We now have all three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sessions behind us this weekend at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway. So, is qualifying to set the field for Sunday’s Food City 500 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Now, who’s going to win?
Here are five things to watch for this weekend’s race on the .533-mile Tennessee oval.
Will Anyone Beat JGR, Penske Or SHR?
Between these three organizations, they’ve combined to win the last 10 Cup Series races. Both Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have won all seven races in 2019 to go along with the final two races of last year. Can they keep these streaks going on Sunday?
Right now, it’s their race to lose.
Between them, they’ve won seven of the last nine races at Bristol. So far this weekend, they’ve been so strong.
In practice on Friday, they had five of the top six speeds on the speed chart to go along with eight of the top 11.
On Saturday, they had nine cars in the top 10 in the first practice and seven of the top 11 in final practice.
What about long run speed?
The top four speeds on the 15 lap average, seven of the top nine in 20 lap averages and five of the top six on the 30 lap runs.
I don’t know how anyone tops them.
Can Penske/JGR Finish On Sunday?
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.
Hendrick Motorsports Looking Strong
If anyone is going to beat the “Big 3” organizations, look no further than Hendrick Motorsports. They were quick last weekend in Texas and saw Chase Elliott finish runner-up on another short track two weeks ago in Martinsville.
Jimmie Johnson, was sixth and second respectively on single lap runs on Saturday to go along with being sixth on 15 lap averages, third on 20 lap and seventh on 30 lap runs. Johnson, also has three top three finishes in his last four spring race at Bristol to go along with a top 10 in both races a year ago.
Elliott, finished third in the fall race last year and was in the top 15 in two of the three practice sessions. He starts on the pole on Sunday.
William Byron rolls off second in his No. 24 Chevrolet.
Chip Ganassi Racing Surprisingly Struggling
I had high hopes for both Chip Ganassi Racing cars entering this weekend.
Kurt Busch has been the best with five top 10 finishes in his last six tries on the season 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.
Kyle Larson has finished outside the top 10 in five of his seven starts in 2019, 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.
So far this weekend though, they’ve struggled. Larson, was 20th and 22nd respectively in practice on Saturday and starts only 16th. Busch, was just 12th, 12th and 24th respectively in all three practice sessions and didn’t even make it out of the first round of qualifying and will start 27th.
They don’t have the best long run speeds either.
War Of Attrition
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 have all pretty much 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?
Right now, the speeds are high and the g forces in the corners are as high as they’ve ever been. The drivers also said that the dirty air when running in wake has been difficult too.