Podium Preview: Bristol Night Race

Will tonight's Bristol Night Race become the latest battle between Kyle and Kurt Busch? (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Will tonight’s Bristol Night Race become the latest battle between Kyle and Kurt Busch? (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Without a doubt, the Bristol Night Race continually puts on incredible moments for the NASCAR Cup Series each season. No matter the decade, the cars, and the stars, this is a can’t miss race for each year.

By all means, this 500-lap race challenges the mild-mannered drivers and those with a temper. Certainly, lap times of about 14-seconds a lap means you literally may miss a moment with the fastest blinks of your eyes.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis Torres, Matteo MarcheschiMichelle RaynorTerra Jones, and yours truly consider some dream tracks for the NASCAR Cup Series and our favorite Bristol Night Race moments.

Podium Preview: Bristol Night Race
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Question 1
Seriously, how neat would it be to race in Austin, Texas?

Seriously, how neat would it be to race in Austin, Texas?

It’s true that we’re still waiting for the official 2021 NASCAR schedule, but for fun, let’s say NASCAR comes to you for your input. They want to know what track, not currently on the Cup series schedule, you would like to add. So, where are we headed and why?

Jones :  I think the logistics make it nigh impossible, but since this is for funsies, we’re headed to Eldora! This would be a unique venue for many drivers as some have zero dirt experience. And besides, why should the Trucks get all the mud-slinging fun?

Sisoler : I’d have to say throw these Cup cars on some more bonafide road courses (and no, the Daytona and Charlotte “rovals” don’t rate as such). Circuit of the Americas and Road America are two in the US that I’d like to see, and then I also think we need to send them north of the border to join the Trucks at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and then go further, to the Circuit Gilles Villenueve at Montreal. Both have produced multiple excellent final lap finishes and would be very welcome additions to the Cup schedule. 

Marcheschi :  I watched the ARCA race there a couple of weeks ago, and it made for some good racing: Lebanon I-44 Speedway. A ⅜-mile speedway located in Lebanon, MO, the track was a newcomer to the ARCA schedule, but raced incredibly well. Its fast, flat corners make passing difficult, incentivizing the classic beating-and-banging short track racing we usually see at Bristol or Martinsville. The track’s grassy embankments outside the corners is a unique characteristic that might save teams headaches and money, while allowing drivers to take bigger risks, with wall contact fairly unlikely. While the facilities have a very long way to go, I’d love to see the touring series head to I-44 Speedway! 

Hobbs :  There are so many options out there for tracks where the Cup series is not running. I would gravitate towards another short track, like Iowa Speedway, as we have seen the Xfinity Series hold some great races there. I also think a road course like Circuit of the Americas would be a great addition. Road courses are enjoyable and as a place IndyCar goes, I imagine a doubleheader type weekend with the two series. Now that would garner some attention.

Tiongson : This will be a very biased answer but I’ve gotta choose Circuit of the Americas in Elroy, Texas. It’s an incredible, world-class road course venue that’s been the host of Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix and it’s been a fun venue too for the NTT IndyCar Series as well. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart have driven stock cars at COTA in the past seven years and it seems like a good road course for NASCAR. With some modifications to promote more passing, it could be a perfect track for the actual capital of Texas

Torres : I’d give what the folks have been demanding for a good while. Montreal. Now that’s a fun road course we’ve seen worked in Xfinity back in the day. Why not try a different style of road racing to really spice things up. If such a thing happens, we’ll have four road courses which is the ideal number for the sport.

Question 2
When angered, just chuck your helmet like Tony Stewart in 2012.

When angered, just chuck your helmet like Tony Stewart in 2012.

With NASCAR headed to Bristol this weekend, we’ve all been witness to some hot-tempered moments and physical driving at The World’s Last Great Colosseum. What is your favorite memory from watching races at Bristol and/or the biggest moment at the track that you can remember?

Lambeth :  Matt DiBenedetto’s epic sixth-place finish in 2016 was certainly one of my favorite memories at Bristol. At the time, he was driving for BK Racing. When the team existed, they were not very competitive at all. In my opinion, that remains one of the best performances of DiBenedetto’s career.

He took an underfunded car to an impressive result and finished ahead of some high profile drivers. Since that magical day, DiBenedetto has come a long way in his Cup career. He went from competing at the back of the pack to earning his first playoff appearance this year with the Wood Brothers. The ultimate underdog story!

Shoppe :  There is nothing in the sport of NASCAR that I look back at with more fondness and nostalgia then early 2000’s Bristol! The whole races those days were the memorable moments! The 2002 Sharpie 500 from start to finish was spectacular! Ward Burton throwing stuff at Dale Jr, Elliott Sadler punching an ambulance, Rookie Jimmie Johnson flipping off Robby Gordon, and oh yeah, a bump and run win by Jeff Gordon over Rusty Wallace! I sure wish racing at Bristol never changed from this, but I guess we can always look back and enjoy it! 

Raynor : So many great memories, but I’ll never forget when Tony Stewart threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth’s car in 2012. That was great. We need more of that now. We don’t really have a Tony Stewart type in the sport anymore. I hope we see tempers flair this weekend.

First, let’s give some kudos to our hardy Podium Preview brigade for two amazing laps around Bristol. Next, let’s review our race and points reports from last Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond!
If you didn't pick Martin Truex Jr., it might've been a tough race for you.

If you didn’t pick Martin Truex Jr., it might’ve been a tough race for you.

Still, the damn machine leads us human beings.

Still, the damn machine leads us human beings.

Now, Ashley Hobbs crunches those numbers so you won’t break a sweat like she does when she does her Taebo near Orlando!
First, here's how your team fares in the Bristol Night Race!

First, here’s how your team fares in the Bristol Night Race!

In this case, it pays to drive a Ford at Bristol!

In this case, it pays to drive a Ford at Bristol!

Since 2004, the Bristol Night Race winner has an average starting spot of 9.9, led an average of 149.4 laps, started within the top-five 43.75 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 68.75 percent of the time.

Since 2004, the Bristol Night Race winner has an average starting spot of 9.9, led an average of 149.4 laps, started within the top-five 43.75 percent of the time, and started within the top-10 68.75 percent of the time.

By and large, Joey Logano may be a bargain Bristol Night Race pick!

By and large, Joey Logano may be a bargain Bristol Night Race pick!

Next, here's the trends for the past 10 Bristol Night Races!

Next, here’s the trends for the past 10 Bristol Night Races!

Now, here's the trends for the past five Bristol Night Races.

Now, here’s the trends for the past five Bristol Night Races.

Whoa, our machine chooses a different driver!

Whoa, our machine chooses a different driver!

At last, here are our picks for the Bristol Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway!
By all means, the TPF crew's going in different directions!

By all means, the TPF crew’s going in different directions!

Torres :  A must-win situation for Ryan Blaney is set to take place at the track that’s alluded him for a long time. Now it’s the time for YRB to shine where the stakes are high if he wants to prove he can be a legit threat for the Championship 4 in a few weeks.

Jones :  Bristol has not been kind to Ryan Blaney over the years, but he needs a win this weekend – nothing else will do. This will be the weekend that the odds are in his favor. He will hoist the sword high and advance to the next round of the Playoffs.

Sisoler :  In the earlier race at Bristol this season, Joey Logano would have finished no worse than second had Chase Elliott not overdone it and handed the race to teammate Brad Keselowski by slamming them both into the wall with 3 to go. He’s proven to be consistent at The Last Great Coliseum, and on Saturday night it’ll be, as the great Ken Squier would say, “Car No. 22” getting payback and taking the checkered flag under the lights at Bristol.

Shoppe :  Joey Logano has quietly been working his way back into the picture up front lately. This weekend at Bristol the No. 22 team wins for the first time since the COVID-19 return for NASCAR!

Marcheschi :  I’m going outside the box on this one: Clint Bowyer. Bowyer is only in the Round of 12 by three points over William Byron. However, Bowyer has one of his best tracks coming up: Bristol. Bowyer hasn’t finished worse than eighth at the track since 2017 and finished runner-up there in the spring.

He’s never won there, but the playoffs are looming, and a win means he’s into the next round. Bowyer may just find himself in victory lane after 500 laps at the Last Great Colosseum!

Hobbs :  Clint Bowyer has a respectable average finish at Bristol Motor Speedway. Excluding a hiccup in 2015, he has 3 finishes in the top 10 and 4 finishes in the top 20. This season on short tracks, Bowyer has been solid with an average finish of 9.3, with a runner-up finish earlier this year. Being just inside the Playoff cutoff, Bowyer will need to have a solid day.

TPF Stats :  Chase Elliott may not have gotten the finish he deserved back in May, but he contended all race long. Things will turn out better for Elliott this time.

Tiongson :  If we have to go sweep the leg as Kreese instructed Johnny Lawrence against Danny LaRusso, I’ll do the same now. I’m going with Brad Keselowski to sweep the Cup races at Bristol!

Raynor :  Kyle Busch is really good at this track and in the No. 18 Skittles car.

Lambeth :  Two of the best performances in his Cup career took place in Thunder Valley. With his playoff life on the line, Matt DiBenedetto needs one of those clutch performances. Bristol better be ready because Matty D is ready to pounce!

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Bristol Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this tonight’s race? Who are your favorites 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!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often!

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. Ultimately, they 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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