GFT Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway

Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle
11 min readMar 15, 2024

15 March 2024
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News

BRISTOL, TN — The NASCAR Cup Series heads to “The Last Great Colosseum” — Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500 on Sunday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

After last Sunday’s battle in the desert at Phoenix Raceway, Team Penske driver and current Cup Series Champion Ryan Blaney is the NASCAR point standings leader, after becoming the only driver this season to post three top-five finishes in the first four races of the season. Blaney currently holds a 10-point lead over second place Kyle Larson and third place Martin Truex Jr. in NASCAR’s Driver point standings.

But as Go Full Throttle Racing News readers know, the GFT AI Driver Rankings provides additional perspective and data analysis. Here is how we see it (Wins matter! Larson has 1, Blaney does not):

Go Full Throttle NASCAR AI Driver Rankings following the Shriner’s Childrens 500 on March 10, 2024 at Phoenix Raceway (Image Credit: GFT Digital)

As a reminder, the Go Full Throttle AI Driver Rankings use our proprietary algorithms utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to dynamically tune and improve accuracy over time. Data feeds to determine Driver Rankings and Race Prediction include (but not limited to):
- Wins
- NASCAR Driver Points (Race finish)
- NASCAR Driver Points (Stage wins and points/ Playoff points)
- Top 5 Finishes
- Top 10 Finishes
- Practice Results (Fastest, 5 Lap/10 Lap/20 Lap averages where applicable)
- Qualifying Results
- Laps Led

Go Full Throttle Racing News Facts & Stats Friday for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday March 17, 2024 (Image Credit: GFT Digital)

Bristol Motor Speedway Track Facts

Track Specs:
Track Length: 0.533-Mile
Race Length: (500 laps = 266.5 miles)
Banking: Turns vary from 24 to 28 degrees, frontstretch varies from 5 to 9 degrees, backstretch varies from 4–8 degrees
Frontstretch: 650 feet
Backstretch: 650 feet

Qualifying & Race Records
Qualifying:
Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 131.713 mph (14.568 sec.); April 7, 2019
Race: Charlie Glotzbach; Chevrolet, 101.074 mph (2:38:12); July 11, 1971

Fans were treated to an epic battle at the 2023 Bristol Night Race: Hamlin, Larson, Bell, and Buescher- (Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton Getty Images)

Track Records
Most Wins: 12 — Darrell Waltrip
Most Poles: 9 — Cale Yarborough, Mark Martin
Most Top Fives: 26 — Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip
Most Top 10s: 37 — Richard Petty
Most Wins by a Manufacturer: 46 — Chevrolet

Winning Car Owners (Active)
Joe Gibbs = 14
Roger Penske = 13
Rick Hendrick = 12
Jack Roush = 12
Richard Childress = 9
Richard Petty = 4
Tony Stewart = 3
Glen Wood = 1

“The Last Great Colosseum” — Bristol Motor Speedway is up next for the NASCAR Cup Series with the Food City 500 on Sunday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Bristol Motor Speedway Food City 500 Race Facts

The Date: Sunday, March 17
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,182,531
TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 266.5 miles (500 laps)
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 125)
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 250)
Final Stage (Ends on Lap 500)

Bristol Motor Speedway Food City 500 Storylines to watch

Reigning Cup champion Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney will look to hold on to the NASCAR Driver points lead this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. In 14 appearances at the ‘World’s Fastest Half-Mile’, he has led 493 laps and put up two top-five and five top-10 finishes. He finished 22nd in the Bristol Playoff race last September.

If Blaney were to go on and win the NASCAR Cup Series title again this year, he would become the first driver since Jimmie Johnson’s record five straight (2006–2010) to win consecutive championships in the series. A total of 10 drivers have won consecutive titles in the series — Buck Baker (1956–57), Lee Petty (1958–59), Joe Weatherly (1962–63), David Pearson (1968–69), Richard Petty (1971–72, 1974–75), Cale Yarborough (1976–78), Darrell Waltrip (1981–82), Dale Earnhardt (1986–87, 1990–91, 1993–94), Jeff Gordon (1997–98), Jimmie Johnson (2006–2010).

Christopher Bell is the fourth different winner in as many races in 2024
The Toyota teams were super-fast at Phoenix Raceway and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell managed to pilot his №20 to Victory Lane, becoming the fourth different winner in as many races to start the 2024 season.

The Modern Era (1972–2024) record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10, set back in 2000. That year, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the different winners streak by winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond Raceway (Race №11 on the schedule).

This season, Bell joins William Byron (Daytona), Daniel Suarez (Atlanta) and Kyle Larson (Las Vegas) as the fourth different driver to lock into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by virtue of their wins. Bell has earned a spot in the Playoffs the last three consecutive seasons (2021–2023).

Riding the wave of momentum, Bell looks to keep the early season success going this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. Last September during the Playoff race, Bell qualified on the pole and finished third — a career-best at Bristol. In six series starts on the Tennessee half-mile, Bell has collected two top fives and three top 10s.

At the most recent race at Bristol Last September during the Playoffs, Christopher Bell qualified on the pole and finished third — a career-best at Bristol (Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton Getty Images)

Starting Upfront: 27 wins have come from the pole at Bristol
Qualifying is important each week but can be even more so in a race like Sunday’s with how quickly cars can go a lap down at a short track like Bristol Motor Speedway. Interestingly, 27 of the 123 NASCAR Cup Series races held at Bristol Motor Speedway have been won from the pole or first starting position, a winning percentage of 21.95% — the most of any starting position on the grid.

A total of 16 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Bristol race from the pole, three of which are active this weekend — Brad Keselowski (2020), Denny Hamlin (2019) and Kyle Busch (2018).

A total of 53 drivers have won a pole at Bristol, and seven of the 53 NASCAR Cup Series Bristol Motor Speedway pole winners are entered this weekend, led by Denny Hamlin with four poles.

Also, eight different drivers have posted their first NASCAR Cup Series career pole at Bristol Motor Speedway; including two active drivers — Joey Logano (2010) and Erik Jones (2017).

Expect the teams to definitely to try qualify into the top-10 this weekend, as 78% of the Cup races at Bristol have been won by drivers starting 10th or better, with 33.3% of the wins coming from the front row.

**Busch Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Nine Wins Club: Will Kyle Busch earn his ninth career win at Bristol?
This weekend Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch has the opportunity to join an elite list, known as the ‘Nine Wins Club,’ a group of the most dominant drivers to ever race in the NASCAR Cup Series. To earn a prestigious spot in the statistical club, a driver must win at least nine or more races at a single track, and since 1949 only nine drivers have been able to accomplish the feat.

At Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with eight wins (Spring 2007, 2009 sweep, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019), and can become the only active driver to win nine times at a single track this weekend. Busch also has a win at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track (2022), but that is considered a different track statistically. In total, Busch has made 34 series starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, posting eight wins, 14 top fives and 19 top 10s.

Busch’s former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin won last season’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway netting his third career win at the half-mile track.

Denny Hamlin won the Fall 2023 night race at Bristol (Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin won the Fall 2023 night race at Bristol (Image Credit: Alejandro Alvarez NASCAR Studios)

Looking For More: Former Bristol winners to watch this weekend
Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted 123 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 44 different winners since 1961. This weekend, six of the 44 NASCAR Cup Series Bristol Motor Speedway race winners are entered in the Food City 500 and will be looking to add to their win totals this weekend.

Chris Buescher Jumps Up 6 spots to P21 in the GFT AI Driver Rankings after 2nd place at Phoenix Raceway
After his runner-up finish last weekend at Phoenix Raceway, RFK Racing driver Chris Buescher is on our watch list of favorites this weekend at Bristol. Buscher has made 14 series starts at Bristol, posting one win (2022), three top fives and four top 10s.

RFK Racing driver Chris Buescher talks with Go Full Throttle Racing News Sunday March 10, 2024 after his 2nd place finish in the Shriners Children’s 500 at Phoenix Raceway. (Image Credit: Bob Francis/Gail Francis/GFT Digital)

No Luck: Logano needs a good finish at Bristol
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano is not having the start of the 2024 season he was hoping for. The Team Penske veteran has finished 28th or worse in three of the first four races of the season, and Logano finds himself mired (30th) in the points — the worst points position through the first four races of a season since his rookie year in 2009, when he was 33rd after the fourth race of the year.

Luckily for Joey Logano the NASCAR Cup Series is heading to Bristol Motor Speedway, a track he has found success at before. In 27 series starts at Bristol, he has accumulated two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. Logano will have his work cut out for him this weekend though, in the two Next Gen car races on the concrete surface at Bristol, he has finished 27th due to a suspension failure in 2022 and 34th due to being caught in an incident in 2023.

Joey Logano Team Penske Driver Profile (Image Credit: nascar.com)

More than 20 years since a first-time winner at Bristol
Veterans have been gobbling up the wins at Bristol the last 20 years or so, as there hasn’t been a first-time winner at the track since 2002. Big names have earned their first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway including Dale Earnhardt (April 1, 1979), Rusty Wallace (April 6, 1986), Ernie Irvan (March 25, 1990), Elliott Sadler (March 25, 2001) and Kurt Busch (March 24, 2002).

Will we see a new winner this weekend? A total of 12 different drivers (33% of the drivers entered this weekend) are looking for their first career NASCAR Cup Series victory; including Josh Berry, Harrison Burton, Ty Gibbs, Todd Gilliland, Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala, Daniel Hemric, Carson Hocevar, Corey Lajoie, John H. Nemechek, Ryan Preece, Zane Smith.

Upcoming Cup Series Milestones: Bristol Motor Speedway
Below are a list of the upcoming milestones to watch for in the NASCAR Cup Series:

Starts

· Bubba Wallace will be making his 225th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Circuit of The Americas in a few weeks.

· Christopher Bell will be making his 150th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Circuit of The Americas in a few weeks.

· Joey Logano is expected to make his 550th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Richmond Raceway. He will become the 39th different driver to reach 550 or more Cup Series starts.

· Chris Buescher is expected to make his 300th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Richmond Raceway.

Wins

· If Martin Truex Jr. wins a race this season, he will tie Brad Keselowski for 24th on the all-time Cup Series wins list with 35 wins.

· If Kyle Larson wins another race this season, he will reach 25 career wins, becoming the 36th different driver all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series to reach 25 victories.

· If the Wood Brothers Racing organization wins this season, it will their 100th NASCAR Cup Series victory, they currently have 99 wins in the series.

Laps Led

The following NASCAR Cup Series drivers can reach milestones in laps led this weekend:

NASCAR Statistical Advance: Analyzing the Food City 500

Bristol Driver Rating analysis over 35 races reveals Kyle Larson at 103.8, Kyle Busch at 100.3, and C. Bell at 100.1

Favorites at Bristol based on Historical Data Analysis

Kyle Larson (№5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
• One win, five top fives, ten top 10s; one pole
• Average Finish of 12.067, third-best
• Average Running Position of 10.613, third-best
• Driver Rating of 103.8, series-best • 5,672 Laps in the Top 15 (75.5%), third-most

Kyle Busch (№8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet)
• Eight wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s; two poles
• Average Finish of 13.853, fifth-best
• Average Running Position of 12.998, sixth-best
• Driver Rating of 100.3, second-best • 11,125 Laps in the Top 15 (65.4%), eighth-most

Christopher Bell (№20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
• Two top fives, three top 10s; one pole
• Average Finish of 14.600, eighth-best
• Average Running Position of 9.539, series-best
• Driver Rating of 100.1, third-best • 1,971 Laps in the Top 15 (78.8%), second-most

Ryan Blaney (№12 Team Penske Ford)
• Two top fives, five top 10s
• Average Finish of 19.714, 11th-best
• Average Running Position of 14.197, 10th-best
• Driver Rating of 87.3, ninth-best • 4,373 Laps in the Top 15 (62.5%), ninth-most

Chase Elliott (№9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
• Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
• Average Finish of 11.923, second-best
• Average Running Position of 9.820, second-best
• Driver Rating of 97.9, fourth-best • 5,174 Laps in the Top 15 (79.6%), series-most

Denny Hamlin (№11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
• Three wins, ten top fives, 17 top 10s; four poles
• Average Finish of 13.939, sixth-best
• Average Running Position of 13.189, seventh-best
• Driver Rating of 93.7, fifth-best
• 11,060 Laps in the Top 15 (66.9%), sixth-mos

Brad Keselowski (№6 RFK Racing Ford)
• Three wins, six top fives, nine top 10s
• Average Finish of 16.320, 10th-best
• Average Running Position of 13.664, ninth-best
• Driver Rating of 90.6, seventh-best • 8,201 Laps in the Top 15 (65.5%), seventh-most

Martin Truex Jr (№19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
• Two top fives, four top 10s
• Average Finish of 20.727, 13th-best
• Average Running Position of 16.014, 12th-best
• Driver Rating of 81.8, 12th-best • 8,754 Laps in the Top 15 (53.0%), 12th-most

Erik Jones (№43 Legacy Motor Club Toyota)
• Four top fives, five top 10s; one pole • Average Finish of 14.273, seventh-best
• Average Running Position of 13.267, eighth-best
• Driver Rating of 86.3, 10th-best • 3,384 Laps in the Top 15 (61.5%), 10th-most

Ty Gibbs (№54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
• One top five, one top 10 • Average Finish of 20.000, 12th-best
• Average Running Position of 17.630, 13th-best
• Driver Rating of 80.8, 13th-best
• 499 Laps in the Top 15 (49.9%), 13th-most

Bristol GFT Race Predictions for NASCAR Fantasy LIVE

Performance of the GFT AI bot playing NASCAR Fantasy LIVE in the TMD NASCAR League

Our AI Race Prediction model had its highest points day at Phoenix with 202. Can the algorithms continue to improve? Keep an eye on our social media feeds for our initial (pre-practice and qualifying) picks Bristol by 3pm Friday 3/15.

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Bob Francis - Go Full Throttle

Go Full Throttle editors and reporters bring you news & commentary on NASCAR, F1, IndyCar, and World of Outlaws. Member: National Motorsports Press Association