Normally, wild card races are ones where it's a new surface or a new track, with many unknowns to figure out the best way to get around the track.
This weekend, that wild card is instead a track that was redone to bring back what the track once was. After the spring race in 2007, the Bristol Motor Speedway got a face lift, as the infamous 36-degree banked track was torn down and resurfaced with progressive banking, going from 28 degrees up to 30 degrees at the top.
But it seemed the racing was effected greater than expected, as fans seemed to not take in the whole side-by-side action.
After seeing a bare grandstand in the spring, track officials decided to grind down the upper groove, hoping that would bring back some of the beating and banging that Bristol was made famous for. Now, the ultimate test is not just how the cars react to the surface, but whether the fans actually accept and enjoy the changes, since it was truly done for them.
This creates a hard time making picks, but after some really hard thinking, every writer has theirs locked in. Here's who they all want to win the Irwin Tools Night Race:
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
McMurray has the second best average finish in the last five races with an 8.80. He has two top-fives and four top-10's in that time span. He has lead laps in three of the last four Brisol races as well.
Those top fives came in the last two fall races here too. McMurray and Ganassi have had a hard season. But both say things are improving. Regardless he will be a factor Saturday night for a top
five at least. Maybe a win.
James Broomhead: Brad Keselowski
Bristol can be rough, you need luck any way you can get it. Have you seen the paint scheme on the #2 this weekend?
Kelly Crandall: Brad Keselowski
Two out of the last three isn't bad.
Billy Fellin: Brad Keselowski
Id go with Kyle, but he's been so snakebit lately. Keso won in the spring at Bristol and I think he'll be particularly inspired running Rusty's paint scheme.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Brad Keselowski
Matt Kenseth: 2005-2006; Carl Edwards: 2007-2008; Kyle Busch: 2009-2010; Brad Keselowski: 2011-2012.
Kara Martin: Kyle Busch
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
Dustin Parks: Brad Keselowski
I normally don't go with the favorite, but there's no denying the No. 2 is the best at this track. Keselowski running the same paint scheme that Rusty Wallace ran during the late 1990's, I simply couldn't pass on it.
Last year, this race culminated his improbable and unreal run to make the Chase, and now he's riding a streak of winning the last two races. I'm pulling for a sweep, and if that happens I will toast the accomplishment with a Miller Lite.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
I was really torn on who to go with this week. My pick was between one of the three wildcard drivers in Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman. Gordon and Busch have solid stats at BMS with five wins each. Newman is also not too bad at BMS although Busch and Gordon hold the advantage. Busch and Gordon have both suffered through ridiculous luck this season that have them both fighting for the final spot for the Chase.
Newman though has just ran solid but doesn't have the wins like his teammate in Tony Stewart. Still, Newman is a threat but not at BMS so that leaves Busch and Gordon. Here is where my toss up begins as I am leaning toward Busch just because recently at BMS he has been untouchable.
Still, Gordon last year dominated and if not for Brad Keselowski figuring out a way to beat timing and scoring-Gordon would have won. Gordon's strengths are tracks like BMS and they are in far more desperation mode than Busch. Their engine troubles last week erased all the ground he gained the last 8 weeks. While Busch needs wins he can win at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Richimond, Gordon I am not so confident in.
Sal Sigala Jr: Brad Keselowski
Rob Tiongson: Kasey Kahne
The Enumclaw, WA native has clawed his way from the caboose of the train to nearly the lead locomotive this season.
I see the ladies swooning and men rolling their eyes with Mr. Kahne grabbing a third victory this year, but it'll be a very memorable win for Driver 5.
Standings following Michigan:
Sal Sigala Jr. (812) Jimmie Johnson finished 27th (3)
Billy Fellin (805) Tony Stewart finished 32nd (4)
Kelly Crandall (767) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 4th (3)
Christopher Leone (764) Jimmie Johnson finished 27th (2)
Misan Akuya (746) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 4th (1)
Dustin Parks (745) Carl Edwards finished 6th (1)
Rob Tiongson (738) Jeff Gordon finished 28th (4)
James Broomhead (736) Kasey Kahne finished 3rd (3)
Ryan O'Hara (722) Jimmie Johnson finished 27th (2)
Kara Martin (721) Greg Biffle WON (2)
Patti Rodisch (711) Jimmie Johnson finished 27th (2)
Michael Hirshbein (677) Kyle Busch finished 13th (1)
Final Thoughts: The hope is the "Old Bristol" will return with the change in the track, but if the old style of racing were to fully arrive, it will be because drivers will get angry at each other, and that is what the fans want to see.
Watch Saturday night beginning at 6:30 p.m. on ABC to see if that becomes a reality.
Summary of Picks: