Podium Preview: Supermarket Heroes 500

As soon as the green flag drops, William Byron and his competitors race for the Supermarket Heroes 500 win. (Photo Credit: Axalta Racing's Twitter)

As soon as the green flag drops, William Byron and his competitors race for the Supermarket Heroes 500 win. (Photo Credit: Axalta Racing’s Twitter)

As the NASCAR Cup Series season progresses, the attention turns to Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Certainly, this race serves more than just another round of the year. In fact, it plays host to the first short track race of the year.

Of course, the Supermarket Heroes 500 marks just the fifth race since NASCAR’s return during the pandemic. However, there’s much at stake. No doubt, drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch would revel with a chance to win at this brutal but lovable short track.

Then again, following the relatively tame venues of Darlington and Charlotte, Bristol’s not exactly a Sunday cakewalk. Fabricators certainly seem prepared for the challenges ahead once their steel chariots return from the battlefield.

Each week, The Podium Finish’s panelists, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeIsabelle BeecyKobe LambethMatteo MarcheschiMatt SisolerSean FolsomStephen Conley, Terra Jones, and yours truly will share their thoughts on the latest happenings in NASCAR.

First, we consider Alex Bowman’s incredible start and provide our takes on midweek races.

Podium Preview: Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol
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Question 1
In the long run, Alex Bowman shows he's ready for the bright lights of Cup racing. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

In the long run, Alex Bowman shows he’s ready for the bright lights of Cup racing. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

We’ve seen Alex Bowman have a “breakthrough season” start as he’s been a consistent frontrunner since the Daytona 500. What can we expect from Bowman and his No. 88 team as this year progresses?

Sisoler: It has been good to see Bowman up at the front, and while the finishes haven’t stood up since NASCAR got going again, he is going to hit the right combination in a race or two. He’s getting to that point where he’s consistently running towards of the front, and eventually we will see the 88 in victory lane. 

Marcheschi :  It’s pretty gratifying to see Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports as a whole doing so well this year. Bowman hasn’t gotten the finishes he might have deserved since NASCAR’s return. But, I expect him to finish the deal more as the season goes along. And, it doesn’t seem outlandish to see Bowman capture a few more wins and contend for the championship. I’m excited to see him reach his full potential.

Hobbs :  I expect and hope this trend to continue for Alex Bowman. Maybe he’s gotten some tips from Finn and that’s helped him this season. But no matter what Bowman did or found this season, it won’t be going away any time soon. I see him back in Victory Lane this season – likely sooner than later.

Lambeth: If Bowman continues to display such a strong form, I would not be surprised if he at least makes a deep playoff run to the Round of 8. Although it is still early in the season, the No. 88 team seems to be emerging as a weekly contender. However, Bowman will need to put together more complete races and eliminate mistakes if he wants to be a serious contender for the championship. I think he will win at least two more races this season.

Jones :  I expect to see him back in Victory Lane sooner than later. Beyond that, I have no doubt that he will continue to run up front as a dominating force for Chevy and Hendrick Motorsports.

Tiongson :  We started to see some of this promise with Alex Bowman in mid-2018. Slowly but surely, this promise became reality last year, particularly with that exciting win at Chicagoland. Is it a situation where Bowman excels with this package or simply the fact that he’s confident and comfortable with his No. 88 team.

As a driver who epitomized perseverance under great duress in the past decade, Bowman’s biggest strength is his mental fortitude and willingness to commit to those sometimes overly aggressive on-track passes. As for what we can expect with the rest of this year from Bowman, I’d say he’ll get rather comfortable in Victory Lane for about four more visits. I’ll take it a step further and predict that he makes the Championship 4 as one of the two Chevrolet racers battling for Cup Series glory at Phoenix. 

Question 2
Generally speaking, midweek races create exciting opportunities for NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Generally speaking, midweek races create exciting opportunities for NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

With two midweek races in the books, what are some of your likes/dislikes with this and should NASCAR continue these moving forward?

Folsom : I think the midweek races have been amazing! It’s awesome to see how drivers and teams have been doing the quick turn around for these races. I think if or when everything goes back to normal, Nascar should still do some midweek races to change up the schedule a little.

Shoppe :  Mid-week races have been awesome! This has been the perfect time to try this out for Nascar without having any competition. Even as we go back to a normal sports world, I still think a few mid-week races would be a success! Maybe start them as early as they can around 5-7 so it’s not too late for some but still time for you to get home from work. Plus this is a good time for a day to night transition that can add to the race. If this could at all help the chances to add another short track to the schedule then it’d be perfect! 

Conley :  The mid-week race has been a hit, especially with no other sports to focus on. They show up and run sprint style races, which is a little old school and something fans really have wanted to see. The drivers have seemed to enjoy it as well, but issues like we had this week, rain forcing postponements and delays push time frame to very critical levels.

The XFINITY race is a perfect example. It had to be pushed to Monday because TV couldn’t make that quick of a turnaround. A minimum of two days is needed to make that happen. Also, I have the concern of when other sports do return. In fact, it may compete against the NBA, MLB, and even potentially football on a Wednesday or Thursday night.

This might be pushing it. It would be near impossible to run midweek west coast races, especially in the evening. But, it’s a definite plus for the sport now.

Beecy :   Given the state of the world, I love having a midweek distraction with something I love, especially since it means I get it more than once a week. However, once we get back to a sense of normalcy, I likely won’t be able to stay up for the whole race or even get to see the start of it, depending on what my week looks like.

I think it should be a special occasion thing, much like what NASCAR does with Eldora every year. Speaking for myself (and I’m in the process of looking for a full-time job at the moment!), I don’t think I could realistically do a race every Wednesday night even though I’m loving it right now. So maybe after this season, they could do it as a special event.

By and large, our two laps around Bristol went very smoothly! With that said, let’s rewind to the races at Charlotte with our race and points reports!
Ms. Jones captured the Coca-Cola 600 win.

Ms. Jones captured the Coca-Cola 600 win.

Generally speaking, the machine continued its dominance.

Generally speaking, the machine continued its dominance.

Then, the machine and our meteorologist captured a Thursday night win.

Then, the machine and our meteorologist captured a Thursday night win.

As shown above, we're all chasing the machine.

As shown above, we’re all chasing the machine.

Now, Ashley Hobbs provides the numbers that matter for today’s Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol!
First, here's how teams fare at Bristol!

First, here’s how teams fare at Bristol!

Since 2004, the race winner has an average starting spot of 9.3, led an average of 119.9 laps, started within the top-five 37.5 percent, and started within the top-10 50 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the race winner has an average starting spot of 9.3, led an average of 119.9 laps, started within the top-five 37.5 percent, and started within the top-10 50 percent of the time.

Moreover, Kyle Busch claims Bristol Motor Speedway as his playhouse.

Moreover, Kyle Busch claims Bristol Motor Speedway as his playhouse.

Let's look at our trends at Bristol since 2010.

Let’s look at our trends at Bristol since 2010.

Next, here's the trends for the Supermarket Heroes 500 since 2015.

Next, here’s the trends for the Supermarket Heroes 500 since 2015.

Lastly, here's the machine's Supermarket Heroes 500 prediction!

Lastly, here’s the machine’s Supermarket Heroes 500 prediction!

Last but not least, here’s our picks for today’s action at the Bristol Motor Speedway!
Now, here's our picks for today's Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol!

Now, here’s our picks for today’s Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol!

Tiongson :  This racer won back-to-back Bristol Night Races in a very iconic yellow and red car. On Sunday, despite this track being devoid of fans, Joey Logano wins once again!

Beecy :  He’s starting third and has done decently at this track. Plus with Team Penske’s success lately, the team has some momentum heading into this race.

Folsom :  I’m going with Kyle Busch this race cause he has done great here in the past even with a tore up race car. I see Kyle doing well here and dominating this race!

Shoppe :  Panelist chose Kyle Busch.

Sisoler :  Looking at the last couple of years, there has been no one better at Bristol than the driver of the No. 18 Camry for JGR. Rowdy has won the past two races in the daylight at Bristol and rolls off 7th this afternoon. So, I think the namesake of the Busch Bow will be doing his famous celebration at the end of another day race at The Last Great Coliseum.

Hobbs :  Believe it or not, Clint Bowyer is a top-notch short track racer at Bristol Motor Speedway. I’m crossing my fingers for some birthday magic for Bowyer!

Jones :  Clint has had a string of tough luck lately. I think this is the weekend that it all turns around for him and he will come out victorious at Bristol.

Conley :  Brad Keselowski said the Mustang nose in this car was designed for the low downforce package. Furthemore, it should be perfect for Bristol. That with his success both at Bristol and the start of this year makes him a serious threat.

Lambeth :  Two of his most spectacular performances in the NASCAR Cup Series happened in Thunder Valley. Third time’s the charm, right? Matt DiBenedetto will get redemption from last year’s Bristol Night Race and win his first Cup race.

Marcheschi :  Erik Jones has a knack for pulling our big wins, with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 and the Southern 500 already under his belt. Bristol has been one of his strongest tracks. And Jones will capture his first short track victory and his first win of 2020 on Sunday.

TPF Stats :  Best in class all around, Kevin “Happy” Harvick will be the Food City Presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 valedictorian.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Supermarket Heroes 500!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race? 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!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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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