Bristol, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - The Sprint Cup Series will run its second short track race of the season this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
There have been six different winners in the last six Sprint Cup races at this 0.533-mile, high-banked oval. The previous nine spring races here have featured nine different winners.
As part of the numerous scheduling changes for the 2015 Sprint Cup season, the spring race at Bristol was moved to April after it had been held in March for the past nine years.
Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano are those drivers who have won at Bristol since 2012. Keselowski, Hamlin and Logano have each won a race this season to virtually guarantee themselves a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Kahne, Kenseth and Edwards are seeking their first victories of the year.
Edwards won last year's spring race at Bristol, which featured five hours of rain delays and ended with a confusing caution. With two laps remaining and Edwards leading the way, the caution lights around the track turned on for no apparent reason. Moments later, heavy rain fell on the track, forcing NASCAR officials to conclude the event under caution.
NASCAR said shortly after the race had ended that it appeared one of the flag people in the flag stand had leaned on the switch that was the manual override for the cautions lights.
Edwards won at Bristol for the third time last year. He is now in his first season driving the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing after spending the previous 11 years with Roush Fenway Racing. Edwards scored his first top-10 finish of the season this past Saturday with a 10th-place run at Texas. He is currently 14th in the point standings.
"We've had a lot of success at Bristol," Edwards said. "Last year, we got our first win of the year at Bristol, so that would be nice to repeat ... We came off of a top-10 finish last week, which was hard fought and we're proud of it. At this point in the season, we need to get the best finishes we can. Bristol is a tough place to do that, but I feel real confident there. The JGR cars have run really well there in the past."
Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon lead all drivers entered in this race with five victories each at Bristol. Busch has not won here since March 2006, and Gordon's most recent victory at this track occurred in August 2002. Both drivers have yet to win this season.
"Bristol is one of those tracks that I get a little extra pumped up for," Busch said. "It's a place that gives you a big adrenaline rush. You can literally feel the energy around the track from the competitors and the fans who are just excited for 500 laps of racing at Bristol. There's really nothing quite like it."
Additional SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers were recently installed at Bristol. Earlier this month, track officials announced it had secured an additional 600 feet of SAFER barriers that would be installed on the outside walls of the frontstretch and backstretch prior to this weekend's NASCAR races here.
Drivers have been concerned about their safety at racetracks since Kyle Busch's accident in the Feb. 21 Xfinity Series race at Daytona. Busch fractured his right leg and left foot when he slammed head-on into the inside retaining wall on the frontstretch. That wall did not have a SAFER barrier attached to it at the time.
The barriers will change how drivers race at Bristol.
"The addition of the SAFER barriers is going to change the groove slightly," Gordon said. "It's definitely going to change how we race there. I hope it makes it more exciting with even more action."
Gordon's children, Ella and Leo, will serve as the grand marshals for Sunday's race at Bristol to help commemorate Gordon's final season in NASCAR's premier series. He has scored 16 top-five finishes and 24 top-10 finishes at this track, which is more than any other active driver.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, April 19. Race: Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes. Site: Bristol Motor Speedway. Track: 0.533-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. Laps: 500. Miles: 266.5. 2014 Winner: Carl Edwards. Television: FOX. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.