Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol preview

It’s time for the highlight of NASCAR’s summer stretch; the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Bristol night race has always produced some of the biggest crowds of the entire NASCAR season as well as some of the most mesmerizing racing under the lights that fans flock to year after year.

Since the track was repaved and reconfigured in after the March,2007 race, some fans haven’t been pleased with the quality of racing at the track, opting for the slam-bang, bump-and-run type action that track grew it’s reputation on.

So for this weekend’s races at Bristol, drivers will be face with a re-vamped track than what they saw back in March.

Or is it?

Bruton Smith, the owner of Bristol Motor Speedway, decided to listen to fans who wanted Bristol changed back to what it was pre-2007. So, he hired a group of engineers to manufacture the top-groove of the race track, which has been the prime spot to race the track in recent years, to be the same as the middle groove.

But in the Camping Wold Truck Series race on Wednesday night, the track hasn’t changed in the way Smith had imagined.

By the end of the 200 lap race, drivers where inching closer and closer to the very groove Smith and his engineers supposedly made that section of the track a place to avoid.

With that being said, we may be looking at the same type of three-wide racing we’ve seen in the Bristol night race since 2007.

But that also makes it easier to predict who the drivers to beat will be for Saturday night’s race.

Brad Keselowski has one the past two Sprint Cup races at Bristol Motor Speedway, including a dominant performance in the March race in which he lead 232 of the 500 laps. Keselowski battled throughout the race with the most consistent driver at Bristol in the past six races, Matt Kenseth.

A two-time winner of the night race, Kenseth has six top-10 finishes in the last six races at the half-mile track, including a second place finish earlier this season.

Maybe the two drivers that need a win the most will the one’s to contend with in Saturday night’s 500 lap event.

Both Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch have won multiple races at Bristol, with Edwards last winning in 2008 and Busch in 2010.

To get in the Chase, both drivers surely need to win at least one of the upcoming races to make a wildcard birth a reality.

In those upcoming tracks, there may be no better place to make that happen that Bristol.

Saturday night’s race should be similar to Bristol races past, just not the ones the 40-percent of the fans hoped for that convinced Smith to change the track.

Fantasy Racing Outlook:

  • “A” drivers: Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth
  • “B” Drivers: Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • “C” Drivers: Brian Vickers, Aric Almirola

Recent Winners of the Irwin Tools Night Race

2011: Brad Keselowski

2010: Kyle Busch

2009: Kyle Busch

2008: Carl Edwards

2007: Carl Edwards*

2006: Matt Kenseth

2005: Matt Kenseth

2004: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2003: Kurt Busch

2002: Jeff Gordon

2001: Tony Stewart

*Track reconfigured

Bristol Motor Speedway Fast Facts 

22 races at Bristol Motor Speedway have been won from the pole position.

Most Wins: 12 – Darrell Waltrip

Most Poles: 9 – Cale Yarborough, Mark Martin

Most Lead Changes: 40 – 4/14/91

Fewest Lead Changes: 0 – 3/25/73

Most Leaders: 16 – 4/9/89

Fewest Leaders: 1 – 3/25/73

Most Cautions: 20 – 3 times, most recently 8/23/03

Fewest Cautions: 0 – 7/11/71

Most Caution Laps: 167 – 7/25/65

Irwin Tools Night Race Entry List: 

#1 Jamie McMurray (Bass Pro Shops/Allstate)

#2 Brad Keselowski (Miller Lite/ Rusty Wallace NASCAR Hall of Fame tribute)

#5 Kasey Kahne (Hendrickcars.com)

#9 Marcos Ambrose (DeWalt)

#10 Danica Patrick (Go Daddy)

#11 Denny Hamlin (FedEx Ground)

#13 Casey Mears (Geico)

#14 Tony Stewart (MOBIL 1 / OFFICE DEPOT)

#15 Clint Bowyer (5-Hour Energy)

#16 Greg Biffle (3M/Bondo)

#17 Matt Kenseth (Valvoline NextGen)

#18 Kyle Busch (M&M’s)

#19 Mike Bliss (Plinker Tactical)

#20 Joey Logano (Dollar General)

#22 Sam Hornish Jr. (Shell Pennzoil)

#23 Scott Riggs (North Texas Pipe)

#24 Jeff Gordon (AARP Drive to End Hunger)

#26 Josh Wise (MDS Transport)

#27 Paul Menard (Menards – Schrock)

#29 Kevin Harvick (Rheem)

#30 David Stremme (Inception Motorsports)

#31 Jeff Burton (Caterpillar)

#32 Ken Schrader (Federated Auto Parts)

#33 Stephen Leicht (LittleJoesAuto.com)

#34 David Ragan (Glory Foods)

#36 Dave Blaney (Seal Wrap)

#38 David Gilliland (TBA)

#39 Ryan Newman (Outback Steakhouse)

#42 Juan Pablo Montoya (Target)

#43 Aric Almirola (Goody’s)

#47 Bobby Labonte (Bush’s Beans)

#48 Jimmie Johnson (Lowe’s Dover White)

#49 Jason Leffler (America Israel Racing)

#51 Kurt Busch (Hendrickcars.com)

#55 Brian Vickers (MyClassicGarage)

#56 Martin Truex Jr. (NAPA Auto Parts)

#78 Regan Smith (Furniture Row-Farm American)

#79 Kelly Bires (Team Kyle)

#83 Landon Cassill (Burger King)

#87 Joe Nemechek (AM-FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves/AC General)

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard)

#91 Reed Sorenson (Humphrey Smith Racing LLC.)

#93 Travis Kvapil (Burger King)

#95 Scott Speed (TBD)

#98 Michael McDowell (K-Love/ Curb Records)

#99 Carl Edwards (Fastenal)