The next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races will take place on short tracks. Really, the three races that will run in the month of April will be exciting.
From Bristol this Sunday to Richmond next week to Easter then to a superspeedway at Talladega to close the month off, we’re due for a wild month ahead.
Here are the top five storylines for Sunday’s Food City 500 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Kyle Busch battles Kyle Larson during the rain delayed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 16, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee.
New Rules Package
Back to this again. But, it’s a legit storyline. After how we saw the way Martinsville went, will Bristol be different?
Brad Keselowski led 446 of 500 laps on the .526-mile Martinsville (VA) Speedway short track. It was the most dominant performance there since 1961.
The drivers all said that the aero package allowed for cars to have higher speeds in the corners but the dirty air wouldn’t let them close up to the cars in front. Will that happen on Sunday?
A lot of the drivers also said that Bristol will be wild in that they likely will have to bring a special car for the race.
Ryan Blaney during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 15, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee.
Penske And JGR Eyeing 8th Win To Start 2019, But They’ve Struggled To Finish At Bristol
The door may be wide open for a new team to win. See, Joe Gibbs Racing (4) and Team Penske (3) have combined to win all seven races to start the 2019 season off with. If you go back to 2018, they’ve actually won nine straight. Can they make it 10 on Sunday?
Stats say, no.
Kyle Busch has scored a top 10 finish in all six races this season and has won two of his last three starts at Bristol in a Cup car, but those are his only two top five finishes on the .533-mile short track since 2013. He has four finishes of 20th or worse in his last six overall Bristol (Tenn) starts.
Denny Hamlin has three top five finishes on the high banked Tennessee oval since 2013.
Martin Truex Jr. finished 30th in both races a year ago and has just one top 10 finish in his last 13 Bristol starts. Furthermore, nine of his last 11 Bristol races have seen him finish 20th or worse. His last top five came back in 2012.
Erik Jones gives them their best shot with scoring two top five finishes in four tries. But, both have come in the fall race too.
For Penske, Brad Keselowski hasn’t scored a top five finish since a runner-up in 2014. His last six finishes are – 18th, 33rd, 34th, 29th, 23rd and 16th respectively.
Ryan Blaney did lead 100 or more laps in both races a year ago but finished 35th and seventh respectively instead. He’s never scored a top five at Bristol before in Cup competition.
Joey Logano is their best bet with six top 10 finishes in his last seven tries. But, he’s also only scored one top five finish in his last four starts on the season.
Jimmie Johnson during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on March 29, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Can Hendrick Capitalize
Last weekend was a coming out part for Hendrick Motorsports in 2019. Jimmie Johnson led 60 laps and earned his first pole in his last 96 tries. He finished with his first top five effort since the 2018 Coca Cola 600 too. William Byron finished a respectable sixth in his No. 24 Chevrolet as well.
Overall, HMS led 110 laps in Texas.
Now, they head to Bristol.
Johnson, has five top 10 finishes in his last seven Bristol starts including a win in this race in 2017. Chase Elliott has three top 10 finishes in six tries including leading 112 laps in a third place run last August.
Alex Bowman may be slumping on the season but he brought his No. 88 Chevrolet home fifth and eighth respectively at Bristol last year.
With JGR and Penske’s potential struggles, maybe HMS can capitalize.
Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch battling during the rain delayed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 16, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee.
Can Chip Ganassi Racing Score Dual Top 5’s?
It’s no secret, Chip Ganassi Racing has been feast or famine in 2019. Kurt Busch has been the feast with five top 10 finishes in his last six tries in his No. 1 Chevrolet. He heads to a track to where he won his last time out and has six overall wins at. Busch, also has two top five finishes in his last three overall starts at Bristol.
Watch out for him on Sunday.
Kyle Larson has finished outside the top 10 in five of his seven starts in 2019. He crashed and finished last in Texas. But, Bristol has been a strong suit for him. Larson’s last four finishes are sixth, ninth, second and second respectively. He’s started on the front row in three of those four races too.
Also, in his last two spring starts, he’s led a combined 402 laps with leading 202 laps in 2017 and 200 laps a year ago.
Can he get going on Sunday? If he can, Larson and Busch could easily score dual top five finishes, if not get one of them in victory lane.
Daniel Suarez all smiles after his 3rd place finish on Sunday in Texas
RFR/Suarez & Bowyer Sleepers
Watch out for these four drivers too. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has two runner-up finishes at Bristol including this race in 2014. He was fourth in his No. 17 Ford a year ago. In fact, in his last five spring race starts, Stenhouse has finished second, fourth, 16th, ninth and fourth respectively.
Ryan Newman may have something to say too. The Indiana native has five top 10 finishes in his last eight Bristol starts.
RFR may have something on Sunday afternoon.
So may Daniel Suarez and Clint Bowyer.
Suarez, has improved from 13th in Fontana to 10th in Martinsville to third last week in Texas. He was 11th in this race a year ago.
Bowyer, has three top eight finishes at Bristol in four tries as a member of SHR including eight top 10’s in his last 11 races at Bristol overall. He finished seventh two weeks ago in Martinsville and was runner-up last week in Texas.
This has a sleeper package all over it.