Mar 2, 2014; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick prior to The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Food City 500 Preview & Picks

This weekend both the NASCAR Nationwide series & NASCAR Sprint Cup series invaded thunder valley for round four of the 2014 season in what promises to be an exciting weekend of short track racing.  Any time Nascar travels to Bristol Motor speedway expect to see some fender rubbing, beaten and banging action that’s sure to leave all spectators breathless while  leaving some competitors stark raving mad. That’s why racing aficionados love Bristol.

 

Off to his best start in over a decade Nascar’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr looks to keep his hot streak intact this weekend at Bristol.  Constantly under the microscope most fans are expecting Dale Jr to taper off as the season progresses. Thus far Dale Junior is proving the naysayers wrong by backing up his historic Daytona victory with two back to back second place finishes at race tracks where he’s struggled in recent years. Dale junior shows no signs of slowing down heading into Bristol this weekend.  It’s not as if he mysteriously caught lightning in a bottle. Dale Junior simply found his niche with Hendrick Motorsports. We all saw this foreshadowing come to fruition towards the end of last season.    Ten years has passed since junior first tasted victory down in thunder valley. Can he continue his historic run by winning another race this early in the season? I’m going to say not this weekend however junior’s finished solidly in the top 10 in his last two trips to Bristol.  Although I have a feeling he’ll challenge for the win in the closing laps of the race ultimately coming up short with a solid second place finish making it an even triple to start the season. Call it a junior nation uprising if you will.

 

There’s no doubt about it Team Penske’s cars have been lighting quick this season.  Team Penske Drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are responsible for claiming back to back poles in recent weeks. Not only have they qualified near the front of the pack, both drivers are off to fantastic starts in 2014.  Brad Keselowski gambled and won at Las Vegas passing Dale Earnhardt Jr on the final lap to claim his first victory of the 2014 season backed up by two consecutive top 5 finishes. Keselowski’s Penske teammate Joey Logano owns two consecutive fourth place finishes heading into this weekend’s race at Bristol.  In all likelihood Team Penske will continue to shine this weekend at Bristol.  Brad Keselowski owns two consecutive top five finishes including a win in the last two spring Bristol races.  On the other hand Joey Logano has struggled for most of his career at Bristol despite finishing 6th there last summer. However momentum tends to carry drivers through even at race tracks that haven’t been to kind to them in the past. I trust this will be the case for Logano this weekend. As I predict another solid top 5 finish minus the post-race fireworks.

 

Prior to competing for Michael Waltrip Racing in the 2012 spring race at Bristol, Brian Vickers had never finished inside the top 10 at the track let alone run anywhere near the top five. That all changed when Vickers scored a surprising fifth place finish in his first race of a part time
schedule piloting the #55 Aaron’s dream machine.  Since that race Vickers has earned four consecutive top ten finishes at thunder valley, three of which were finishes inside the top five.

In desperate need of a kick-start to his 2014 season Vickers will run inside the top ten again this week officially establishing Bristol as his personal comfort zone.

 

Remember there was a time when Kurt Busch made Bristol his own private playground?  Do you? Well if you don’t, try not to worry about it Kurt in all likelihood can’t recall either.  Busch hasn’t won at thunder valley in nearly seven years. Why is this alarming you ask? Largely in part to the fact Busch won five races over a span of six years at Bristol.  Since his last victory at the track in 2006 Busch has managed only two finishes inside the top five. Considering his nightmarish start to his SHR career Busch is one of those drivers in dire need of a solid finish to get the ball rolling. I figure Busch can dig down deep and find some past Bristol mojo to score his first top ten of his SHR career and first of the 2014 season.

 

Busch’s SHR teammate Danica Patrick garners attention regardless of where she finishes on the track.  The Go Daddy girl carried the SHR banner last weekend at Las Vegas narrowly finishing outside the top twenty.  Should Danica exercise patients negotiating her way around the tricky bowl ring she can score a solid top ten finish at a place that tends to cater to upset finishers.

 

Still speaking of SHR, Kevin Harvick has dazzled in his new role as the companies front man. He dominated down in the desert and clearly had a freaky fast car in Las Vegas before an on track incident sent him to the garage for the afternoon.  Don’t let his recent string of lackluster finishes at Bristol deceive you, Harvick is my pick to win this Sunday’s Food City 500. Clearly he has a ton of momentum on his side which is hard to trump regardless of the playing field. Harvick’s a smart driver that can take care of his equipment over a grueling stretch of 500 laps. Yes good ol DW will wear out the freaky fast references, but lucky for us Kevin’s driving the Budweiser paint scheme this week.

 

Sprint Cup

1.Kevin Harvick
2.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3.Joey Logano
4.Kyle Busch
5.Brad Keselowski
6.Brian Vickers
7.Carl Edwards
8.Danica Patrick
9.Denny Hamlin
10.Kurt Busch

 

 

 

Tags: Bristol Motor Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr Food City 500 Kevin Harvick NASCAR

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