Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

NASCAR’s comeback tour rolls on this weekend as the Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for Sunday’s running of the Supermarket Heroes 500.

The track, which carries the “Last Great Colosseum” moniker, always brings out the excitement from fans and competitors alike as packing 40 cars into the half-mile high banked bullring can only be explained by the phrase “flying fighter jets in a gymnasium”, which is more accurate than it would seem.

Drivers race two and sometimes three-wide throughout the event and when trouble happens, it’s usually more than one car that is involved. By the end of the race, even the race winner will look like they have been in a demolition derby. It’s no wonder that Bristol is a fan favorite.

With no practice or qualifying, the drivers will have their hands full early on as they try to get a feel for how their cars are handling as well as how the track is driving. Once again, the track will employ the traction compound in the lower groove, throwing another kink into Sunday’s race.

By the Numbers

What: Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500, NASCAR Cup Series race No. 9 of 36

Where: Bristol Motor Speedway – Bristol, Tennessee (Opened: 1960)

TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 3:30 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size:  0.533-mile concrete oval

Banking: Turns: 24 to 28 degrees; Straights: 4 to 9 degrees

Race Length: 500 laps, 266.5 miles

Stage Lengths: Stage 1 and 2: 125 laps; Final stage: 250 laps

Pit Road Speed: 30 mph

Pace Car Speed: 35 mph

April 2019 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (Started 17th, 71 laps led)

August 2019 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota (Started on pole, 79 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet (14.568 seconds, 131.713 mph – 4/7/2019)

Top-10 Driver Ratings at Bristol:

  1. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 101.8
  2. Matt Kenseth – No. 42 Chevrolet – 100.6
  3. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 95.9
  4. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 95.2
  5. Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota – 94.1
  6. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 92.4
  7. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 91.7
  8. Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chevrolet – 91.5
  9. Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 90.6
  10. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Ford – 90.5

From the Driver’s Seat

“Bristol is going to be very complicated, in my opinion the biggest issue is going to be the track,” said Jimmie Johnson. “When that track is green and has no rubber on it, is very low on grip. With the traction compound on the bottom lane, it needs traffic to work it in. So, to show up cold turkey with the setup required to be competitive for the first stage is going to be way different than the setup you will need to win the race.

It’s going to be a tough challenge on the teams, pit road is going to be important, and minimal adjustments during a pit stop are key since we are short manned over the wall. In order to raise the track bar, change the wedge or pull a spring rubber it takes so long – and unfortunately, we will probably need adjustments like that as the race wears on. From a technical standpoint – this race is going to be the most difficult so far. The car will have to have some adjustability built in.”

Last Year’s Results

A crash on lap two of last year’s spring race couldn’t keep Kyle Busch from scoring an eighth win at Bristol.

After getting swept up in a crash before even completing a mile of the race, Busch found himself behind the eight-ball early, but slowly, but surely worked his way back toward the front of the field and was able to take over the lead for the first time on lap 384.

When Kyle Larson crashed less than 25 laps to go, it set up an interesting turn of events with pit strategy coming into play. Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who ran 1-2 at the time, elected to come to pit road, while Busch and elder brother Kurt were among a handful that decided to roll the dice and stay out.

That was all the eventual two-time Cup Series champion needed to take home the win, holding off Kurt and the leaders that had fresher tires down the stretch.

“We’re crazy,” Busch said. “We just do what we do, try to win. It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol. Love this place.

“It was fun to battle out the brother there at the end. I know we didn’t quite get side‑by‑side racing it out. I saw him working the top. I’m like, I better go. I got up there, was able to make some ground. Man, just awesome to be here in front of this crowd, here at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Skittles Camry wasn’t the best today, but we made the most of not having the best and got everything we needed here at the end.”

Starting Lineup (Set by Random Draw)

  1. Brad Keselowski – No.2 Team Penske Ford
  2. Aric Almirola – No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  3. Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford
  4. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford
  5. Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  6. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  7. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  8. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  9. Matt DiBenedetto – No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
  10. Denny Hamlin – No.11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  11. Alex Bowman – No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  12. Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
  13. William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  14. Matt Kenseth – No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
  15. Erik Jones – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
  16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
  17. Ryan Newman – No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
  18. John Hunter Nemechek – No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford
  19. Chris Buescher – No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
  20. Austin Dillon – No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
  21. Tyler Reddick – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
  22. Cole Custer – No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  23. Clint Bowyer – No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
  24. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
  25. Michael McDowell – No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
  26. Bayley Currey – No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
  27. Joey Gase – No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet
  28. Quin Houff – No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet
  29. Ty Dillon – No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet
  30. Gray Gaulding – No. 27 Rick Ware Racing Ford
  31. Garrett Smithley – No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
  32. Corey LaJoie – No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford
  33. Ryan Preece – No. 37 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
  34. Brennan Poole – No. 15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet
  35. Christopher Bell – No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota
  36. Bubba Wallace – No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet
  37. Daniel Suarez – No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota
  38. Timmy Hill – No. 66 MBM Motorsports Toyota
  39. J. McLeod – No. 78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet
  40. JJ Yeley – No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet

Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.