Coming into this weekend’s race, Kyle Busch was the easy odds on favorite to win Sunday’s Food City 500 (2 p.m. ET/FS1/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Rightfully so too. Busch, has won twice already this season and has yet to finish outside of the top 10. Plus, the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway is arguably his best track on the entire NASCAR circuit.
Busch, is a seven-time winner in NASCAR’s premiere series on the .533-mile Tennessee oval. So, for him to be 2-1 odds this weekend, it’s not shocking.
What was shocking was, his pace on Friday.
Busch, was only 14th fastest in the lone practice session of the day and qualified his No. 18 Toyota 17th. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver cited that his car wasn’t handling right in the PJ1 traction strip that was applied on the racing surface.
To further this point, out of the top three favorites, none made it past 12th in Busch Pole qualifying.
Brad Keselowski (7-1) qualified his No. 2 Ford 12th. It’s surprising that he has that good of odds though since the Team Penske drivers’ last top five finish at Bristol was back in 2014. His last six finishes are – 18th, 33rd, 34th, 29th, 23rd and 16th respectively.
Kyle Larson is also 7-1 and has four consecutive top 10 finishes at Bristol including a runner-up result in both races last year. Plus, Larson has led 200 or more laps in each of the last two spring races. But, his No. 42 Chevrolet qualified just 16th.
Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate of Kurt Busch has won six times at Bristol and has scored a top 10 finish in all but two races this season, failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying. He rolls off a disappointing 27th on Sunday.
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Martin Truex Jr. has typically struggled at Bristol and will start 23rd. He has 14-1 odds, or tied for seventh best.
Kevin Harvick has 12-1 odds, tied with Ryan Blaney for fifth best but will start 13th. He was 15th in practice on Friday in his No. 4 Ford.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has four top 10 finishes in his last five spring race at Bristol including three of which being in the top five, but he only qualified 19th in his No. 17 Ford.
So, the cars that normally are strong at Bristol all have to come from midpack on back. That should make Sunday very interesting.