Race Preview Update: Bristol

The Bristol practice and qualifying action delivered several surprises. First, although Kyle Busch was a big pre-race favorite due to his performances last year, he ran badly in the preliminaries. Which makes it doubly surprising that his teammate, Joey Logano, ran really, really well. I also did not foresee Juan Pablo Montoya showing so much speed, so consistently.

On the other side of the coin, Jimmie Johnson ran exactly as I suspected—strong. He is clearly the class of the field for tomorrow’s race.

Here’s an update to my favorites list:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Juan Pablo Montoya
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Mark Martin
5. Joey Logano
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Kurt Busch

If I were looking purely at the pre-race numbers, I’d rate Logano higher, but you also must consider the driver. Logano remains unproven, and don’t forget he’ll be rubbing fenders with the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

The weather could shake things up. During practice and qualifying, Bristol saw clear skies and pretty steady temperatures around 70 degrees F. On race day, though, it will likely be a little cooler, and at press time there’s a 60% chance of afternoon showers.

My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
In Group A, I’m starting Johnson over Mark Martin. In Group B, I was hoping to run Marcos Ambrose, but he just hasn’t shown enough to justify starting him instead of Matt Kenseth and David Reutimann, so I’m going with those two guys.

In Group C, I’m starting Scott Speed over Paul Menard. I would’ve started Speed even if it were close between he and Menard to save a start for Menard, so I’m pretty happy Speed actually looks significantly faster than Menard. I will say I wish I had Allmendinger available—he looks much stronger than I anticipated.

Handicapping
The best odds I’ve seen on Jimmie Johnson today are 4.5-1 at Bodog. Even though I think he’s the clear favorite, those odds just aren’t good enough, especially at a bang-’em-up track like Bristol.

I did find Juan Pablo Montoya at 15-1 last night at BetUS, and I liked that bet because I think he’s the clear #2 horse in the field. It looks like he’s slipped to 10-1 this morning, though.

Joey Logano is tempting at 20-1 (also at BetUS), but I’d have a hard time pulling the trigger. He’s still just a sophomore who hasn’t done a whole lot (his win last year was due to rain).

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