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Food City 500 Preview

3/11/2008

Each Tuesday, Mark Garrow sets the stage for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race. This week, it's the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 16.

Background

• This is the fifth race of 36 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008.

• This is the first of six short-track races this season.

• This is the 95th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has competed at Bristol since 1961.

• Bristol is a .533-mile oval with 30-degree banking in the corners and 16-degree banking on the straightaways.

• Forty-six drivers are on the pre-entry list to compete for one of the 43 starting slots in Sunday's 500-lap, 266.5-mile race. Of those 46 entrants, 11 must get into Sunday's field based on qualifying times. They are: David Reutimann, Ken Schrader, Kurt Busch, Patrick Carpentier, John Andretti, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Michael Waltrip, Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers and Mike Skinner.

• Of those drivers, Kurt Busch, Jarrett and Elliott are eligible for past champion provisionals. Busch is not guaranteed a starting spot in the field for the first five races of the season because team owner Roger Penske transferred the 2007 points from Busch's car to that of his rookie teammate Sam Hornish Jr.

• If qualifying were to be canceled, the drivers making the show would be: Kurt Busch, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Brian Vickers, David Reutimann, Michael Waltrip, Joe Nemechek and John Andretti.

Mark Martin is sitting out his first race of the season, and Sprint Cup Series rookie Aric Almirola will replace him in the No. 8 in Bristol.

• Sunday marks Dale Jarrett's final Cup Series points race. David Reutimann will replace him in the No. 44, and rookie Michael McDowell will replace Reutimann in the No. 00 beginning next week.

• It has been two years since Kurt Busch won here, but he has been the most dominant driver at Bristol in recent years, winning a total of five races, including a stretch of three in a row.

Jeff Gordon is the only other driver in Sunday's field with five wins. Even though his last win here was in 2002, the four-time champ is tops in Thunder Valley. He has led more than twice as many laps as the second-best driver (2,437 to Tony Stewart's 1,085), has 18 top-10s in 30 starts and has an average start of 5.5 and an average finish of 11.7.

• Ford has been strong here in the past 10 years, winning a total of 12 races, including six of the past 10. Most of those wins have come from Roush Fenway drivers. The last Ford driver to win here not driving a Jack Roush-owned car was Elliott Sadler in March of 2001, when he won in a Wood Brothers Ford.

• The active driver with the highest average finish here with at least 10 starts is Greg Biffle. In 10 starts here, Biff has an average finish of 10.3. He has been running at the finish of all 10 and has eight lead-lap finishes.

Kyle Busch has been the hottest driver in NASCAR this season and is coming to the track where he won the first-ever Car of Tomorrow race last March.

• Of the drivers with 10 or more starts who are guaranteed to make Sunday's field, Robby Gordon has the worst average finish. In 14 starts at Bristol, Gordon has an average finish of 27.4, with no top-10s and only two lead-lap finishes.

Bristol's previous winners

There are 11 previous Bristol winners entered this weekend, with 20 victories among them:

2008 Sprint Cup Series Top 10

  1. Kyle Busch (665 points) was the winner at Atlanta and remains first in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings. In his six starts at Bristol, Busch has four top-10s, two top-5s, a win and an average finish of 13.5.

  2. Greg Biffle (-73) was the fourth-place finisher at Atlanta and moves up three spots to second in the Cup Series standings. In 10 starts at Bristol, he has six top-10s, three top-5s and an average finish of 10.3.

  3. Kevin Harvick (-91) was the seventh-place finisher Sunday at AMS and moves up one spot in the Cup Series standings to third. Harvick has 14 starts here, with nine top-10s, seven top-5s, a win and an average finish of 10.5.

  4. Ryan Newman (-94) finished 14th Sunday at Atlanta and falls two spots in the Cup Series standings to fourth place. Newman has 12 starts here, with six top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 20.2.

  5. Jeff Burton (-110) finished 10th Sunday at AMS to move up one spot in the Cup Series standings to fifth place. In 28 starts at Thunder Valley, Burton has 11 top-10s, seven top-5s and an average finish of 18.3.

  6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-134) was the third-place finisher at Atlanta and moves up four places in the Cup Series standings to sixth. Dale Jr. has 16 starts here, with nine top-10s, six top-5s, a win and an average finish of 11.7.

  7. Kasey Kahne (-137) finished the race at AMS in 28th place and falls four places in the Cup Series standings to seventh. Kahne has eight starts at Bristol, with two top-10s, a top-5 and an average finish of 20.0.

  8. Tony Stewart (-140) was the runner-up at Atlanta on Sunday and moves up three places in the Cup Series points standings to eighth. Stewart has 18 starts here, with six top-10s, five top-5s, a win and an average finish of 16.9.

  9. Brian Vickers (-174) finished ninth at AMS on Sunday and moves up four spots in the Cup Series standings to ninth. In seven starts at Bristol, Vickers has a career-best finish of 12th and an average finish of 24.6.

  10. Kurt Busch (-187) was the 11th-place finisher at Atlanta on Sunday and moves up two spots in the Cup Series standings to 10th. In 14 starts at Bristol, Busch has nine top-10s and five wins, with an average finish of 14.5.

Mark Garrow covers fantasy racing for ESPN.com.