We are back to the Coliseum for this week’s Power Rankings – Bristol Motor Speedway, for the Irwin Tools Night Race.
This small .53 mile track has produced some of the best feuds during the past years to last a lifetime, but it has also produced some of the best bump and run finishes over the years.
The down force rules for the Gen 6 race car this year should turn this race into a door handle to door handle, bumper tagging type of race with no prisoners taken.
The key here is track position. I can’t emphasize this enough. Eight of the top 10 starters finished inside of the top 12 back in March. This is huge, if you’re trying to make up positions in your fantasy league.
Carl Edwards started 12th and led 78 laps when he won the Bristol race in March without being ranked in the top 10 in driver ratings. He’s not even rated in the top 10 in power rankings at Bristol with his 16.4 finishing average, so he stole one at Bristol. Give credit where credit is due. It’s Jimmy Fennig, who made the right call that got Edwards the win back in March. It’s the only way Carl can win again and after announcing he will be with Joe Gibbs Racing next year, it’s caution to the wind if you want Edwards Saturday night.
Now is the time to buy Kyle Busch, as he’s second in driver ratings for Bristol. Kyle’s average start is 18.4 the past five years, but don’t let that fool you. He’s got two wins, three top fives and five top 10s the past five years at Bristol and led 73 laps back in March. His price should be good so get him now, because the remaining schedule for the stretch run favors Kyle Busch, regardless of his bad luck the past two weeks.
Matt Kenseth has to be a favorite come Saturday night. He tops the driver ratings for Bristol with his consistency. Kenseth started third in March and finished 12th, but he led 165 laps before a bad tire call was made in the pits. Kenseth has one win, four top fives and six top 10s since the track was repaved. His average start is 10.3, and if he gets another top 10 start, you should pencil him in for the night race.
Kurt Busch should be a solid contender for the checkers come the night race. He started 13th and led 28 laps before equipment problems sent him back to the rear. Kurt has the seventh best active driver rating, and at one time, he used to dominate this track with good equipment. His five wins, seven top fives and 14 top 10s should make you think twice before you close out your lineup.
Jeff Gordon is hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth of July. When a driver is on a roll, you’ve got to stick with him. He finished seventh and didn’t lead any laps but he has the third best driver rating for Bristol. A lifetime record of five poles, two wins, 10 top fives and 16 top 10s is worthy of being penciled in. His 7.4 average start at Bristol the past five years should be an incentive to pay the high price his going for now as track position is everything for this race.
I really like Denny Hamlin for Saturday night; he’s figured something out at Bristol, taking the pole and finishing sixth back in March. He has won at Bristol before and his crew chief Darrian Grubb knows what type of setup is needed as the track changes during the night for Hamlin to have a good Bristol run. His price should be right.
For the rookie watchers, Kyle Larson finished 10th and Austin Dillon finished 11th back in March. Neither led any laps.
Here’s the top ten Power Rankings for Bristol, based on the last five years:
10 Brad Keselowski- 2 wins, 2 top 5s and 3 top 10s, average finish 14.3.
9 Jeff Gordon- 2 top 5s and 4 top 10s, average finish 14.2.
8 Jamie McMurray- 2 top 5s and 5 top 10s, average finish 14.2.
7 Kasey Kahne- 1 win, 3 top 5s and 6 top 10s, average finish 12.9.
6 Greg Biffle- 1 top 5 and 4 top 10s, average finish 12.8.
5 Brian Vickers- 3 top 5s and 5 top 10s, average finish 12.8.
4 Dale Earnhardt Jr- 3 top 10s, average finish 12.7.
3 Ricky Stenhouse Jr- 1 top 5 and 1 top 10, average finish 12.0.
2 Kyle Busch- 2 wins, 3 top 5s and 5 top 10s, average finish 11.7.
1 Matt Kenseth- 1 win, 4 top 5s and 6 top 10s, average finish 11.2.
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