The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be back to short track racing at Bristol Baby! Drivers will be looking to pay back their fellow competitors for any debts they are looking to settle this week. The beating and banging in Thunder Valley produces some of the best action of the season (although it is not as good as the Bristol Night Race). The Food City 500 is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
It will be a normal schedule for the MENCS this week. The first practice will be Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET and qualifying will be at 6 p.m. ET (FS1). There will be two practices Saturday for the teams to dial in their cars. The first is at 8:30 a.m. ET and final practice is at 11 a.m. ET. Our lineups must be set by 7 a.m. ET Friday. Do not forget.
Kyle Busch dominated the spring race at Bristol last year. The No. 18 car won the pole, led 117 laps and Busch took home the trophy. The three Team Penske drivers (Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney) spent most of the race in the top five. Kyle Larson took the lead at the start of Stage 2 and led a race-high 200 laps. Larson finished second. Other drivers who ran well were Jimmie Johnson (finished 3rd), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (finished 4th) and Alex Bowman (finished 5th). (This is the race where Ryan Newman hit the tire changer for Paul Menard. The tire flew 10 feet in the air, bounced off the wall and the tire changer caught it and took it to the pits. It was incredible.)
Race Rewind at Bristol: Food City 500
NASCAR decided to use the PJ1 compound (the sticky stuff) on the track at Bristol last year. This really changed the racing. It took a while for the drivers to work some grip into the groove where the compound was added, but once it came in, some of the cars came to life. Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman passed a lot of cars in the top groove where the compound was added. It really helped their cars. I expect NASCAR to added the PJ1 again this week and make the rim riders a factor in this race Sunday.
Here are my picks for Bristol…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Kyle Larson (8): Larson was the man at Bristol last year. He won the pole for the spring race, scored the most Stage points in both races and finished 2nd in both races. Larson has been the best driver at Bristol in the spring. He has won the last two poles at the track in April, led at least 200 laps in each of the last two races and has a 4th-place average finishing position. This is a great opportunity to use an allocation with the No. 42 car.
Kyle Busch (7): Busch has been feast or famine at Bristol since 2014. In the last 8 races at the track, Busch has 2 wins and 5 finishes outside the top 20. He is either going to win Sunday or crash. That is just how his aggressive driving style plays out at this track. Busch has been on fire this season so I think he will win. Busch won 2 of the last 3 Bristol races and he won the pole in the spring race last year. Busch should be good for some qualifying points even if we use Kyle Larson in our starting lineup.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Larson 2) Kyle Busch 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Kevin Harvick 5) Joey Logano 6) Chase Elliott 7) Martin Truex Jr.
Driver Group Game B Picks
Jimmie Johnson (8): Johnson has not been consistently good for a while but the one thing he has done well during his slump is run up front at Bristol. Johnson is almost a lock for a top-10 finish Sunday. He has finished in the top 11 in 8 of the last 9 races at Bristol. He even won the spring race in Thunder Valley in 2017. We need to use some allocations with Johnson this season. Bristol is one of his best tracks so I will have him in my lineup.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7): There are two types of tracks where you want Stenhouse in your lineup… The Superspeedways and Bristol. Drivers need to be aggressive on this high-banked, short track. Stenhouse is not afraid to use his bumper to move a driver out of the way. It usually pisses off half of the field but it also allows him to finish up front. Last year Stenhouse qualified 4th, score Stage points in all Stages and finished 4th. I would love to use the No. 17 car and save my top drivers for the larger tracks.
Erik Jones (7): Jones is very good a high-banked tracks. His best tracks are Darlington, Dover and Bristol. In his rookie season (2017), Jones won the pole at Bristol, led a race-high 260 laps and finished 2nd. He finished 5th in the Night Race last year and scored Stage points in both Stages. If Jones can stay out of trouble he will be up front. He is a high risk, high reward driver that I am willing to take a chance with Sunday.
Kurt Busch (8): Busch is having a good 2019 season. He has a 7th-place average finishing position since the opening race at Daytona. Now he heads to a track where he is the defending race winner. Busch qualified 9th, scored Stage points in all Stages and won the Bristol Night Race last year. The Busch Brothers grew up racing on the Bullring in Las Vegas. That track is similar to Bristol and it explains why Kyle has the most wins at Bristol (7) and Kurt is only one win behind him (6). I expect one of the Busch Brothers to be in Victory Lane Sunday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Kurt Busch 2) Erik Jones 3) Ryan Blaney 4) Jimmie Johnson 5) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 6) Clint Bowyer 7) Denny Hamlin 8) Alex Bowman 9) Ryan Newman 10) Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game C Picks
Matt DiBenedetto (8): This is the race to have DiBenedetto in your lineups. He lives for the races at Bristol. I am sure he will have a cool costume picked out for driver introductions and a fast racecar for the Food City 500. DiBenedetto finished 6th at Bristol while driving for BK Racing. He should be able to run in the top 15 with a Joe Gibbs Racing chassis, TRD Horsepower and Mike Wheeler as a crew chief. I plan to use my first allocation with DiBenedetto Sunday.
Ryan Preece (8): Preece is a short track ace. He grew up dominating the modified series on the short tracks. Last year he won the Xfinity Series race at Bristol. AJ Allmendinger always ran well at Bristol in the No. 47 car. I am sure Preece can run in the top 15 too. This is a great chance for us to use an allocation with Preece.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Matt DiBenedetto 2) Ryan Preece 3) Ty Dillon 4) Daniel Hemric 5) Bubba Wallace Jr.
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Kyle Larson (8), Kyle Busch (7)
Group B: Jimmie Johnson (8), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7), Erik Jones (7), Kurt Busch (8)
Group C: Matt DiBenedetto (8), Ryan Preece (8)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game after final practice Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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