It has been an exciting start to the 2014 Sprint Cup season so far. Drivers are going all out for wins since there’s a greater emphasis on them in regards to qualifying for the Chase.
Those who have already won are even more apt to take chances. This new system is primed for a race at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of the Food City 500 on Sunday.
Only Martinsville is shorter than Bristol, which is officially 0.533 miles long, but the banking allows for higher speeds than the flat track of Martinsville. There isn’t much room to get around Bristol, although it isn’t as rough as it used to be since the repaving made two lanes, instead of just one, at the bottom of the track. Starting position is key at Bristol, unless you are Kyle Busch. In the past 14 races here, nine winners have started eighth or better.
However, Kyle Busch has five wins during those 14 races and in those wins, his best starting position was 12th. He’s the favorite on the NASCAR lines at 11/2, according to Bovada. It’s almost like he needs the challenge to get him fired up and this could be the race that sparks the No. 18 driver, who has the second-best finishing average of any driver at Bristol over the last decade.
The best finishing average belongs to Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9/1), who has a win and two runner-up finishes in three starts this season. His win at Daytona allowed him to roll the dice on fuel at Las Vegas, and although he came up short, he’s clearly off to one of the best starts of his career. He has a win at Bristol from the fall race in 2004.
Kevin Harvick (15/2), Matt Kenseth (7/1), Jimmie Johnson (7/1), Brad Keselowski (7/1), Kasey Kahne (10/1), Jeff Gordon (14/1), Denny Hamlin (10/1) and Joey Logano (14/1) round out the favorites on the NASCAR odds, and out of this group, only Logano has never been to Victory Lane at Bristol. Kahne is one to watch after winning this race last year and then finishing second to Kenseth in the fall, while Keselowski has two wins in the last five trips to Bristol and is coming off a win in Las Vegas.
Clint Bowyer (+1800) and Kurt Busch (+1800) lead the sleepers. Kurt has officially passed the status of “Bristol Master” to little brother Kyle, as Kurt hasn’t won here since the spring race in 2006, the final of five victories between March 2002 and March 2006. Kurt has yet to crack the top 20 in his first three starts since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, and he needs a solid run to get some confidence going.
Carl Edwards (20/1) and Greg Biffle (33/1) could be worth a wager here, as Biffle is third in finishing average at Bristol over the last decade despite having no wins and Edwards has two wins here, although none since 2008. Edwards may be the stronger bet due to two straight top 10s at Phoenix and Las Vegas, while Biffle’s finishes have gotten slightly worse throughout the first three of 2014. Watch out for these Roush-Fenway drivers on Sunday.