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|What||Supermarket Heroes 500 NASCAR Cup Series race|
|Where||Bristol Motor Speedway|
|When||Sunday, May 31, 3:30 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||FS1|
During the week before the event, the traditional Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway was renamed the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 in recognition of the frontline workers in the grocery industry. Whatever the name, there’s a good chance someone named “Busch” will bring home the bacon in the first true short-track event of the 2020 season.
For the first time this season, the NASCAR Cup Series will race on concrete, turning laps around the .533-mile bullring in roughly 15 seconds. Our pick for Thursday’s rain-delayed event at Charlotte, Chase Elliott, came through with a victory in the Alsco Uniforms 500, but the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won’t be on our short list at Thunder Valley, even though his average finish there is a respectable 11.5.
The odds for the Supermarket Heroes 500 are provided by DraftKings
|Martin Truex Jr.||+1100|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+4000|
For the first time since racing at one-mile Phoenix on March 8, the NASCAR Cup Series cars will have their full complement of 750 horsepower at Bristol Motor Speedway. Since the resumption of racing May 17 at Darlington, the Cup cars have used the 550-horsepower package in play at the larger tracks.
NASCAR regulates the horsepower generated by the different competition packages with tapered spacers that govern the airflow to the engines. At longer tracks, the spacer openings are .922 inches. At shorter tracks and road courses, the openings expand to 1.170 inches, allowing more air to the engines and thus increasing horsepower.
Unlike Darlington and Charlotte, the first two tracks the Cup Series visited in NASCAR’s re-opening, Bristol is not an aero-dependent track. Mechanical grip via tires is paramount, and the drivers whose cars can get off the high-speed corners most effectively and can use the extra horsepower to advantage are the ones who will contend for the win on Sunday.
Early in his Cup career, Kurt Busch enjoyed spectacular success at Bristol, winning five times from 2002 through 2006. Along came little brother Kyle Busch, who topped Kurt’s record and then some. Kyle boasts eight victories at Bristol, including his most recent in last year’s spring race at the Last Great Coliseum.
Kyle also is the only driver to have completed a sweep of all three of NASCAR’s national touring series in the same week at the same track—and he accomplished that feat twice, in 2010 and 2017 at Bristol. Kyle has won three of the last five Cup races there, but in the 2018 Night Race, Kurt took the checkered flag in one of the two events Kyle didn’t win.
Kyle enters Sunday’s race at the heavy favorite at +300. Kurt, on the other hand, is listed at an inexplicably long +1800. Dating to Fontana on March 1, Kurt has finished seventh or better—with two third-place results—in five of his last six Cup starts.
By the luck of the draw, four Fords will start on the first two rows in Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol. Polesitter Brad Keselowski (+1100) leads two other Team Penske drivers in those top four spots: Joey Logano (third) and Ryan Blaney (fourth).
In each of Logano’s two victories at Bristol, he has started near the front of the field—from fifth on the grid in both 2014 and 2015, when he won back-to-back Night Races. The driver of the No. 22 Ford didn’t get a great pit stall pick (third from the pit entrance on the frontstretch), but the drivers immediately in front of him and behind him—Joey Gase and Brennan Poole, respectively—aren’t likely to remain on the lead lap for long.
Logano (+800) won twice on NASCAR’s West Coast Swing but hasn’t finished better than sixth since NASCAR’s resumption. But Bristol is his kind of track, and given his second-row starting spot, the 30-year-old Connecticut driver has an excellent chance to maintain the track position he needs to be in contention at the finish.
Kurt Busch (+1800)—Kyle Busch, with eight Bristol wins, is +300. Kurt Busch, with six Bristol wins, is +1800. Both drivers possess elite skills. Both are NASCAR Cup champions. We’re going with the potential big payday here. For an even larger return, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is worth a look at +4000, coming off a fourth-place run at Charlotte on Thursday.
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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