Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Friday, March 20, 2009

Food City 500 preview

Quick show of hands: who here's convinced Kurt Buach can't go back-to-back this weekend as the Sprint Cup Series at Bristol?

If you're hand's in the air, then you're wrong.

I'm not saying Busch will win his second straight race this weekend in the Food City 500, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility. Busch has five career wins at Bristol Motor Speedway ... and no, they didn't all come when he was still driving for Jack Roush. Busch is a new man this season, and his No. 2 Miller Lite team is a new team -- it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Busch hoisting the trophy Sunday afternoon.

Nor would it surprise me to see brother Kyle Busch doing the same. The younger Busch has shown he can win anywhere the series races -- and he led the most laps last August before Carl Edwards bumped him out of the way for the win with 30 laps to go.

Somehow, though, I don't see a Busch winning Sunday's race. Maybe it's a little wishful thinking, but there are plenty of other contenders -- not to mention, Bristol is such a crapshoot that it's hard to get a handle on who will or won't win. Bristol is perhaps the series' biggest wild card track ... aside from Daytona and Talladega, of course.

Edwards has been a master of the Tennessee bullring since its repaving three years ago, while Richard Childress Racing finished 1-2-3 in the spring race a year ago. That means if you've got Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer or Kevin Harvick in your office pool, you should be all set.

Jeff Gordon will obviously be a factor, not just because he's good at Bristol (he also has five career wins there), but because of the season he's had so far. Leading the points behind the strength of three top-10s and two second-place finishes in the first four races, Gordon is knocking on the door to Victory Lane, and it's only a matter of time before he breaks that winless streak dating back to October 2007.

Will it be this week? Quite possibly.

Of potentially greater concern this weekend, though, is how the Top 35 in owner points is unfolding. After next weekend's race in Martinsville, NASCAR will start using this year's standings to determine the 35 drivers guaranteed a spot in the following race. That means anyone hanging around the 35th-place bubble needs good finishes at both Bristol and Martinsville to secure a spot.

Good luck with that, guys.

Heading into this weekend, the No. 5 of Mark Martin sits 35th in owner points, nine points ahead of Aric Almirola's No. 8 car. Rookie Scott Speed sits 37th in owner points, while Joey Logano is 33rd in the standings. If these rookies want to avoid having to qualify for races on speed, they're going to need to do well at tracks at which rookies usually don't fare all that well.

The Nationwide Series also returns to action at Bristol, running the Scotts TurfBuilder 300 on Saturday. The Camping World Truck Series won't return until next weekend, when the series runs at Martinsville on Saturday, March 28.

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