Apr 24, 2017; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson (48) wins the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

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NASCAR Food City 500 Preview with Tim Zimmer

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The NASCAR Monster Entergy Cup Series heads to one of the most popular racetracks on the schedule this week, Bristol Motor Speedway. This half-mile short track is nicknamed the “Last Great Colosseum” for a reason as 162,000 fans pack the third largest sports venue in the US.

This Sunday’s Food City 500 will feature 500 laps of racing which include 125, 125, 250 laps in each stage. Drivers will bump and run each other to the front of the pack throughout the race. While the big names of Harvick, Truex Jr and Kyle Busch have been the headlines so far this season, I think we’ll see a different winner this week taking home the checkered flag.

When we look at who has dominated this track in the past couple season’s it has been the usual suspects in Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Harvick has five straight top-10 finishes including a win in the night race in 2016. Kyle Busch was the winner the last time they raced here in August picking up his 6th career win at Bristol. Busch has also had his troubles here including a wreck in last year’s Food City 500 in April and wrecks in both races in 2016. As long as they can avoid trouble this week, I think both drivers have top-5 finishes on Sunday.

Some other drivers that could contend for the win include Kyle Busch’s teammates Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have all finished this race with great results, especially if you include past JGR drivers who have Bristol wins like Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.  Denny Hamlin has to be on your radar if you’re looking for a sleeper this week. Hamlin does have one win here back in 2012, but, mostly recently, has finished in the top-3 each of the last three seasons. The #11 car has four great finishes so far in 2018, this should be the race he breaks through.

His teammate Erik Jones is just in his second season of his NASCAR Cup career, but this being his first with JGR. Jones started from the pole in last year’s August night race in Bristol and finished 2nd leading over half the laps in the race. With that experience and his momentum coming off a top-5 finish last week in Texas, Jones looks to be primed for a solid race.  

While the Toyotas seem to be the trendy pick in this race, the Chevrolets have a few drivers that have finished well in Bristol. Kyle Larson and his #42 car have shown on certain racetracks they have the speed and ability to lead laps. Larson started up front in the 2017 Food City 500 as the pole winner. In the last four races in Bristol, Larson has led the second most laps of active drivers. Two other Chevrolets that may challenge the Toyota are Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott. 

Elliott is in his 3rd season with Hendrick Motorsports and he’s finished with a top-8 result in both Food City 500s. The #24 is still looking for his first career win, and, like Erik Jones, he could come close on Sunday. His teammate Jimmie Johnson has really dominated short tracks in his career. Johnson is the defending race champion of the Food City 500. While Johnson hasn’t gotten the results they’ve wanted this season, his car was made improvements each week and a win may be on the horizon.

Lastly, the Fords have done seemingly well in Bristol. They just haven’t gotten the wins to show for it outside of Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. The Ford drivers that could be party crashers this weekend include Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Clint Bowyer, and Trevor Bayne. All three drivers have at least one top-5 finish in the last two seasons in Bristol.

While the race is scheduled for this Sunday at 1pm Central Time on FOX, it could be affected by rain. The forecast looks to have a front of rain coming through early Sunday morning. This could delay the race until Sunday night or postpone it until Monday.

 

Tim’s Picks To Win:

1) Kevin Harvick (#4)

2) Denny Hamlin (#11)

3) Kyle Busch (#18)

4) Jimmie Johnson (#48)

5) Joey Logano (#22)

Sleeper: Ricky Stenhouse Jr (#17)

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