NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
              === Bristol: Who's next to join the Chase party? ===
 
 Bristol, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Three races, three different winners.
 
 The  Sprint Cup  Series is running at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and
 we  could well see a fourth different driver pull into victory lane in as many
 races this season.
 
 Dale  Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski have all but guaranteed
 themselves  a berth  in this  year's Chase  for the  Sprint Cup  championship.
 Earnhardt  kicked off the season by winning the Daytona 500. Harvick picked up
 the  victory at  Phoenix, and Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, scored
 the win last weekend at Las Vegas.
 
 Bristol,  a 0.533-mile, high-banked oval, is the first short-track race of the
 season.  Several  drivers have had  a great deal of  success here in the past,
 particularly Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth from Joe Gibbs Racing.
 
 Busch,  his elder  brother, Kurt, and Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers with
 five Sprint Cup wins at Bristol. Kyle Busch's most recent victory here came in
 March 2011. He finished second to Kasey Kahne at this track one year ago.
 
 "I've  just  had a  lot of  success there,  but I've  also had some misfortune
 there,"  Busch said. "Ever since I got through my rookie year, I've just taken
 a  liking  to the place.  Of course, I've  been able to  get some help from my
 brother  [Kurt].  He's always  been really,  really good  there. But when they
 changed  the track starting at the end of 2007, I just really took to it right
 away.  I  really liked it, and  I've been fast  there, but also I've had great
 race cars from Joe Gibbs Racing."
 
 Kyle  Busch has  won 15 NASCAR national touring series races at Bristol, which
 is more than any other driver in national series history here. He has the most
 Nationwide  Series victories  at this track with six, including a season-sweep
 last  year.  His four  Camping World Truck  Series wins at  Bristol is tops as
 well.
 
 Kenseth  is  a three-time winner  at Bristol, including  a victory in the most
 recent  race  here last August.  In the 2013 spring  event, He plowed into the
 back  of Gordon after Gordon blew his right-front tire and hit the wall on lap
 390. Both drivers were running in the top-two at the time. Kenseth led 85 laps
 prior to his incident.
 
 "We  crashed  out late  in this  race last  year, but  before that happened, I
 thought  that we  had a really great  race car all weekend," Kenseth said. "We
 had such a fast car last spring, as well as last August, and we were fortunate
 enough to hold on and win the second race."
 
 JGR  driver Denny Hamlin  won the August 2012 race at Bristol. He led the most
 laps in last year's spring event with 117 before he dealt with an ill-handling
 car.  Hamlin had  a run-in with Joey  Logano, his former teammate, in the late
 going, as he hit Logano from behind and spun him around.
 
 The  incident involving  Hamlin  and  Logano led  to  a post-race  altercation
 between  the two  and their crew members  in the garage area before Hamlin and
 Logano traded jabs on Twitter.
 
 Jimmie  Johnson, the  six-time and defending series champion, has only one win
 at  Bristol,  which came four  years ago. Johnson is  hoping to improve on his
 finishes  here after placing  22nd in last year's spring race and then 36th in
 the night event in August.
 
 "We  had  a rough  race last time  at Bristol  and got caught  up in a wreck,"
 Johnson  said. "Bristol is going to be interesting for sure. Everyone is still
 trying  to dial in  their cars with the new rule packages. It hasn't been easy
 this year. We've been working really hard on these cars."
 
 Keselowski  won back-to-back  races at Bristol from August 2011 to March 2012.
 He  finished  third in  last year's  spring event.  Keselowski has finished no
 worse  than  third this  season.  He  is  currently  one point  behind  leader
 Earnhardt.
 
 "The  weekend  at Las  Vegas gives  us momentum  and freedom  to race for wins
 moving  forward," Keselowski  said. "While  I enjoy  racing everywhere  we go,
 Bristol  is one of  those places that standout for most drivers. I have to say
 that  I like  the idea  of  getting our  Ford  Fusion into  Victory Lane  this
 Sunday."
 
 Earnhardt  is having his best start to a season in his Cup career. He finished
 second  at Phoenix  and Las Vegas. Earnhardt  held the lead at Las Vegas until
 the  last lap when  he ran out of fuel on the backstretch, allowing Keselowski
 to slip by him.
 
 Qualifying  at  Bristol should be  quite entertaining this time, with NASCAR's
 new  knockout qualifying  format. Earlier this week, NASCAR tweaked the format
 due  to recent  safety  concerns  and issues  with  teams  cooling down  their
 engines.
 
 Teams  will be  allowed one cool-down unit, connected through either the left-
 side  or  right-side hood flap/cowl flap,  to cool down the engine. NASCAR has
 also banned cool-down laps during qualifying.
 
 "I'm  glad [NASCAR]  made that adjustment," said Michael Waltrip Racing driver
 Clint  Bowyer.  "I guess the  goal is to create  excitement and energy on that
 racetrack,  and  how you do that  is have cars  on there. That's what I didn't
 like  about the  cool-down deal. First of  all, it was dangerous. There was no
 question. We're out there running 200 mph, and [drivers on cool-down laps] are
 running  40 mph. They're not even running. They couldn't get out of the way if
 they had to.
 
 "Now that you can cool off, I can go out there and make several laps if I need
 to...I think it will just enhance that entertainment even more."
 
 Though  NASCAR  has altered the  format to  make qualifying safer, drivers and
 teams are uncertain what to expect in qualifying on a short track.
 
 "The  new qualifying format is going to be insane," Roush Fenway Racing driver
 Carl Edwards said. "I would say, as a fan, definitely tune into that."
 
 Forty-five teams are on the entry list for the Food City 500.
 
 Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, March 16. Race: Food City 500. Site:
 Bristol Motor Speedway. Track: 0.533-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. Laps:
 500. Miles: 266.5 2013 Winner: Kasey Kahne. Television: FOX. Radio:
 Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
 
 
 03/14 15:46:24 ET

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