Every track has it's own identity, but very few tracks have their own historic references connected to them. When comparing a venue to one that had just as much presence in another point in history, that means something.
NASCAR is the only sport that can make that reference, and their biggest stars return to that venue this weekend.
Standing tall in the Volunteer State, it has a calling that die-hard fans always circle on their calendars. Drivers know it's a difficult race as there is very little time to breathe when the green flag is in the air. Even at a size of just over a half-mile in total length, the view from inside the car shows nothing but concrete and fans. Every corner, and both straightaways have fans peering down at them.
It means 500 laps of banging into one another for a spot, and muscling through to get that done. Tempers often get heated, with the garage full of crewman trying to separate the individuals.
Three words, one incredible statement: It's Bristol, baby!
That means all these writers will have to find a way to keep their own tempers in check should the driver elected not have the best of luck. However, that is not what's on their minds right now, instead it is a quest for victory. Here's their choices for the Irwin Tools Night Race:
Misan Akuya: Kevin Harvick
He is always fast.
Rob Blount: Kevin Harvick
James Broomhead: Kurt Busch
Billy Fellin: Kyle Busch
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Kara Martin: Kyle Busch
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
Dustin Parks: Brad Keselowski
Heading into the middle of the week, I had Rowdy for the win. But, I couldn't shake the idea that his bad luck is not done. When he had the issues in the truck race, that was my signal. I then decided to change my pick and go with the guy who won that race.
Then again, this driver is familiar with victory lane here, and the car itself certainly is no stranger to Bristol success.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
I went off my pick of the hot hand and he won last week. I am going with Jeff Gordon for the win. He has now three times broken track winless streaks this season at Kansas (2001), Indianapolis (2004) and Michigan (2001). Its been since 2002 at Bristol when Gordon last won. I suspect this team is ready to break another streak in 2014 at Bristol.
Aaron Rosser: Kurt Busch
Sal Sigala Jr: Kyle Busch
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
It seems like Jeff Gordon's revisiting some places at tracks he's not won at in a while - Victory Lane. He's snapped a 12 year drought at Kansas in May, a 10 year streak at Indy, and an 13 year drought at Michigan. I think Gordon winds up in Victory Lane at Bristol with the No. 24 Chevy being number one after all is said and done at Thunder Valley.
Standings after Michigan:
Rob Tiongson (810) Jeff Gordon WON - 5
Ryan O'Hara (794) Kevin Harvick finished 2nd - 5
Kara Martin (793) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th - 3
Patti Rodisch (783) Brad Keselowski finished 8th - 3
Sal Sigala Jr. (758) Brad Keselowski finished 8th - 5
Dustin Parks (758) Joey Logano finished 3rd - 2
Billy Fellin (745) Joey Logano finished 3rd - 1
Rob Blount (727) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th - 3
Aaron Rosser (706) Brad Keselowski finished 8th - 2
Michael Hirshbein (677) Kyle Busch finished 39th - 1
James Broomhead (653) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 5th - 2
Misan Akuya (631) Kyle Larson finished 43rd - 1
Final Remarks: Historically, this race has seen many moments that have changed opinions on some drivers, and more importantly the final outcome of the event. A bump in one corner may mean a pass in the next, and victory stolen. It may also mean middle fingers, helmets tossed, and loud roars from the crowd.
It is what makes Thunder Valley what it is, and why the "Last Great Coliseum" is always a must-see track for fans. This weekend's festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Summary of Picks: