Bristol Motor Speedway
"Gentlemen, start your engines!" Those four words can't come soon enough this weekend. Because of one thing, we are finally to Thunder Valley. Bristol will be the first race this year that is less than a mile in length. Bristol's official length is .533 of a mile. Put 43 cars on this track, mix in 180,000 screaming fans and a tight pit lane, and you get excitement.
This weekend both the Cup and Busch cars will visit Bristol. Last year Michael Waltrip drover to a first place finish in the Busch series. While on the Cup side, Kurt Busch earned his second career victory at Bristol. Kurt went on to sweep Bristol in 2003 by winning the fall race at Bristol as well.
At Bristol this weekend, there will be three things in which the teams will have to watch out for. The first being the softer tires. This will be the first time the teams have raced at Bristol with this current tire compound. The teams will have to watch the tire wear and make sure they don't run too much camber. The teams have used a softer tire in the past, meaning this shouldn't be much of an obstacle for them. The shorter rear spoiler will also be something for the teams to watch out for. I look for several cars to get lose this weekend and back the car into the outside retaining wall. The third item teams will have to keep an eye out for this weekend, will be the slower, "field filler" cars. At Darlington last weekend, we saw Jeff Gordon get taken out of the race after hitting a spinning lapped car. With Bristol having two race grooves, this may not play as much of a role as it did last weekend at Darlington.
This weekend for the Cup race, there are three drivers that are the ones to beat. The first one would be last years race winner, Kurt Busch. In the last four races at Bristol, Kurt has racked up three wins. With that kind of record, Busch will be one of the front runners again this weekend.
The second driver that teams should watch out for is Jeff Gordon. Gordon has earned 13 wins at the short tracks during this Cup career. Making him a favorite to win every time he straps on his helmet. In Gordon's past four races at Bristol, he has been able to earn three Bud Poles and one win. Making Gordon not only a favorite to win the race, but also a favorite for the pole. After a tough weekend at Darlington with a 41st place finish, Jeff dropped eight spots in the standings, down to a 13th place spot. Jeff would love to rebound this weekend with another victory at Bristol and pick up some of those lost spots.
Now for the third contender for the weekend, Rusty Wallace. Rusty is the current short track master. During the modern era, Wallace is fourth on the list of short track wins with 24 of them. He is just behind the late Dale Earnhardt who earned 27 short tracks wins during his career. This weekend could be the race in which Rusty finally snaps his winless streak that dates back to the California race of 2001. Rusty earned his first win at Bristol, his 50th win and maybe this weekend, his 55th career win.
There are a few sleepers this weekend that could knock one of the three contenders off of their throne. Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Sterling Marlin. All five drivers are contenders at the short tracks. This weekend should be no different.
With the races this weekend, there are three things that are guaranteed. The racing will be exciting, several cars will be banged up by the end of the weekend and driver's tempers will flare up.
Steve Houser ( RebelRocket )
A look ahead to "Thunder Valley'
Bristol Motor Speedway