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:
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 101.8
- Matt Kenseth – No. 42 Chevrolet – 100.6
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 95.9
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 95.2
- Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota – 94.1
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 92.4
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 91.7
- Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chevrolet – 91.5
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 90.6
- 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)
- Brad Keselowski – No.2 Team Penske Ford
- Aric Almirola – No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford
- Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford
- Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
- Matt DiBenedetto – No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford
- Denny Hamlin – No.11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
- Alex Bowman – No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
- Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
- William Byron – No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
- Matt Kenseth – No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
- Erik Jones – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
- Ryan Newman – No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
- John Hunter Nemechek – No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford
- Chris Buescher – No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
- Austin Dillon – No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
- Tyler Reddick – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
- Cole Custer – No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
- Clint Bowyer – No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
- Michael McDowell – No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford
- Bayley Currey – No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet
- Joey Gase – No. 51 Petty Ware Racing Chevrolet
- Quin Houff – No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet
- Ty Dillon – No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet
- Gray Gaulding – No. 27 Rick Ware Racing Ford
- Garrett Smithley – No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet
- Corey LaJoie – No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford
- Ryan Preece – No. 37 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
- Brennan Poole – No. 15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet
- Christopher Bell – No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota
- Bubba Wallace – No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet
- Daniel Suarez – No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota
- Timmy Hill – No. 66 MBM Motorsports Toyota
- J. McLeod – No. 78 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet
- JJ Yeley – No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet