Veteran drivers lead the Cup Series charge at The Last Great Colosseum
A common theme has emerged this season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and it's that old age and experience is indeed proving superior to youth and exuberance.
In a season that many thought would be a changing of the guard so to speak with a hungry pack of Young Guns showcasing their immense talents, it has been quite the opposite.
Three veteran drivers have stolen the large majority of trophies and headlines this season.
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and defending series champ Martin Truex Jr. have been so good that many are calling them NASCAR's Big Three. They have combined to win 17 of the season's first 23 events.
Harvick, who won last week in Michigan and has claimed seven victories, is the undisputed leader of the trio as he seeks another championship crown.
"The confidence is high," said two-time Bristol winner Harvick after winning at Michigan, "and right now you just don't want to screw it up."
All three are expected to be at the front of the pack contending once again at the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (7:30 p.m.) Saturday night under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway. The historic track is celebrating the 40th anniversary of night racing at The Last Great Colosseum.
Kyle Busch, who has raced to six wins this season including the Food City 500 here in April, is certainly the betting favorite as he is also the defending winner of the Night Race.
Another victory on the all-concrete high banks could position Busch nicely heading into the playoffs.
"Our motivation right now is to continue our dominant stretch, continue to finish with top fives, winning races, continue to add bonus points," Busch said. "We want to finish the season on top. We want to win the regular season championship."
Among the Young Guns, Chase Elliott, who won his first career Cup race two weeks ago at Watkins Glen, is gaining momentum and has had some solid finishes at Bristol in his brief career. Two other young winners from the season, both from races at Daytona - Austin Dillon and Erik Jones - are also among the pre-race favorites. Jones finished second to Busch here one year ago.
Jones says despite all the hype entering the season about a Young Guns take over, he says the veterans still hold a tremendous advantage over any newcomers to the circuit.
"It's frustrating," Jones said. "You go through Trucks and Xfinity and feel like in those series you're capable of winning every weekend, and you get into the Cup series and it's just not possible.
"Trying to get to that level where you can win races is definitely challenging in the Cup series. It's not easy when you race against groups of guys that have been at it for a long time and have a lot of experience, and you feel like you're playing catch-up."
In the Xfinity Series, Bristol is one of five races remaining in the regular season and three drivers are locked in with wins to be playoff eligible: Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick.
Past Bristol winner Elliott Sadler, who announced today that he is retiring at the end of the 2018 season, will try to grab another win here to solidify his playoff chances. Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric are all trying to claim a playoff spot.
All of the Xfinity Series regulars will get tested when five Cup Series stars take the green flag alongside them in Friday night's Food City 300 (7:30 p.m.). Defending winner Kyle Busch leads that pack and will be joined by Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Ty Dillon.
In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Bristol's UNOH 200 (8:30 p.m.), the second race in a highly-anticipated Thursday night BMS double-header, serves as the regular season finale for the series and Matt Crafton and Stewart Friesen are set to wage a hotly contested battle for the final playoff spot. Friesen needs 19 points or an 18th place finish to claim the spot over Crafton.
Four-time season winner Brett Moffitt, who won in dramatic fashion this past weekend at Michigan, and defending series champ Johnny Sauter are leading the charge, while other series stars Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger will be among the drivers to watch at Bristol.
The first race in the exciting Thursday night double-header is the Bush's Beans 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (6:05 p.m.) and several drivers will be tough to beat, including 2015 winner Ryan Preece.
Red-hot points leader Justin Bonsignore has claimed five wins in the first 10 races of the season but has never won at Bristol.
Other contenders in the Modified field include points challengers Chase Dowling and Timmy Solomito, along with the event's defending winner Patrick Emerling.
There's so much to do during the weekend around the grounds of Bristol Motor Speedway, including stops in the Fan Midway, Fan Zone and Kids Zone. There's music, games, food, souvenir haulers, driver appearances, autograph sessions and more. There's great video entertainment provided by Colossus TV, the world's largest center-hung video screen. You'll also want to kick back and enjoy some NASCAR-style tailgating with your friends prior to each night's race. And speaking of fun, on Thursday, one of the biggest and longest running fan fests on the NASCAR circuit kicks off with Food City Family Race Night. There'll be plenty of appearances by drivers, legends and other celebrities during this event, which takes place in the BMS hospitality area and lasts from noon until 6 p.m.
If you want to bring the entire clan out to experience the amazing fun that is America's Night Race, Bristol Motor Speedway officials are making it easier than ever for families to enjoy the weekend. Kids' tickets (12 and under) are free and adult tickets start at $35 for Thursday's (Aug. 16) UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and the Bush's Beans 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race. On Friday (Aug. 17), kids' tickets are free and adult tickets start at $35 for the Food City 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race and Pinty's Qualifying. On Saturday (Aug. 18) adult tickets start at $80 for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and kids' tickets are $10. For all races, each child must have a physical ticket in hand to enter the gates. The Bristol Motor Speedway ticket office is the only authorized location that can produce the free kids' tickets. Tickets can also be purchased for a limited time directly from any neighborhood Food City store. To purchase tickets, please call 423-BRISTOL or buy them online at www.BRISTOLTIX.com.