NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series visits its fourth different track type in four weeks, going from the 2.5-mile superspeedway at Daytona to the mid-length tracks at Phoenix and Las Vegas to the 0.533-mile bullring known as Bristol Motor Speedway, home to the Food City 500 on Sunday, March 17. Racing at Bristol is something of an art form: drivers need to be aggressive but patient at the same time – here are a few of the drivers vying for victory lane this weekend who have already used that combination with success.
Kyle Busch – In the 1980s, the name most often associated with Bristol was Darrell Waltrip, who earned 12 Cup Series wins at “Thunder Valley,” including seven in a row from 1981 to 1984, and had a Nationwide Series win as well. The name associated with Bristol these days is Busch – most notably Kyle, who has 12 wins spread across NASCAR’s top three series (five in Cup, four in Nationwide and three in the Camping World Truck Series). In 16 races at Bristol, he has 11 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 10.3.
Kurt Busch – The older Busch brother also has some bragging rights at Bristol, win five Cup Series wins of his own; strangely enough, in spite of his record in Cup, he’s never raced in the other top series there. He has 13 top 10 finishes at 24 races at the track, with an average finish of 13.8.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon is also part of the five-win club at Bristol, and also has five poles at the track – his last win, however, came in the fall race in 2002. In 40 races, he has 22 top 10 finishes, with an average finish of 11.9. Last fall, Gordon drove to a third-place finish, but in the spring race, he was a dismal 35th.
Brad Keselowski – Keselowski is hit-and-miss at Bristol: when he’s bad, he’s bad, when he’s good, he’s great. In six starts in the Cup Series, he has two wins; in the other four races, he has a top finish of 13th and a worst finish of 30th. He also has a win and two poles in 11 Nationwide Series races at Bristol.
Matt Kenseth – One would think that a driver as patient as Matt Kenseth wouldn’t be aggressive enough to take on a track like Bristol with success, but he’s done so: in 26 races, he has two wins and 17 top 10 finishes, plus a pole. His average finish of 12.1 ranks Bristol as the sixth-best track in his career. Kenseth also has three wins and 10 top 10 finishes in 17 Nationwide Series races at Bristol.
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.