Edwards, Kyle Busch favored as NASCAR hits Bristol

With just three races remaining before the Chase, points are at a premium for the nine drivers battling for the last six positions in the postseason. For these drivers, this Saturday night's race at Bristol could be a blessing or a curse considering fewer than 100 points separate seventh-place Juan Pablo Montoya from 12th-place Mark Martin. Behind them Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch are all within 70 points of Martin, just waiting for one of the drivers in the bottom half of the top 12 to stumble.

The high banks of Bristol have a reputation for producing plenty of action and hot tempers, even though in the last few years since the surface was repaved the action has somewhat cooled off. One thing remains the same when you're looking to build a team that can tame the concrete beast -- qualifying, qualifying, and qualifying. Not only does a good run on Friday night give a team the best choice of pit stalls on a very tight pit road, but considering the track is just over half-a-mile long starting in the back makes it nearly impossible to stay on the lead lap all night.

For a driver to be successful at Bristol he needs a good dose of luck to avoid the number of wrecks we are likely to see. For fantasy owners, the best you can do is put the best team together that you can and then keep your fingers crossed one of your picks isn't the unlucky one caught up in someone else's mess. So which drivers will give you the best chance at surviving a wild night at Bristol? Read this week's favorites, sleepers and longshots to find out.

Kyle Busch- Since the introduction of the CoT at Bristol five races ago, only two drivers have claimed multiple victories at the concrete bullring. After scoring the first CoT win, Busch earned his second win earlier this year in the fifth race of the season. Currently in the midst of a six-race skid in which he's scored just one top-10 finish, Busch is 15th in points, 70 markers behind the cutoff, and he's quickly running out of time. He's going to need all the Bristol magic he can conjure to make the playoffs, and with his aggressive style he's likely to find his way to the front one way or another.

By the numbers: In the last five Bristol races, Busch has two wins and four top 10s. In the last two events, Busch has led 793 of 1003 laps run.

Carl Edwards- The other driver to earn multiple victories at Bristol in the CoT is Edwards. The defending winner of this race, Edwards enters Saturday's race still winless in 2009, yet in a fairly secure position to make the Chase. But with that goose egg in the win column, you know this team is hungry for the 10 bonus points a win would bring plus the momentum it would likely carry into the playoffs. Edwards is coming off two straight top-5 finishes and should be able to carry that streak into the off weekend.

By the numbers: For those of you who like patterns, Edwards is your man this weekend. In the last five Bristol races he's finished 12th, 1st, 16th, 1st and 15th. Guess what he's due for next?

Jeff Gordon- After his vicious wreck at Watkins Glen, Gordon commented that he was glad that Bristol wasn't up next on the schedule. He got lucky with a relatively easy ride at Michigan last week, but he can't avoid the beating and banging of Bristol this week. While his dominating days at Bristol may be over, he is still a five-time Bristol winner giving him the knowledge and experience he needs to avoid trouble and possibly clinch a playoff spot Saturday night. Other than his wreck at the Glen, Gordon has four top-10 finishes in the past five races and knows that he needs to try and claim a portion of the last 30 available bonus points out there before the Chase starts.

By the numbers: The last of Gordon's five Bristol wins came in 2002 and his last of five poles came in 2007. He may not be the fixture in Bristol's victory lane that he once was, but with four top 10s in the last six races there he's still a strong contender.

Clint Bowyer- Currently 58 points out of the top 12, Bowyer is Richard Childress Racing's only hope to have a team in the playoffs this season. After a 29th-place finish at Daytona on July 4th, a spot in the Chase seemed like a distant dream; but four top 10s in the last five races have Bowyer and his team looking to play spoiler as the final field of 12 is set. He's not one of the drivers you'd likely think of to be a short track success, but that can play to your advantage this week as you try to gain points on the competition.

By the numbers: In the last five races at Bristol, Bowyer has four top-10 finishes and an average finish of 6.8.

Dale Earnhardt Jr- In the spirit of a true sleeper pick, this one might be one that not many of your opponents might not see coming. Coming off a third-place finish at Michigan, his best performance since a second-place run at Talladega, there are signs that this team might be getting its act together. Bristol isn't a track where you have to worry about running well in clear air, there isn't much to be had, but after seeing Lance McGrew's strategy calls last week he could be Junior's biggest asset this weekend. If Earnhardt can keep his head in the game and not make any of the pit road blunders that plagued him earlier this season, look for him to be able to reel in a solid top 15 or possible top 10 finish Saturday night.

By the numbers: Since switching to the CoT at Bristol, Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 three times and has an average finish of 9.8. He has also been able to buck the trend that qualifying is important, earning an average start of 27.4 in that same five race span.

Brian Vickers- In the last nine races, Vickers has been dominant in qualifying; earning five top starting spots. While success in qualifying doesn't always translate into results on the track, Vickers is doing a great job of making the best of his starting position. He hasn't finished lower than 16th in any of the races he's started from the pole; including his win last weekend at Michigan. Now he finds himself just 12 points away from an improbable Chase bid. That puts a lot of pressure on a young team heading into a track where so often the results are out of your control. But the Red Bull team has proven they are capable of running up front with the big boys and sometimes beat them.

By the numbers: Obviously his recent success makes Vickers a driver to entertain giving a spot on your roster , but his results at Bristol make him a longshot. In four Bristol starts, his best finish was 15th in 2007 and he has a very unattractive average finish of 25.8

Next up: The final off weekend is on deck, and then we're off to Atlanta for a nighttime Labor Day extravaganza.

Looking for a new, exciting way to spend your race day? Head over to Frontstretch.com each race day for our live blog featuring live race reports and analysis, along with interactive fans polls and trackside news from some of your favorite Frontstretch columnists.

Join us this Saturday night at 7:30pm ET for a great addition to your race day experience!

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