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NASCAR: Bristol Night Race

NASCAR: Bristol Night Race 1 month 6 days ago #487708

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Betting news, trends, odds and predictions from various handicappers and websites for Saturday 8/18/18
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NASCAR: Bristol Night Race 1 month 6 days ago #487709

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Bristol Night Race
By Micah Roberts


I'm not going to say Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr. won't win Saturday's Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but I've got a good feeling that some other driver will win in the second visit of the season to the world's fastest half-mile track.

Sounds crazy, right?

They've only combined to win 17 of the 23 races this season and Busch has seven Cup wins on the high-banked concrete layout, including the last two raced there. He's also got nine Xfinity Series wins and five Truck Series wins there. He's also got the next move in the 'anything you can do I can do better' game he and Kevin Harvick have been playing all season. Harvick just broke the tie and passed Busch with his series-leading seventh win last week at Michigan.

“Yes and no," Busch said of responding to Harvick's win. "Certainly, Harvick has been fast there, too. I think he won there a couple of years ago. But obviously, we’re kind of on a hot streak with Bristol. We love going there. I would like to think that we can go there, be fast and be able to respond, absolutely. So we’ll see what we can do getting there, and hopefully having a fast racecar and doing what we normally do there, just try to stay out of trouble. It’s a tough place to stay out of trouble. This is the first time we’ve had M&M’S White Chocolate on the car, so hoping it keeps the good-luck streak alive and we can win three Cup races in a row for the first time there.”

The last driver to win three straight at Bristol was Kyle's big brother Kurt Busch (2003-04) who has a total of five wins at Thunder Valley, the last coming in 2006, the season prior to the repaving in between races in 2007. Kyle Busch won his first Bristol Cup race in the spring of 2007 in a Hendrick Chevy in the last race under the old layout which had steeper banking at 36 degrees in the turns and only one preferred groove. Now there are two grooves and the variable banking is 24 to 30 degrees.

Busch has been the best driver at Bristol since the changes and he's fast approaching Darrell Waltrip's all-time track record with 12 wins. Because of that dominance, I can't leave him out of the wagering strategy this week and I'll consider 3/1 odds to win offered at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook extremely fair. He won't be my top play, but I'll have Busch in a situation as insurance against all my other wagers so I'll break even or show a small profit if he wins.

Kevin Harvick is one of four active drivers to have won on both layouts and grabbed his second career Cup win at Bristol in the 2016 night race. He's finished eighth or better in his last six Bristol start (seventh-place in April race, no laps led) and his 13th-place average finish is second-best among actives. The Westgate has him at 5/1 which looks outstanding, but I can't back him this week.

One thing that should also be noted in favor of Harvick doing well this week is his Dover win in May. Dover is a 1-mile high-banked concrete layout, kind of like a bigger Bristol. Because the set-up requirements are similar there's a solid correlation between the tracks. In that race, Harvick led 201 of the 400 laps and was followed by teammate Clint Bowyer who led 40 laps. Brad Keselowski led 108 laps and finished sixth. More on him later.

One driver I feel confident about crossing off my betting list is Martin Truex Jr. who has the third-most wins this season with four. He's never won at Bristol in 25 starts. In fact, he's only had two top-fives in a career there, the last coming in 2012. He was 21st in this race last season and then was 30th there in April after an accident which raised his average finish at Bristol to 20.7. It's just not his track which is why the Westgate has him at 12-to-1 odds this week.

Despite Harvick having an incredible 17 top-fives in 23 starts this season, I'm leaving him off the list. Here's a couple guys I'm rolling with this week starting with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who is 25-to-1 at the Westgate but can be found at higher odds elsewhere.

“Bristol is by far one of our best tracks statistically and my favorite track," Stenhouse said. "We had a strong run there earlier this year so hopefully we can carry the information we learned into this weekend. I think the night race at Bristol is by far one of best races of the year. Hopefully, we can get our Fastenal Ford into victory lane and secure a spot in the playoffs.”

I like the desperation angle with Stenhouse who sits 17th in points, one position away and 62 points from the final transfer spot. But he's also got the temperament, car set-up, and skills that have helped him average a 10.1 finish in 11 starts, which is the best among all active drivers. He was fourth in the April Bristol race. He's got nothing lose, he's a badass not afraid of any driver and punting someone for a chance at the Playoffs would be an afterthought. Shop around for the best price.

The rest of the bankroll is going to split between Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. I've been waiting for Keselowski and Blaney to break through this season, but the Penske teammates were outstanding in the April Bristol race even though the final results don't show it. Blaney finished 35th after being involved in a wreck while leading. He led twice for 100 laps. I was impressed with how he started fifth and took only 16 laps to pass pole-sitter Kyle Busch. Blaney is 15/1 to win this week.

Keselowski is a two-time winner and looked to have one of the best cars in the April race, something we haven't been able to say about him all season. He led four times for 67 laps and finished first in each of the first two stages. That April race was spread over two days due to rain. On Sunday, Keselowski was amazing. On Monday, he wasn't the same and spun out late in the race finishing 23rd, five laps behind. Then he went and had a great run at Dover a month later. Yes, he's ready for this and super hungry for a win. Best of all, he's 15-to-1. He'll be my top score if he wins.

Kyle Larson had his first Bristol win in sight in April and led a race-high 200 laps. He was leading six laps to go until Busch made the pass and then settled for runner-up. Between his last three Bristol starts he's led 472 laps. Like Keselowski, he's looking for his first win of the season and this could be it.

Harvick's Stewart Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch should both be very good this week too. Kurt Busch is a five-time winner at Bristol, the second-most in the series behind his younger brother. That's 12 Bristol wins combined for the Vegas brothers which ties Darrell and Michael Waltrip for the most wins by brothers -- Michael didn't contribute to any of the wins. By the way, Darrell Waltrip once won seven straight Bristol races from 1981 to 1984.

Also, keep an eye on the Hendrick drivers. They all were fast in the April race while being slow elsewhere and they've been coming up with speed lately. Jimmie Johnson's third-place finish in April still remains his best finish of the season. He won the spring race last season for his second career Bristol win. Alex Bowman was fifth in the April race as well. Chase Elliott got involved in awreck early in that race and limped around the rest of the way finishing 29th, down 27 laps.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #2 Brad Keselowski (15/1)
2) #42 Kyle Larson (6/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (3/1)
4) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (25/1)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (15/1)
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NASCAR: Bristol Night Race 1 month 6 days ago #487710

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Best Bets - Bristol
August 17, 2018
By Daniel Dobish


Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.

The MENCS returns to Bristol Motor Speedway for the second time this season for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. The green flag drops at the "Last Great Colosseum", a.k.a "The World's Fastest Half-Mile" at 6:46 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBCSN. The race was moved up slightly due to the potential of weather popping up and affecting the race later in the evening.

All eyes will be on Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (3/1), as he looks to continue the dominance of the 'Big Three' on Saturday night. Busch, Kevin Harvick (17/4) has Martin Truex Jr. (10/1) have combined to win 17 of this season's 23 races, including Busch's checkered flag at Bristol back on April 16 in the Food City 500. In fact, Busch will be 'gunning' (see what I did there with the NRA tie-in? lol) for his third consecutive race at the track former driver and FOX commentator Darrell Waltrip likened to "racing in a blender."

Busch has posted a 103.8 Driver Rating across his past five starts at Bristol, according to NASCAR's Loop Data, leading a circuit-best 529 laps during the five-race span. While he has a 22.8 Average-Finish Position (AFP) during the stretch, thanks in large part to his awful luck in 2016 when he posted a pair of DNFs, he does have the back-to-back wins to make him the favorite. Harvick actually leads everyone with a 109.6 Driver Rating over the past five starts, leading 155 laps, but running a circuit-best 92.0 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. While the fans of NASCAR might want to see someone break up the Big Three monopoly, Bristol might not be the place where they'll get their wishes. Bettors and fantasy players will keep rolling with the likes of Busch and Harvick, and they'll probably be cashing winners again on Saturday.

Furniture Row's Truex hasn't been as dominant at this track, and is probably a good reason his odds are much longer than the two favorites. He is ninth among all drivers with a 92.3 Driver Rating, leading 116 laps during the past five starts at Bristol. However, he has managed to run just 57.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, and he has a rather mediocre 19.2 AFP during the span. Over his past 10 starts at Bristol he has cracked the Top 10 just once, and that was an eighth-place run in the night race back in 2016. Even in his championship season of 2017 he was a rather marginal 21st in the spring race and 30th in the summer run. As such, he'll struggle mightily to live up to his high DFS price tag, and he isn't worth eating the chalk at the betting window.

If anyone is to break up the Big Three monopoly, Vegas feels Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (4/1) might have the goods. Like Busch, Larson had his mechanical or crash issues in a three-race span from the summer of 2015 through the 2016 campaign. However, since the spring race in 2017 at Bristol, he has been as dominant as anyone on the half-mile track. Larson posted a sixth-place showing last spring, a ninth-place run in the night race last summer and he was a runner-up earlier this season in Thunder Valley. As such, if you want to be somewhat of a contrarian and go against the Big Three, Larson is the guy you'll want to build your fantasy squad around.

Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (22/1) could also be someone to crash the Big Three party, and he might potentially burst the bubble for one of the fringe Chase pursuers in the process. Stenhouse has posted nine Top 10 finishes so far this season, including a fourth-place showing at Bristol back in April. There is something about Thunder Valley that agrees with him, as he has six Top-10 showings over his past nine starts at the track, including a runner-up in the night race back in 2016, and the spring run in 2014. While he has never won in 11 tries at Bristol, he has four Top 5s, six Top 10s and an AFP of 10.2, leading all active drivers in that category. While he has never ticked off a single lap in his career at the front of the pack at this track, he also has zero DNFs.

Time is running out for Hendrick Motorsports driver and seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson (20/1). He could potentially miss the Chase, although he is still 92 points clear of the line at the moment. That all could change if someone like Stenhouse rises up and snags a checkered flag, putting him in a desperation battle with teammate Alex Bowman (40/1) of all people. And don't look now, but Bowman could be another potential sleeper to interfere with Johnson's playoff plans. He posted an impressive fifth-place showing in the spring race. Johnson has two career wins at Bristol in 33 starts, and his 13.3 AFP is third-best among active full-time drivers. The good news for Johnson is that he has led 914 laps at the track while posting just one DNF. But dominant historical numbers are one thing, but this season has been a struggle for the 48 team and he is a risky proposition for both bettors and fantasy players alike.

Never sleep on the Fords from the Penske Racing stable, either, especially at Bristol. Brad Keselowski (12/1) won the back-to-back Bristol runs in the summer of 2011 and the spring of 2012, and he has four Top 5s in 17 career starts. While he has never had a DNF in his career at the track, it has been hit-or-miss over the years for the driver of the No. 2. His career 18.2 AFP ranks 21st among all driver in Saturday's field. Teammate Joey Logano (14/1) checks in seventh in Driver Rating (99.6) over his past five starts at the track, and he has a victory as recent as the Irwin Tools Night Race in Aug. 2015. In fact, he won back-to-back night events at Thunder Valley in both the summer of 2014 and 2015. His AFP in 19 career starts is better than Kes, as he has a 16.2 AFP with four Top 5s, eight Top 10s and just one DNF while running out front for a total of 523 laps in his career at the short track.

Don't forget about JGR's Denny Hamlin (10/1) or Erik Jones (14/1), either. Even Daniel Suarez (75/1) is worth keeping an eye on, especially for fantasy players. Hamlin has one win under his belt in 25 career Bristol starts, posting seven Top 5s and 12 Top 10s with 611 laps and a 15.3 AFP. Over his past four outings at the track he has an impressive 7.5 AFP, so he isn't a bad cheaper alternative to the Big Three. Jones diesn't have a lengthy history in a Cup car at Bristol, but he did record a runner-up finish last season in the night race behind his teammate in the No. 18. Suarez continues to get better on this run, too, posting an 18th in the spring race in 2017, 15th in the summer night race last season and an 11th-place showing back in April. If his upward trajectory continues, a Top 10 showing would more than satisfy DFS players nabbing him at a mid-tier price.

Others worth watching include Chase Elliott (14/1), although he was a Cup career-worst 29th in the spring race. Ryan Newman (100/1) always seems to lurk at this track, and has 18 Top 10s in 33 career starts with a respectable 15.8 AFP. Stewart-Haas Racing's Clint Bowyer (14/1) and Kurt Busch (20/1) are also flying a bit under the radar this week. Bowyer has a strong 15.0 AFP in 25 career starts with 12 Top 10s and 137 laps led at Bristol, while the elder Busch has won five times in 35 career starts with a 15.1 AFP and 1,062 laps led. It's amazing his odds are so long, so there is some value there despite the fact he hasn't been running as well as he can lately.
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