Track Talk: Food City 500 at Bristol

Bristol Motor Speedway awaits a usually exciting Food City 500.

Bristol Motor Speedway awaits a usually exciting Food City 500.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeKathleen CassidyJose Acero Jr, Katie Copple, Kayla Sturm, and Stephen Conley consider Kevin Harvick’s stance about the best team for intermediate tracks and the most likely young racer to win at Bristol!

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Question 1
Are you feeling Busch or 5 Hour Energy?

Are you feeling Busch or 5 Hour Energy?

Kevin Harvick remarked how he and his team are better than Martin Truex Jr at intermediate tracks.  Was this a mind game maneuver by Harvick or cold, hard fact?

Acero:  Harvick is in a league of his own when it comes to the cookie cutter 1.5 mile tracks, all he is doing is talking the talk and backing it up by walking such. The fact that he is not afraid to speak his mind on how dominant that 4 team is on said tracks, only sparks the mental game amongst his competitors with Truex being the intended receiver!

Bowman: Harvick seems to like talking himself up to get into the psyche of other drivers. While he has the stats this season to back up his claim, you have to take into consideration the dominance of the 78 team last year. Momentum and dominance transfer from driver to driver and team to team each year, so maybe this year will be Harvick’s’ year to dominate the intermediate tracks.

Copple: It’s no doubt that Kevin Harvick is the boss when it comes to intermediate tracks. They are his game, his comfort zone, his “favorite subject” so to speak. But, Martin Truex Jr is not far behind. He’s good at intermediate tracks and I could see him overtaking Harvick for the coveted crown of intermediate king. We are still early in the season and there are a lot of intermediate tracks left.

Hobbs: There have been three intermediate tracks this season; Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Texas Motor Speedway. Harvick won 66.6% of those races and had an average finish of 1.33. Yes, that means he had a top five in all three races.

Martin Truex Jr.’s victory this year came at Auto Club Speedway, which is classified as a superspeedway. His stats this season on the three intermediate tracks are far below that of Harvick; an average finish of 15.33, and one of those came this past weekend at TMS. If we remove that race, he drastically improve to an average finish of 4.5. While Harvick still comes out on top, Truex is not far behind.  

Hull:  We all know that Harvick is a trash talker, but I think he is onto something here. He has been dominant all season long, especially at the intermediate tracks. He has even been besting Martin Truex Jr this year. We shall see how far Harvick’s momentum will go but he is pretty dang good this year.

Lucas: I love that Harvick isn’t afraid to stir the pot a bit. Confidence can border on the line of cockiness, so I would take his remarks with a grain of salt.

Statistically speaking for this season, yes, the No. 4 team has been dominant at intermediate tracks. But, I caution everyone who automatically thinks he is a shoe in for the championship.

Even though in 2017, Truex and his team won the championship, remember that other Toyota teams caught up to their performance like the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team. Perhaps we will see a similar situation with another Ford organization.

Sturm: I think it was a bit of both. Fact of the matter is, this year Harvick has been dominating the intermediate tracks. While Truex was the dominant one at these types of tracks last year, it seems like that role has been handed to Harvick. So it makes sense that he would be trying to get into the head of his main competitor.

Shoppe: Kevin Harvick has always been known for stirring the pot. I would say it is a mind game for sure as it’s one of his strong suits. But with the start to the year Harvick and his No. 4 SHR Ford team have had, he can certainly back that up!

Conley:  Kevin Harvick has always been known for stirring the pot. I would say it is a mind game for sure as it’s one of his strong suits. But with the start to the year Harvick and his No. 4 SHR Ford team have had, he can certainly back that up!

Cassidy:  I applaud Kevin for being so confident about his own abilities within his career. He has no reason not to be proud of his accomplishments. Although, a blunt comment, the 4 team has proven that they are a contender each and every year.

Question 2
So you guys like me?

So you guys like me?

Young guns like Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, and William Byron scored solid top-10 results at Texas. Of these four, who has the best chance to win at Bristol, one of the most physical tracks in NASCAR?

Acero:  Tip of the hat goes to Blaney when it comes to experience at Bristol. Let’s not foreshadow Erik Jones and his second place finish last fall and is riding the momentum wave with a solid fourth at TMS. Personally, I think Jones gets the job done at Bristol.

Bowman: If you based this solely on experience in Cup cars on the track, you would have to give it to Blaney. However, let’s not forget that Erik Jones finished runner-up last year in the fall race. Maybe his driving style is better suited for a little short track showdown.

Copple: Anyone remember the name of that young guy who nearly won at Bristol last year? What was his name? Oh right, Erik Jones! If any of the above four having a chance at overthrowing one of the veterans at Bristol, it’s Jones.

But, Blaney has proven himself to be a contender as well at short tracks. I think Bristol is going to be a challenge for these young guys, but some might very well surprise us all.

Hobbs: You have to give the edge to the guy with the most experience; Ryan Blaney. Sure, these other kids have gotten to race at Bristol in the Xfinity Series but the Cup race is a bit more brutal on the mind and body.

Hull:  I will have to go with Ryan Blaney on this one. He is not only good at Bristol, but the most talented and experienced of the four drivers.

Lucas: It would be a toss up between Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney. Erik Jones has run strong in every Bristol race he’s been a part of, and Ryan Blaney has momentum with strong performances so far this season.

I think that Erik and his JGR team are finally starting to gel which was evident this past weekend at Texas. Ryan and his team are looking solid through the beginning of the season, but I think we might see a somewhat “surprise” winner.

As long we have a full run of qualifying, I think it’s advantage to Erik Jones. Passing is difficult at Bristol so a good starting position will be priority for the first part of the weekend.

Sturm: Ryan Blaney, easily. He has the most experience out of the four and is also the better performing driver of the four. He doesn’t have the best finishes at Bristol but he has two years of experience over Byron and Wallace and one year of experience over Jones. Not to mention, he’s significantly improved his performance this year.

Shoppe: Of the four young guns who had great top-10 finishes in Texas last weekend, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones are the only two who have been consistently running their all year. For Byron and Wallace Jr, it will continue to take some time to build up confidence, experience, and some momentum to be as much of a threat week to week.

Blaney and Jones both are playoff locks in my mind and will reach Victory Lane at least once each this year. It might not come at Bristol this week but expect to see them leading the youth movement at Thunder Valley!

Conley: I think the young guys are on top of it with the fast mile and a half tracks. Blaney has been solid all season. But when it comes right down to it, Bristol is not for the faint of heart, or typically young kids.

Blaney probably has the best shot but this is a veteran weekend. I’d be shock right out of my boots if one of the kids won or if they scored top-fives.

Cassidy: From this list, I am going with Blaney. He has the most experience going into this race with previous wins at Bristol in other series. The Cup Series will definitely have its challenges in compared to Trucks or Xfinity, but this young gun knows his way around Bristol.

Solid job by the TPF Track Talk team to nail two laps down without a problem! Before we go for the win at Bristol, let’s look at the rear view mirror by reviewing our race and points reports from Texas!

Friends, it’s about time to use the old chrome horn! Let’s bump and run our way to the win by revealing our picks to conquer Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol!
Will one of these seven win the Food City 500 at Bristol?

Will one of these seven win the Food City 500 at Bristol?

Acero:  Young gun Erik Jones gets the checkers at Bristol, baby!

Lucas: He dominated at this track last summer albeit with a different team. He’s starting to get his groove with the team, and I think the sky could be the limit for “That Jones Boy.” Look for Erik Jones to score his first career Cup victory this weekend!

Bowman: Momentum is key and right now it’s in Kyle Busch’s wheel house. No. 18 for the win!

Hull:  Kyle Busch for the win.

Hobbs: There are two drivers that seem to be the ones this weekend; Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. But, they have targets on their backs and someone will want to one-up them. I will go with a driver who has been consistent, both this year and at Bristol – Clint Bowyer!

Tiongson: While it’d be easy to go with Kyle Busch or Erik Jones, I’m staying on the Ford bandwagon for now and go with Clint Bowyer. He seems to have his act together right now and was the runner up last spring.

Copple: Kevin Harvick won here in 2016 and he is going to take the checkered flag as Bristol.

TPF Stats: We like the cut of Kevin Harvick’s jib this weekend!

Cassidy:  Kevin Harvick for the win!

Sturm: Bristol doesn’t really have a consistent winner across the board so I’m going to have to go with Denny Hamlin.

Shoppe: Brad Keselowski!

Conley: With it being a veteran’s type weekend, and a guy that’s in that camp and has ruled the coliseum before, Kurt Busch will win on Sunday.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2018.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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