The resurgence in COVID cases in the United States has forced NASCAR to call an audible this week, but the change may end up being a significant positive for fans. This week the annual All-Star races moves to Bristol Motor Speedway, one of the most exciting tracks in NASCAR!
Here’s everything to know about the track and the race before putting together a DFS Lineup (values courtesy of DraftKings).
Recent All-Star Race Winners
2019 – Kyle Larson
2018 – Kevin Harvick
2017 – Kyle Busch
Recent Bristol Winners
2020 (Spring) – Brad Keselowski
2019 (Summer) – Denny Hamlin
2019 (Spring) – Kyle Busch
2018 (Summer) – Kurt Busch
2018 (Spring) – Kyle Busch
2017 (Summer) – Kyle Busch
2017 (Spring) – Jimmie Johnson
The site of the current Bristol Motor Speedway opened in 1961 by a group of local businessmen who wanted to build a speedway in northwest Tennessee after watching a race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Instead of making a carbon copy of Charlotte, they built a perfectly symmetrical half mile concrete oval with 22 degree bankings. The original seating capacity at the track was 18,000 and gradually expanded to 71,000 over the next 35 years. Since that time track alterations reconfigured it as more of a hairpin oval, similar to that of Darlington.
In 1996, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. purchased the track and rapidly expanded the seating to accommodate the exploding popularity of NASCAR. Over the next two years, 60,000 seats and 100 luxury boxes were built to attract more bodies and bigger corporate sponsors to the track. Further improvements to the track continued in 2003, with the addition of a pedestrian tunnel, a revamped infield, two new scoreboards and another 30,000 in seats to bring total seating to 160,000. At the height of the track’s popularity, all 160,000 seats would be filled for the annual Summer Night Race at the track.
Bristol Motor Speedway is now the seventh largest sporting venue in the world and looks more like a football stadium instead of a race track. In fact, it was able to attract the Tennessee Volunteers to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies to play a football game in the infield that drew a crowd of 156,990. That set the record for the most attended college football game in history.
While the track doesn’t sell out anymore, the track remains as one of the more popular on the circuit for fans. The fast paced oval can produce very exciting races with high speeds, constant side by side action and many fender benders. Watching a race at Bristol is even more exciting and at times can be a little overwhelming. The whirlwind pace can make it difficult to keep track of the top cars on the track, as well as constantly cranking your neck side to side to watch all the action. If there was a fan experience equivalent to attention deficit disorder, Bristol Motor Speedway is it.
The only complaint from fans in recent years is the graduated banking of the corners that was done in 2007. The bottom groove of each corner is banked 24 degrees, while the top groove is 28 degrees. This made passing at Bristol more challenging, especially for anyone who drove their preferred line on the bottom. The top of the corners allowed cars to carry more speed both throughout and out of the corner, making passing from the bottom a very difficult task. In response, NASCAR added an adhesive compound at the bottom of the corners to allow more grip for cars running in the bottom lane. That’s helped take Bristol back to a race track with two optimal lanes.
Because of the COVID pandemic, the All-Star race was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Bristol. This will be the first (and maybe only) year the track hosts the All-Star Race. But if the race is a hit, maybe NASCAR will make it a permanent change.
Other Race Notes
1. The first race at the track will be the All-Star Open, which is a series of heat races for all cars not eligible for the main event of the evening. The three winners of each heat race will gain automatic entry into the All-Star Race, with an additional car sent to the main event through a fan vote. Notable drivers who will compete in the All-Star Open include Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto. Bubba Wallace or Matt DiBenedetto seem the likliest to win the fan vote.
The All-Star race field will be set at 20 cars and will run four segments of 55, 35, 35 and 15 laps, respectively. Only green flag laps will count for the fourth and final segment, with the winner of that segment being declared the winner of the All-Star race.
In most years there’s typically a funky gimmick for the All-Star race, whether it be a new aero package or some sort of field inversion after segments. For this year, the only gimmicks will be underlights on the cars (think Fast and Furious), as well as the implementation of the “Choose Cone Rule”. This rule allows drivers to choose which lane they want to run in on the restart instead of the normal lineup procedures following a caution. At a track like Bristol, this is very important as most cars are very sensitive to the groove they run, whether it be the bottom or the top.
For the full starting lineup and format of the race, click here.
2. Back at the Spring race, the first stage was dominated by Ryan Blaney, who led 60 laps and finished 2nd before the stage caution. But he got mixed up in lap traffic and crashed out of the race, leaving him with a 40th place finish. He clearly had a fast car and he should have a chip on his shoulder after the disappointing finish. With the format being short sprint segments, he’s certainly one to watch to win his first All-Star Race.
3. Joe Gibbs Racing, and particularly Kyle Busch, has dominated Bristol Motor Speedway in recent memory. The Gibbs cars have won four of the last seven Bristol races with 12 Top 5 finishes in 28 attempts. The lone exception to Bristol success is Martin Truex Jr., who via his technical alliance with Joe Gibbs as well as his place on the team has only managed one Top 10 in his last six tries. But he had a very close call at Kentucky last week with his runner up finish, and should be highly motivated to claim his first All-Star race.
Denny Hamlin – $10,100: Hamlin should have a strong car for the All-Star race as Bristol is a favorable track for him, where he’s led the 7th most laps of all drivers since 2017. Plus, given his starting spot of 15th place there’s plenty of room to gain positional difference points with his finishing position. The short segment format will mean his crew chief will have to be a little creative on pit road to gain track position, but he’s savvy enough and has a good enough car to finish up towards the front.
Chase Elliott – $9,700: Elliott was neck and neck with Joey Logano for the win at the Spring race in Bristol, but lost control in Turn 1 and ended up wrecking both himself and Logano out of the race with just a handful of laps remaining. Elliott has also led the 6th most laps of everyone at Bristol and starts 13th in the field, giving him the opportunity to gain bonus points for finishing higher than his starting spot.
Brad Keselowski – $8,600: Keselowski won the Spring race in lucky fashion, but he doesn’t need much luck to navigate his way around the short tracks. Keselowski is 3rd in total laps led on short tracks since 2017 with three wins and fourteen Top 10’s in 20 attempts on that track type. Keselowski should have a fast car once again for the All-Star race and improve upon his 9th starting position.
Ryan Blaney – $8,300: As mentioned earlier, Blaney was dominant in the early stages of the Spring Bristol race, and if he brings a similar car setup on Wednesday he could get out to a fast start and never look back. His 3rd starting position gives him a little bit of risk to lose a few points if he finishes any lower than that, but signs point to him having a fast car on Wednesday to stay around the Top 5.
Bubba Wallace – $6,800: Bubba currently doesn’t have a spot in the All-Star race, but if he can’t race his way in through the All-Star Open he’s the favorite to win the fan vote and automatic entry into the main event. He also has raced well on both short tracks this year, scoring 10th and 11th at Bristol and Martinsville, respectively. Given his popularity, he should be a fairly safe option to make the All-Star race one way or another.
Aric Almirola – $6,600: Aric Almirola is on a roll at the moment with six straight Top 10 finishes, but despite all that he’ll have to race his way into the All-Star Race. That shouldn’t be too much trouble as he starts on the front row and should overtake Michael McDowell quickly for the lead. He then would only have to hang on for 35 laps to win the segment, which assuming no cautions is only about 9 minutes of racing at Bristol. Getting to the main event is all that matters for him, and given his recent success he’s a dark horse to win it all.