RACE PREVIEW

dar 13

BOJANGLES SOUTHERN 500
DARLINGTON RACEWAY
SEPTEMBER 6th, 7:00 PM CHARLOTTE TIME NBC TV
1.366 MILES, 25 DEGREES of BANKING in TURNS 1 & 2, 23 DEGREES in TURNS 3 & 4.

Here is a track that could have easily gone the way of the North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham) or the North Wilkesboro Speedway; both of which stopped running NASCAR sanctioned races. Once the home of two races a year, it now just hosts one. In 2003 we saw the last Southern 500 on Labor day weekend. When it went away I thought the days of thunder would be over for this incredible egg-shaped speedway. International Speedway Corp. decided to give this track a chance and kept a race date earlier in the year. Lights were added and we’ve had big crowds even though they added more seats. Why? Better marketing? Lower prices? New amenities? Nope, just great close-up racing under the lights and old school Saturday night excitement at the ultimate old school track. Now the Labor Day weekend Southern 500 is back! Built in 1950 this track began the Speedway era in NASCAR. Called “the track too tough to tame” it could have also been called “the track with no turn the same” because of disproportionately different east and west turns. Add in a very tight racing groove and pavement that eats tires and you have “the track that is very tough to claim” (victory that is). Most racers find it smarter to race the track than to race the other drivers. Hendrick Motorsports has won seven of the last 15 races and the engine shop has eight wins. HMS driver, Jeff Gordon, comes in here with seven wins in his 34 starts and teammate Jimmie Johnson has three wins in only 16 starts. Joe Gibbs Racing had a win here in ’08 with Kyle Busch, in ’10 with Denny Hamlin, and two years ago with #20 Matt Kenseth. That is three wins in just the last seven races. Will JGR or anyone else challenge the HMS boys? We’ll find out Saturday night.

Tuesday look for our Top 10 drivers on Intermediate tracks.

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RACE PREVIEW

Irwin Tools Night Race from BRISTOL

The number #5 driver finished 2nd here in April, #48 Jimmie Johnson. Jimmie has 25 starts, one win and nine Top 5 finishes. But throw that out and look at his last two starts here. Both were Top 5’s helping him to the #5 rank as a short track driver.

The number #4 driver to watch is the second hottest on the circuit right now, #18 Kyle Busch. Kyle has 20 starts, five wins and eight Top 5’s.

Restarts will be the key here for track position and Kyle is one of the best. That alone puts him in my Top 5; the stats just reinforce it.

 

The #3 pick is my highest rated short track driver, #24 Jeff Gordon. Jeff has 45 starts, five wins and 17 Top 5’s. More importantly he needs a win or the points that come with a Top 5 finish in order to make “The Chase.” He is happy to be here where he has won five times and had a 3rd place finish in April. He is also #1 ranked for us on short tracks.

The #2 driver to watch won here in this race last year, #22 Joey Logano. Joey has 13 starts, that win and two Top 5’s. The two Top 5’s came in the last four races; he is just getting better here in Thunder Valley. Joey is locked in at this point in The Chase for the Cup, but he is still looking to use that Penske power under the hood to power him to victory lane.

My #1 won here earlier in the year, #20 Matt Kenseth. That win was Matt’s fourth in 31 starts! Not only does he have the four wins but he has 20 Top 5’s in those 31 starts. 64% were Top 5’s! That is very good! He is our #2 ranked short track driver and is #1 hot over the last six weeks.

Monday look for our preview of the Bojangles Southern 500 from Darlington.

TOP 30 DRIVERS

TOP 30 POWER RANKINGS

IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE-BRISTOL

  1. MATT KENSETH #20
  2. JOEY LOGANO #22
  3. JEFF GORDON #24
  4. KYLE BUSCH #18
  5. JIMMIE JOHNSON #48
  6. PAUL MENARD #27
  7. CLINT BOWYER #15
  8. DALE EARNHARDT JR #88
  9. KYLE LARSON #42
  10. RYAN NEWMAN #31
  11. BRAD KESELOWSKI #2
  12. CARL EDWARDS #19
  13. GREG BIFFLE #16
  14. RICKY STENHOUSE #17
  15. JAMIE MCMURRAY #1
  16. KURT BUSCH #41
  17. KASEY KAHNE #5
  18. DENNY HAMLIN #11
  19. AUSTIN DILLION #3
  20. KEVIN HARVICK #4
  21. TONY STEWART #14
  22. MARTIN TRUEX #78
  23. A. J. ALLMENDINGER #47
  24. ARIC ALMIROLA #43
  25. JUSTIN ALLGAIER #51
  26. DANICA PATRICK #10
  27. DAVID GILLILAND #38
  28. DAVID RAGAN #55
  29. CASEY MEARS #13
  30. SAM HORNISH #9

Above the Top 30 drivers for Irwin Tools Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway, Friday we’ll break down the Top 5 drivers to watch.

TOP TEN TEAMS

TOP 10 TEAMS POST MICHIGAN

  1. TEAM PENSKE (LW #1)
  2. JOE GIBBS RACING (LW #3)
  3. FURNITURE ROW RACING (LW #5)
  4. HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS (LW #2)
  5. STEWART HAAS RACING (LW #4)
  1. RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING (LW #6)
  2. CHIP GANASSI RACING (LW #8)
  3. MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING (LW #7)
  4. RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS (LW #Off)
  5. JTG RACING (LW #9)

With just three races to go until “The Chase” we saw a big shakeup this week. Four of the Top 5 teams changed places this week. Team Penske stays at #1. Joe Gibbs Racing goes up a place to #2. Furniture Row Racing goes up two places to #3. Hendrick Motorsports drops two spots to #4. Stewart Haas Racing slips back a place to #5. Richard Childress Racing stays at #6. Chip Ganassi Racing go up one place to #7 and as speculation swirls around Michael Waltrip Racing they drop a place to #8. Richard Petty Motorsports returns to the Top 10 at #9. JTG Racing stays in the Top 10 at #10.

These are the Top 10 Teams, Thursday look for our Top30 drivers in advance of the Irwin Tools Night race from Bristol Motor Speedway.

TOP TEN DRIVERS by TRACK TYPE

TOP 10: SHORT TRACK

  1. JEFF GORDON #24
  2. MATT KENSETH #20
  3. CLINT BOWYER #15
  4. JOEY LOGANO #22
  5. JIMMIE JOHNSON #48
  6. DALE EARNHARDT JR. #88
  7. KYLE BUSCH #18
  8. JAMIE McMURRAY #1
  9. PAUL MENARD #27
  10. RYAN NEWMAN #31

Top 10 drivers on Short tracks, Thursday look for our Top 30 rankings for Saturday’s IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE from Bristol Motor Speedway.

RACE PREVIEW

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IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE

BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY

AUGUST 22nd, 7:30 ET on NBCSN

½ MILE, 36 Degrees of Banking

Nothing gives you more drama than 43 cars on a high banked (36 degrees) short half-mile track. Add to that the fact that drivers only have 3 chances left to lock into the Top 16 Chase for the Cup and you have all the action you need on a Saturday night. Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the best places on the circuit to watch a race and when you factor in the implications of this race, it IS one of the best race tickets to get, bar none. 150,000+ lucky fans will be gathered this Saturday in Thunder Valley to watch what the track describes as “racing the way it ought’a be.” And they are right! This is racing the way it should be, especially as the regular season winds down. If there are any simmering tensions out there amongst the drivers, and there are, they may well get settled Saturday night. Tensions that do not currently exist may get established here and have to be resolved later in the season. Short track = short tempers. High banks = short tempers + high anger. This is always a fun race and with championship eligibility on the line, it makes an event not to be missed. And to add to the drama, more work has been done to reduce the “progressive banking” that was added when the track was repaved making it more like the old Bristol. Toyota has won seven races at Bristol in the last ten years, Ford has six wins and Chevy has just four. Joey Logano won here last year in his Team Penske Ford, earlier in the year Matt Kenseth won in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Those two are both locked into the Chase. Will we see a first time in 2015 winner? Who will dominate and who’ll lock into the Chase? We’ll know Saturday night.

Tuesday look for our Top 10 drivers by track type for week 24 and on Thursday we’ll rank the top 30 drivers.

TOP FIVE DRIVERS

TOP 5 DRIVERS TO WATCH: MICHIGAN INT SPEEDWAY

My #5 pick has never won here, #27 Paul Menard. Paul has 18 starts and three Top 5’s. He is my #5 ranked driver on tracks like this and he is battling to stay in the Top 16 in points. He currently sits at #13 on the playoff grid but he is only 10 points ahead of #16. Look for a big points’ weekend in the Motor City for Paul where he has gotten all three of his Top 5’s in the last four races.

 

The #4 driver is a two-time former-winner here, #20 Matt Kenseth. Matt has those two wins in 32 starts and has 13 Top 5 finishes. He is also ranked the #2 driver on tracks like this and is #2 hottest over the last six weeks.

 

My # 3 is coming off an improbable sweep last week in New York state, #22 Joey Logano. Joey is #3 hottest over the last six weeks with that big road course win. And he is no stranger to victory lane here where he won in August of 2013. Joey has 13 starts, that win, and three Top 5’s. His Top 5’s have all come in the last four races. In fact his last five races have all been Top 10’s.

 

 

My #2 pick won here in August of 2010, #4 Kevin Harvick. Kevin has that win in 29 starts and seven Top 5’s. Not the best stats, but along with that 2010 win he has finished second here in all four of the last four races. He is also #1 on Downforce tracks.

 

My #1 driver has never won here, but it is in his backyard, #2 Brad Keselowski. Brad has 12 starts here and three total Top 5 finishes. He finished 6th here earlier in the year and is #3 rated on these lower banked big tracks. If it comes down to a fuel battle Brad is the best there is at winning a mileage race.

 

 

 

Monday look for our preview of the Irwin Tools Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway.