Four different tracks are how the Sprint Cup season always starts. A plate track starts the season, then a flat one-mile speedway, followed by the well-used 1.5-mile speedway. Now, NASCAR gets to shorten things up a bit, but in a big way.
It's now time to go below the mile-mark, but the banking goes up...way up. That has often meant the action also goes up, and beyond what happens on the concrete surface.
With grandstands at every corner and both straightaways, this track has become the lead in must-see facilities. Here comes Thunder Valley, also know as the Bristol Motor Speedway. This 0.533-mile oval has seen photo finishes, destroyed cars in victory lane, and a few birds thrown.
For the writers, some are angry about falling back, and others upset about being winless. Perfect opportunity for some aggression to be released. The picks are locked in, so here's who each writer is hoping to stand tall at the end of the Food City 500:
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
Last two races Jamie McMurray has started in the top seven and hasn't finish lowered than 15th in the three races ran thus far. McMurray is good at Bristol and was running third when he spun here last year. Still came back to finish 10th. With his rookie crew chief Keith Rodden this team continues to get better. Sunday they break through.
Rob Blount: Kasey Kahne
Kahne hasn’t been too strong to start off 2014, but he’s been okay. Now he heads to a track where he finished in the top-two at in both races in 2013. Kahne won this race in March of last year and finished a close second to Matt Kenseth at the night race in August last year after a thrilling late-race battle.
James Broomhead: Kyle Busch
Billy Fellin: Kyle Busch
Alright, I need to keep up with everyone else and get a W here and no one better in the Coliseum than the 18 car. Five wins and an average finish of 9.9. I'll take it.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
No one but the best at Bristol.
Kara Martin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ryan O'Hara: Brad Keselowski
Dustin Parks: Brad Keselowski
I had this guy picked for this race before he won at Vegas. The fact of the matter is at this track, the No. 2 is always going to be at the top of my list. He's won here in the day race, and also the night race. Gotta go with Bad Brad.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
He has ran well enough to win the first three races. Seriously, he has and with three top 10 finishes to start the year he joins, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick in the win column this weekend.
Aaron Rosser: Joey Logano
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
He came oh-so-close to winning in the two races at Bristol and if it wasn't for a crash in the spring race and a car that lost the handle in the final restart in the summer night time event, we'd be talking about a sweep at Thunder Valley in 2013 for Jeff Gordon. I've got to think that this five-time winner becomes a six-time Bristol champion on Sunday, as long as the nose and fender are kept clean all day long.
Standings after Las Vegas:
Rob Tiongson (127) Jimmie Johnson finished 6th - 1
Ryan O'Hara (121) Brad Keselowski WON - 2
Kara Martin (120) Kyle Busch finished 11th - 1
Dustin Parks (118) Kyle Busch finished 11th - 1
Sal Sigala Jr (112) Brad Keselowski WON - 1
Billy Fellin (104) Matt Kenseth finished 10th - 0
Michael Hirshbein (95) Kyle Busch finished 11th - 0
Aaron Rosser (91) Kyle Busch finished 11th - 1
Misan Akuya (90) Jimmie Johnson finished 6th - 0
Patti Rodisch (90) Kevin Harvick finished 41st - 1
James Broomhead (75) Kurt Busch finished 26th - 1
Rob Blount (71) Kevin Harvick finished 41st - 0
Final Remarks: Historically, both Bristol races have given us different incidents to remember. There were many that usually involved shouting matches and officials separating teams. But, until the track went under a grinding, it was more about the two-groove racing that almost was non-Bristol like. The track has returned to it's old self, at least in one sense, so that could mean more banging and dented body parts.
Find out if that's reality at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-1