August 22, 2008
Experts' Picks: Sharpie 500
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Though Edwards hasn't been as dominant on short tracks this season as he's been on intermediate tracks, I still like his chances at Bristol, a .533-mile fishbowl. He won the night race in Bristol last August and he'll be as aggressive as any driver in going for the victory on Saturday night. After all, he desperately wants to close the points gap on Kyle Busch by earning the 10-point bonus that goes along with taking the checkers.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- Who else? He won here back in the spring of '07, which was the debut of the Car of Tomorrow and precursor of things to come for Busch, and he's excelled on short tracks this season. It?d be an upset if he wasn?t in contention for the victory in the final laps
Don't expect much from: Juan Pablo Montoya -- Montoya's sophomore season has been utterly forgettable, as he?s currently winless this year and 21st in points. In three career starts at Bristol his average finish is 21.3.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: In addition to winning this race a year ago, the Shrub is traditionally strong at Bristol's bullring, with four top-10 finishes in seven starts.
Keep an eye on: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Ever since he and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. gacked away a top-10 finish at Watkins Glen, Junior has been in desperate need of some momentum. At Bristol, where he's won once and posted top-10 finishes in 10 of his 17 starts, he can get some.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- There's just not a good vibe coming from the No. 11 team these days, and Bristol isn't one of Hamlin's favorite tracks. Perhaps he'll be on edge because of how close he is to missing the Chase, but that could work against him, too. His crew doesn't seem to deal too well with pressure.
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Stewart's had his usual solid summer, scoring two runner-up finishes in his last three races to jump up to sixth in points. Still with that zero in the win column, Stewart's itching for that to change as he hones in on his fourth Chase bid in five years. He should finally cash in at Bristol, where Stewart's led -- get this -- 769 laps in his last five starts.
Keep an eye on: Richard Childress Racing -- In the spring, RCR pulled off their first ever 1-2-3 finish, with Jeff Burton capturing his only win of the season. But the team has struggled over the summer months, with Bowyer and Kevin Harvick in jeopardy of missing the Chase. Whether they recapture their magic at the half-mile could determine whether they'll make it in.
Don't expect much from: Jimmie Johnson -- A Martinsville master, Bristol has just never been Johnson's short track Cup of tea. In his last six starts, he hasn't finished higher than 10th.
  My Pick: Kevin Harvick
Why he'll win: He said Richard Childress Racing gave him yet another No. 29 Chevrolet this spring capable of winning at Bristol for the second time, but blamed himself for finishing second. With eight top-5s in 15 starts, he knows how to navigate and negotiate there.
Keep an eye on: Kurt Busch -- Five Bristol wins -- four with his previous team, Roush Fenway -- deserve respect and Busch is an adept short-track racer. He's had some trouble since his last Bristol win (spring, 2006) with 37th- and 29th-place results since, but he will be a factor.
Don't expect much from: Brian Vickers -- He's stalking the 12-car Chase for the Championship boundary, but may be in points-preservation mode on Saturday. In eight starts he has an average finish of 26.4, led one lap and crashed twice, including the spring event.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: He had a fast car here in March, leading the race before spinning out after his power steering failed. Busch is also the first driver to win with the new car and that victory came at Bristol in March 2007. Even though he has been the star of the season, he still wants to enter the Chase on a high note so another win or two in the next three races would keep his momentum going.
Keep an eye on: Carl Edwards -- Another hot driver, Edwards scored his fifth win of the season last week at Michigan. With three races to go before the start of the Chase, Edwards is trying to pile up the bonus points with victories.
Don't expect much from: Denny Hamlin -- After dropping out of last week's race at Michigan, Hamlin said "We don?t deserve to be in the Chase." With comments like that, he?s already lost half the battle.
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: Stewart had the dominant car in March at Bristol, leading 267 laps, but lost the lead on a late-race restart, got wrecked in a fight for second and finished 14th. Stewart also led 257 laps in March, 2007, before a mechanical failure ruined his race and led 245 laps in March, '06, before fading to 12th. He was fourth in this race last August. Stewart has run too well at Bristol not to be able to close the deal eventually and it should happen Saturday.
Keep an eye on: Clint Bowyer -- He's been third in the past two races at Bristol and a win at Richmond and second at Phoenix this season are further evidence of the No. 07's short-track prowess in the Car of Today.
Don't expect much from: David Ragan -- The surprising Chase contender was 21st in the spring at Bristol, two laps down, and was 41st and 28th in '07. Ragan needs a top-10 and hasn?t had one on a short-track this season.
  My Pick: Carl Edwards
Why he'll win: Suddenly, Edwards has the hot hand. He's won two of the last three Cup races and three of the last nine Nationwide events. In addition, Edwards won at Bristol last season.
Keep an eye on: Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Junior loves Bristol. His worst finish in his last 10 starts at the track is 11th. He has seven top-five finishes at Bristol, including a win in '04.
Don't expect much from: Jimmie Johnson -- The defending Cup champion has been struggling at Bristol. Jimmie Johnson has never won at the track and hasn't had a top five at Bristol since '04. His best finish in his last four Bristol starts is 16th.

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