Ryan Newman has the pole for tonight's Irwin Tools Night Race, but the driver to watch rolls off from the 23rd position. Kyle Busch has won the last five Bristol races in the Sprint Cup or NASCAR Nationwide Series, dating back to last August when he swept all three divisions. In fact, his only loss in that span came earlier this week, when he was involved in a controversial accident in Wednesday's Camping World Truck Series race. In addition, Busch is the three-time defending champion of the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol.
The entire starting grid can be found at Jayski.com.
Here are some stories to watch in tonight's 500-lapper at the World's Fastest Half-Mile:
How long till Kyle grabs the lead? As stated, Busch rolls off from the 23rd position. Since the track was reconfigured in 2007, passing has been a little bit easier at BMS. There are few drivers - if any - that are more aggressive than Busch when it comes to working traffic, and his charge towards the front of the field will no doubt be entertaining.
Can Carl Edwards turn his year around? Edwards qualified second for tonight's race, but racing is about where a driver finishes. Lately, Carl's finishes have not been all that stellar. He has just two top-tens in his last seven races and has led a grand total of four laps after leading 427 in the first 16 races of the year. Carl is a two-time winner of the Irwin Tools Night Race, including the first win on the reconfigured surface in 2007. A third win would be the perfect way to re-ignite his push for his first Sprint Cup title.
Do Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, or Clint Bowyer finally bid their Chase hopes adieu? All three are treading on thin ice with just three races - including tonight - remaining before the Chase begins. Bowyer and Stewart are both winless, and with the way the standings are structured, one or the other will miss the Chase if they can't get a win between now and Richmond. Hamlin, meanwhile, has a victory that puts him in wild-card contention, but he has been terrible of late, with four straight finishes of 15th or worse and only one top-10 finish since his June win at Michigan. Tonight, Stewart has the toughest task of the three, as he rolls off from the 42nd position on the claustrophobic half-mile oval. Bowyer starts 16th, while Hamlin will begin the event from 20th position.
Does Joey Logano ruffle feathers, or do his get ruffled - again? Logano has declared "no more Mr. Nice Guy" when it comes to short track racing, having been on the recieving end of a number of bumps from his competitors. The question is, will the tall, lanky 21-year-old race aggressively with his rivals or will he get run into once again?
Who is the first driver to loosen his grip on his temper, and who loses it the worst? One can almost guarantee there will be fireworks at some point tonight, as is just the nature of Bristol Motor Speedway. There have been plenty of spectacular meltdowns in previous years, sometimes spilling into post-race. With the added pressure of trying to make this year's Chase, tonight's altercations could feature some of the top-names in the sport.
Who fills out the Sprint Summer Showdown field? Next week's Advocare 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway will play host to the Sprint Summer Showdown, a 500-mile dash among at least four drivers for $3 million to be divided amongst the team, the driver's charity of choice, and one fan paired with that driver. It is no surprise that Kyle Busch is one of the drivers chasing the bonus, thanks to his win at Michigan, but the other three drivers - Paul Menard (Indianapolis), Brad Keselowski (Pocono), and Marcos Ambrose (Watkins Glen) - are not exactly heavy favorites entering next weekend's race. A fifth driver will join the lineup tonight, unless one of the other four wins again tonight.