Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Preview

It’s not really this easy, right? Kevin Harvick dominated yet another race, taking the maximum 60 points en route to his 7th victory of the season. Much like we saw back in early June, Fords took 6 of the top-10 finishing spots, and 7 of the top-10 points-earning positions at Michigan. Martin Truex was better than his result implied, conserving and eventually running out of fuel. Aside from that, the Big 3 were on a different level all day again, to no surprise. Three races now remain in the regular season. For some drivers, Bristol represents a win-and-you’re-in opportunity. For others, it’s a horrible place to try to hide-and-survive, as trouble lurks on every inch of this track. Since I was on-site last time, this week’s picks will place a strong emphasis on memorable cars from the spring race, having seen them in person.


The World’s Fastest Half Mile. The Last Great Coliseum. Thunder Valley. Whatever we call it, it’s Bristol baby! Bristol Motor Speedway is a .533 mile short track located just south of Bristol, TN, situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is the 4th largest sports venue in the United States with a seating capacity of roughly 162,000, and 8th largest in the world. Unlike other race tracks on the circuit, there are no “bad” seats at Bristol, just less good. It’s loud, it’s angry, it’s fast, and every lap is intense. The main difference between Bristol and other race tracks is the tremendous amount of progressive banking in the turns. Progressive, meaning there are 24 degrees of banking down near the apron, and 28-30 degrees up high near the outside wall. The intent of this was to create multiple racing grooves, but the design itself hasn’t exactly produced those results in reality. In recent years, they’ve been laying down PJ1 racing compound on the inner groove to add more grip and make the racing more competitive on the bottom of the track, much like the good ‘ol days of the bump n’ run. As per usual, rain is likely to wash much of these track preparation efforts into the drain, once again leaving teams guessing on the best groove to run.


This section is less about prognostication, and more about highlighting drivers catching my eye at a given moment. We all play in different formats and have different strategies, but hopefully this adds some value to your results. Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch have been purposely omitted because they are obvious options each week. Good luck!

THE DOWNFORCE (start ’em)

Kyle Larson – Though he wasn’t the race-winning Kyle, Larson had a rocket ship last time around at Bristol. He finished with 6 points in both stages, and 2nd place overall. He simply didn’t have enough to hold off the #18 at the end.

Ryan Blaney – It’s easy to forget just how dominant the #12 was based on a disappointing 2-point result. After leading nearly 100 laps with easily the best car on the track all weekend, Blaney found trouble when an incident ahead of him blocked the outside line. If this team can bring 70% of what they had to this race, you’ll see them up front all day again.

Brad Keselowski – Another Penske car who led 67 laps and won both stages, but wound up finishing 23rd after a tire went down and he found the wall. However, proceed with caution. As I wrote about in the DRAG for the spring race, “Brad and the #2 team have the ability to win almost everywhere, but Bristol has not been kind to them recently. Brad’s last 3 races have resulted in 33rd, 34th, and 29th place finishes, usually because of some sort of incident, but even bad luck is still worth avoiding. Although, if you’re the optimistic type, Kyle Busch had similar numbers in the 3 races preceding his return to victory lane last fall. Brad’s comprehensive history tends to be feast or famine at Bristol, and there are more consistent drivers available.”

Jimmie Johnson – Despite the disappointing season the #48 is having, driving Bristol is an art form, and this guy knows how to do it. Jimmie earned 12 stage points and finished the race 3rd to earn himself a 46 point day. It would not surprise me to see this team surprise everyone else this weekend by finally getting a win.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – In the 9 races since 2014, Stenhouse has finished 6 of them in single digits, including a 4th place finish back in April. This car was running in the top-ten all day, and I expect more of the same from the #17.

THE DRAFT (dark horses)

Alex Bowman – It was only 1 race. However, the #88 was no joke in April. They qualified 8th, finished 7th in stage #2, and finished the overall race in 5th. As they say in handicapping, this is definitely a “live dog” this weekend (underdog with a legit chance).

Erik Jones – This car had a rough weekend back in April, but he’s still my favorite dark horse pick. Remember, he finished 2nd in this race a year ago after winning the pole.

THE DRAG (use caution)

Brad Keselowski – Despite what I said on this team above, they’re still the team I worry most about – especially with their self-imposed urgency to get to victory lane. Like every DRAG driver I highlight, it’s less about avoiding them, and more about understanding the risks. If you’re defending a lead, this may not be the right pick for you. If you have nothing to lose and need to take a chance, this could be the perfect sneak attack. Like always, context is everything. Good luck!


5.0, #88 Alex Bowman (1 race)
5.2, #4 Kevin Harvick
9.0, #48 Jimmie Johnson
9.0, #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
9.4, #22 Joey Logano

AVERAGE LOOP RATING @ BRISTOL (last 5 track events)

109.6, #4 Kevin Harvick
106.9 #42 Kyle Larson
103.8, #18 Kyle Busch
102.9, #88 Alex Bowman (1 race)
101.9, #20 Erik Jones

2018 PTS MOMENTUM (last 5 overall races this season)

48.4, #4 Kevin Harvick
47.4, #18 Kyle Busch
42.6, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
40.6, #9 Chase Elliott
38.2, #12 Ryan Blaney

Comments are closed.