Food City 500 Preview
April 12, 2016
By Micah Roberts
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Kyle Busch winning the championship last season after missing the first 11 races was absolutely amazing. Winning four of five races during a stretch on his way to the championship was also pretty cool, but his recent flair for dominating in spectacular fashion is on an entirely different level.
Busch is currently on one of the more incredible runs you'll ever see in NASCAR. The Las Vegas native has finished in the top-five in six of the first seven races of 2016, including winning the last two at the vastly different layouts at Martinsville and Texas. Dating back to last season, he's finished fifth or better in 10 of his last 11 starts.
That's amazing enough by itself, but wait, there's more.
He has been on such a roll lately that his run has spilled over into the lower level NASCAR series. He completed a weekend sweep at Martinsville two weeks ago by also winning in the Craftsman Truck Series and last week at Texas he won the Xfinity Series race Friday night before winning Saturday's Cup race. That's four straight NASCAR races that Busch won and he heads into Sunday's race at Bristol race tied for the most wins among active drivers with five.
The only good news for the rest of the field this week is that the last of Busch's five Bristol wins came in 2011, a span of eight races there that he hasn't won. The bad news for the rest of the field is that they've seen this before out of Busch. Last July, Busch won three straight races on the schedule which completed a run of him winning four of five races. Those wins came on a road course at Sonoma, a 1.5-mile track at Kentucky, a 1-mile flat track at New Hampshire and the 2.5-mile Brickyard.
That, my friends, is one diversified driver and it's part of the reason why he's the favorite to win Sunday's Food City 500 on the high-banked half-mile Bristol bullring.
The one thing that stands out about past winners at Bristol is that the wins come in bunches, which could give a few drivers an edge this week. When Busch won his five Bristol races, four them came in a five race stretch over three seasons. When his brother Kurt Busch won his five races, four of the five came over five race stretch including three straight (2003-04). Prior to them, it was Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace with similar stretches and before them it was Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip dominating.
The top candidates to win outside of the Busch brothers now is Joey Logano, who has won two of the past three Bristol races, Matt Kenseth, who has won two of the last five and Brad Keselowski, who won two straight (2011-12).
Logano led four times for 176 laps in last fall's Bristol race, including the final 63 laps after passing Keselowski. Kyle Busch actually led the most laps (192), but settled for eighth. Kevin Harvick would finish second in the race -- of course, right? But what was telling about Harvick faring well last fall was that he led a race-high 184 laps in the spring race won by Kenseth. Harvick would end up finished 38th in that race.
Perhaps the oddest past about recent past Bristol history is that Chevrolet has won only twice in the past 15 races and none in the last five. Jimmie Johnson grabbed his only career win there in 2010. The other Chevy heavyweight, Harvick, notched his only win there in 2005.
I like the angle of going with the recent hot hand at Bristol because its worked well for me in the past, which leads me to Logano. He's ran well this season and is hungry for his first win, and he obviously likes this track.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #22 Joey Logano (7/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
3) #4 Kevin Harvick (7/1)
4) #2 Brad Keselowski (8/1)
5) #20 Matt Kenseth (10/1)