NASCAR’s best drivers. A hot summer night. A high-banked short track. One million dollars to the winner.
That’s the recipe for Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. For only the second time in the annual exhibition’s history, the race will not be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The scrambled schedule NASCAR has put together in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis moved what was planned as a May event in Charlotte to a midweek race at the Tennessee track.
The move has the potential for a much more exciting affair than has usually been the case at the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval. Bristol’s reputation as a rough-and-tumble track that creates high emotion as well as close racing is well known. Look no further than May, when Brad Keselowski stole the win after Joey Logano and Chase Elliott tangled racing for the lead in the closing laps.
If you’re not familiar with Bristol’s unique layout, picture the Rose Bowl with a .533-mile racetrack inside banked nearly 30 degrees at each end and you’ve got the Tennessee bullring.
Wednesday night’s race will be contested in four stages consisting of 50 laps in the opener, 35 laps each in the second and third segments and then just a 15-lap shootout to the checkered flag to decide the winner. The field consists of winners from the 2019 season through last week’s race at Kentucky Speedway (hello, Cole Custer). Three drivers will race into the main event through the preliminary All-Star Open, with one additional entry coming from a fan vote to round out the field of 20.
Here’s a look at a few of the favorites:
The most recent Bristol winner is a solid option to make a trip to Victory Lane on Wednesday night. Keselowski was third in last year’s summer race before adding a win to his Bristol back in May. While his average finish over the last 10 races isn’t great at 18.1, Keselowski’s recent Bristol success and his knack of rising to the occasion in high-profile races makes him a strong favorite.
It has been a miserable season so far for the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, who remains winless after 17 races. But it’s impossible to dismiss Busch at Bristol, considering his stellar record there. Busch has won three of the last six Bristol Cup Series races and has finished fourth in the last two.
It’s not a sentimental pick to think Johnson’s final full-time season in NASCAR might include an all-star win. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has the best average finish among all drivers over the last 10 Bristol races at 9.0 and was third in the May race. Johnson is a solid contender for Victory Lane.
The veteran driver is in the midst of nearly a two-year winless streak. However, Bowyer usually shines at Bristol. He has five consecutive top-10 finishes at the track, including a runner-up performance in May.