Commentary

Bowyer's got Bristol's number for Saturday night Cup race

The Eliminator: Bristol

Updated: August 21, 2008, 7:59 PM ET
By Matthew Willis | ESPN.com

Welcome, NASCAR fans!

The Eliminator had the right idea last week going with a Roush Fenway driver -- they all finished in the top 10. The Biff finished a strong fourth, but it was Carl Edwards winning both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Michigan. Which gets me to this …

Trivia break! Carl Edwards was just the second driver to sweep the Nationwide and Cup races at Michigan in a weekend. Who, pray tell, was the first?

You think Edwards' getting his five wins is impressive? Well, it is. But even more impressive is Kyle Busch and his eight wins, and he shares some similarities to a man who recently made a name for himself half a world away:

• Michael Phelps -- eight gold medals; Kyle Busch -- eight wins.

• Michael Phelps -- turned 23 on June 30; Kyle Busch -- turned 23 on May 2.

• Michael Phelps -- won his races in a pool; Kyle Busch -- will go racing this weekend on a track that resembles a bathtub.

• Michael Phelps -- wears swim goggles; Kyle Busch -- wears gigantic sunglasses.

Really makes you think, eh?

Well, while you think, let me handle the eliminating this week. It's sort of my thing. Forty-seven drivers will head to one of the biggest races of the year, the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway Of all those hopefuls, only one will end his Saturday night in Victory Lane. But who will it be?

Well, first, you have to have some prior success this season to win this race. Going back to 1992, every August Bristol winner had at least one top-2 finish earlier in the season. Twenty-nine of the hopefuls haven't done that yet this season, including, surprisingly, Matt Kenseth. We're down to 18.

Also, when filling out your fantasy lineup this weekend, it doesn't take much more than just glancing at the last couple of Bristol races. First of all, the past five Bristol winners had finished in the top dozen in the previous Bristol race. We flash back to this spring to eliminate eight more.

And then, the past seven August Bristol winners and 11 of the past 12 Bristol winners overall had finished in the top nine in that Bristol race the previous season. That trims another six off, and just like that, we have a final four.

It's been a while since the Cup series last saw a short track, but don't sleep on this. Each short-track winner this season had finished in the top 12 of the previous short-track race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch didn't finish up front at Richmond, so they're gone, leaving a mere two.

In this race the past two years, the winner of the Cup race ran in the Nationwide Series race Friday night. Kasey Kahne's going to kick back on Friday night, so he's gone, but our other finalist will be pulling double duty … but first.

Trivia break! Before Edwards did it last weekend, Mark Martin won both the Cup and Nationwide series races in 1993. That was just the second season the Nationwide Series ran at Michigan.

There's one driver who needs to break out of his slump and get back into the Chase picture. Look for Clint Bowyer to get back on track at Bristol. Remember, the numbers don't lie.

Eliminator breakdown
  1. Every August Bristol winner since 1992 had a top-2 finish earlier in the season. (29 drivers eliminated, 18 remaining)
    Drivers Eliminated: AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Stanton Barrett, Dave Blaney, Patrick Carpentier, Bill Elliott, Robby Gordon, Jeff Green, Sam Hornish Jr., Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Joe Nemechek, Kyle Petty, David Ragan, Tony Raines, David Reutimann, Scott Riggs, Elliott Sadler, Johnny Sauter, Ken Schrader, Mike Skinner, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson, Martin Truex Jr.

  2. The past five Bristol winners had finished in the top 12 in the previous Bristol race. (8 drivers eliminated, 10 remaining)
    Drivers Eliminated: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip.

  3. The past seven August Bristol winners had finished in the top nine in that race the previous year. (6 drivers eliminated, 4 remaining)
    Drivers Eliminated: Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, David Gilliland, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick.

  4. Each short-track winner this season finished in the top 12 in the last short-track race. (2 drivers eliminated, 2 remaining)
    Drivers Eliminated: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

  5. The past two years, the August Bristol winners also raced in the Nationwide race. (1 driver eliminated, 1 remaining)
    Driver Eliminated: Kasey Kahne.

  6. And your winner is: Clint Bowyer.

Matt Willis is a studio researcher at ESPN.