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Fantasy Racing: Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 20 2009

Sharpie 500
Bristol Motor Speedway
Saturday August 22, 6:30 ET, ESPN

sharpie500_thumbRace Facts: Judging from the Trucks race, the high line is going to be the preferred way around Bristol. Slower trucks on the high side caused fits for faster trucks on the low side… Qualifying is pretty important at Bristol as over 80% of winners have started in the top 10… 22 of those 79 races have been won from the pole… The 1991 race had 40 lead changes and the 1973 race had 0. Ill say that we have about 15 Saturday night… Chevy has won 41 of the 97 races at Bristol.

Drivers to Watch:

Kyle Busch: This has to be the race that Busch thinks that he can make up the most points at. In the last seven Sprint Cup races, Busch has six top 10 finishes, and that only finish outside of the top 10 was a 17th. Sure, old Bristol is gone, but the new Bristol still retains a good chance of knocking a contender or two out of contention early, and if that happens to one of the guys around Busch, look for him to finish the night in the top 12 in points.

Jeff Burton:
In the last 10 races at Bristol, Burton has been either feast or famine. Burton has six top 10 finishes, but when he’s finished outside the top 10, three of those times he’s finished lower than 30th. RCR’s short track program has been pretty decent this season, and Burton—assuming he qualifies well and stays out of trouble—knows how to get around the bullring. He’s a pretty safe bet for Saturday night.

Clint Bowyer: Sure, maybe the only reason I’m picking Bowyer is because this is the one year anniversary of his famous “Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR. Period,” quote, but Bowyer has become one of the better drivers at Bristol in the COT era. In those five races, Bowyer’s lowest finish is 13th and has finished seventh and third in the last two night races. Bowyer may not lead a ton of laps, but he should be safely in the top 10 by the end of the night.

Drivers to Watch Out For:

Jimmie Johnson: Wait a second, you say. What is this guy doing picking Jimmie Johnson to struggle? Well, Bristol hasn’t been very kind to Jimmie, relatively speaking. Sure, he got a third in the spring race this year, but he has otherwise been merely average. He’s never won, and since 2005 has only two other top 10s. JJ could very well go and win the race Saturday night, but if I was a betting man, I’d say that a 15th place finish was more likely than a top five. With Johnson, you can rarely say that.

Bobby Labonte: The former champion has only two top 10s in the past seven Bristol races and has flat out struggled this season, sitting 28th in the points. Heck, Labonte even finished behind all of the start and parks last week with an engine issue. It’s a sad story for the 2000 champ, and we’re left to wonder what went wrong. Avoid Labonte Saturday.

David Stremme: Stremme has only been in five Bristol races, but has never recorded a top 10. And every week it seems like he’s involved in an incident of some sort. Heck, he’s becoming the John Wes Townley of the Sprint Cup Series. The odds of Stremme qualifying near Robby Gordon are pretty good, and those two cars together on a short track is a recipe for disaster.

Stone Cold Lock of the Week:

Denny Hamlin: The Hammer has three straight top six finishes at Bristol and has led 282 laps in the last two Bristol races. And in 2007 he had the dominant car in the early stages of the race until an engine problem relegated him to a last place finish. Hamlin should qualify near the front Friday, and shouldn’t waste any time taking the lead on Saturday. He’s my pick to win, and I think that he’ll do it in fairly dominating fashion.

Last Week:

To Watch: Gordon 2nd, Truex 21st, Hamlin 10th
To Watch Out: Burton 18th, Sorenson 29th, Andretti 28th
Stone Cold Lock: Edwards 4th

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 20 2009
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