Published November 20, 2014
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. (et). Laps: 500. Miles: 266.5. 2010 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: ABC. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN) /SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.
Kyle Busch has figured out Bristol Motor Speedway so well lately that no one has been able to beat him at this half-mile, high-banked track. Busch has won the last five NASCAR national series races at Bristol, and he's hoping his streak continues here this week, beginning with Wednesday's Camping World Truck Series race.
One year ago, Busch became the first driver to win a Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series race at the same track on the same week.
"It was pretty cool, because when you come so close and then don't get it, it's pretty frustrating," he recalled. "In 2009, we won the truck race, and we were leading the Nationwide race, and we got crashed out, and then we ended up winning the Cup race. So, it was probably a year delayed. There have been some other times we've come close to getting it done at other places, too. It was pretty special. It was cool to be able to put it all together in a complete weekend, with the truck, with the Nationwide car and with the Cup car."
Busch continued his winning ways at Bristol in March by taking the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races.
After winning last Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway, Busch clinched a spot in the 12-driver field for the championship Chase. He is the only driver to qualify for the playoffs so far based on his Sprint Cup season- high four wins. Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond are those races remaining before the Chase begins.
"Certainly we've built ourselves into championship contenders this year, and that's where our strong suit has been up to this point," Busch said. "There's a great opportunity for us to win three more races before the Chase starts. We'd love nothing more than to see that, of course carry on our strong runs through the final 10 weeks. It's just a matter of being consistent."
Busch, his elder brother, Kurt, and Jeff Gordon have five wins each at Bristol, which is the most among active drivers.
Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, all of whom are currently ranked top-10 in points, have the opportunity to secure their spots in the Chase at Bristol. Any driver who has at least a 97-point lead over the 11th-place person after Bristol will clinch a position.
Brad Keselowski is perhaps the hottest driver in the series right now. Since he suffered a broken left ankle and a sore back from an accident while testing at Road Atlanta earlier this month, Keselowski has won at Pocono, finished second at Watkins Glen and then third at his home track in Michigan.
Keselowski has climbed from 21st to 12th in points during the past three races.
"I'm feeling pretty good about it, but nothing is ever a certainty until it's done, and I think if you look at it, we're obviously not mathematically locked in," he said. "Until you're mathematically locked in, then it doesn't really matter. I think we're going to continue on the same path we've been on, trying to win races, trying to be smart and trying to be stronger for the Chase."
Right now, Keselowski holds the first wild card spot by virtue of his two wins so far this season, while Denny Hamlin, who is ranked 14th in points, occupies the second wild card position. Hamlin won the June race at Michigan.
Other drivers contending for a wild card spot include: Paul Menard (18th in points) and David Ragan (20th). Menard and Ragan have one victory each this year. Marcos Ambrose and Regan Smith also have one win apiece, but both drivers are now outside the top-20.
Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer are 10th and 11th in points, respectively. Both drivers have yet to win this season. While Stewart presently has a 24-point advantage over Bowyer for the coveted 10th spot, the two-time Sprint Cup champion has not been thoroughly pleased with his team's performance in recent weeks.
"I will be perfectly honest, at this point of the deal, if we are going to run this bad, it really doesn't matter whether we make the Chase or not, because we are going to be occupying a spot in the Chase that somebody else that actually can run for a championship is going to be trying to take," Stewart said. "Since our stuff is so bad right now, we're wasting one of those top-12 spots right now."
Forty-six teams are on the preliminary entry list for the IRWIN Tools Night Race.