BMS.
Kurt Busch (10-1 Stations) – He has won this race 5 times, but his most recent victory here came in 2006 while a member of Richard Penske Racing. The switch to the Stewart Haas Racing Team has been a positive for Kurt Busch, and he did managed to lead 98 laps at BMS in the spring race so you cannot count him out.
Jeff Gordon (12-1 Stations) – While Matt Kenseth has an impressive track record at Bristol Motor Speedway; Jeff Gordon has been a model of consistency. In 45 career starts at BMS, Gordon has an impressive 25 top-10 finishes (55%) with 5 wins. The crafty veteran knows what it takes to win at this track, and if given an opportunity he knows how to close out a race here.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (125-1 Stations) – If you are looking for a longshot on Saturday night you need to take a look at Stenhouse. While he only has 5 races under his belt at BMS, his last three finishes were 2nd, 6th and 4th while his starting position for each race was in the middle of the pack. The ability to pick up spots at this track is very valuable, and Stenhouse has shown an uncanny ability to do so.
Casey Mears (175-1 Stations) – The Germain racing driver has 25 starts at BMS with one top-10 finish (it was 10th in 2007). He has started, but failed to finish 5 of those 25 starts (20%) and has an average finishing position of 28th.
Sam Hornish, Jr. (100-1) – In 8 career starts at BMS, Hornish’s best finishes are 19th, 25th and 27th.
Danica Patrick (150-1 Stations) – While her 9th place finish in the spring race at BMS may look promising, even with that performance her average finishing position her six starts here is 23rd.
Buckle up on Saturday night as paint will be traded, tempers will flare and frustrations will be evident at Bristol Motor Speedway. This is always one of the most entertaining races of the NASCAR season.