NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Food City 500 at Bristol

Boy, did we get our answer whether the Toyotas were going to make some noise last week, but we got so much more. Toyota dominance was the headliner with a bit of history-making in the mix. Christopher Bell brought his No. 20 team to Victory Lane for his first win at Phoenix and the seventh Cup win of his career.
Christopher lead 50 laps, and the balance of the Joe Gibbs Racing team led a combined total of 230 of the 312 laps - Denny Hamlin with 68, Ty Gibbs with 57, and Martin Truex Jr. with 55. It marked the first time in JGR's history that all four drivers have led 50-plus laps in a race. 23XI Toyota driver Tyler Reddick led 68 laps, making Toyota the first manufacturer to have five different drivers lead 50 laps or more in a single NASCAR Cup Series race.
Here we are at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend where Christopher Bell won last year, joining three of his Toyota racers in the Top 10 - Tyler Reddick in second, Martin Truex Jr. in seventh, and Ty Gibbs in 10th. There's no dirt this year, but there will be plenty of action.
This Week's Pick Strategy: The last time we were racing at Bristol back in September of 2023, we witnessed six drivers score their career-best finishes at the track, including three Toyotas, a couple of Fords, and a Chevy - Denny Hamlin (winner), Christopher Bell (third), Ty Gibbs (fifth), Michael McDowell (sixth), Carson Hocevar (11th), and Todd Gilliland (16th). I think Toyotas will pick up where they left off last week, but it's Bristol so I'll be covering my bases by not going heavy on one manufacturer.

NASCAR Cup Series Top 16 in the Driver Standings at Bristol Motor Speedway* 
 * 35 Bristol Motor Speedway races, including 2021-23 Spring races on dirt
         SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Drivers with Most Top 10s at Last 7 Races on Concrete:
Denny Hamlin - 5
All with 4 - Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Brad  Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and William Byron
All with 3 - Chris Buescher, Christopher Bell, Erik Jones, and Ryan Blaney
Last Year's Pole Winner (on dirt): Kyle Larson
2023 Bristol Playoff Race Pole Winner: Christopher Bell

Last Year's Race Winner (on dirt): Christopher Bell
2023 Bristol Playoff Race Winner: Denny Hamlin
The Likely Suspects:  Look for these drivers to run well on raceday: Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowki, and Chris Buescher.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick is a tie between Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell. My next picks are Michael McDowell, Tyler Reddick, Ty Gibbs, and Chris Buescher. I will complete my roster with Carson Hocevar and Todd Gilliland.

My Final Four: Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, and Todd Gilliland

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Chase Briscoe. Chase is a third-generation racer who cut his teeth on dirt tracks in and around his home state of Indiana. While we’ll be back racing on concrete on Sunday, Bristol’s track configuration is right in Chase’s wheelhouse, similar to two other high-banked tracks he competed on prior to racing to the NASCAR Cup Series - Salem Speedway and Winchester Speedway.

This Sunday’s race will be Chase’s fourth career NASCAR Cup Series start on Bristol’s concrete surface. He has two Top 15s results. In his first Cup Series start at Bristol in September 2021, Chase scored his best performance with a 13th place finish. I believe Chase is on the cusp of a breakout year. He currently sits 19th in the drivers' standings. This could be Chase’s week. Stay tuned.
Points to Ponder:
  • The race winner at Bristol Motor Speedway has started from the pole or first starting position 27 times (22.13%) - the most productive starting position in the field. 
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in poles at Bristol Motor Speedway with four (2013, 2014, 2015, 2019). 
  • Joe Gibbs Racing leads all active NASCAR Cup Series organizations in wins at Bristol Motor Speedway with 14 victories, followed by Team Penske with 13, Hendrick Motorsports and RFK Racing with 12 each. 
  • Kyle Busch leads the NASCAR Cup Series among active drivers in wins at Bristol with eight victories in 35 starts (Spring 2007, 2009 sweep, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019). Kyle also leads active drivers in runner-up finishes at Bristol with four, in Top 5 finishes with 14, in Top 10s with 19, and in laps led with 2,593.
  • Chase Elliott leads the series among active drivers in average finishing position at Bristol with a 11.923 in 13 starts.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game and are using an eight driver entry form, make your initial picks by Saturday, March 16th at 4:50 p.m. ET and your final picks by 3:30 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, March 17th.

Enjoy the race!
Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 17 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.

When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Food City 500 at Bristol NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Food City 500 at Bristol Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Friday, March 15, 2024 Rating: 5