What to watch for The Car of Tomorrow debuts at Bristol in March, which makes no sense to us. Those front splitters are very fragile, and with all the bumpin' and bangin' that takes place, we'll either see the cleanest, most boring Bristol race in history, or there won't be many front splitters -- or cars -- left. Either way, NASCAR made a bad decision to debut the new car here.
COT or not, Matt Kenseth is our pick at Bristol. Kenseth took the checkers in August and finished third in March last season. And in 2005 he dominated the fall event, leading 415 laps on his way to becoming the only active driver to lead more than 400 laps in a single race. In his last four races at Bristol, Kenseth has led 706 laps, which is more than the next two drivers combined. Although the COT will be new, the high-banked BMS track remains the same - giving Kenseth the edge.
Another clear favorite is Kurt Busch, who has won five of the last 10 races at BMS, including a season sweep in 2003 and a March victory in '04. Last season, the elder Busch brother won again in March while younger brother Kyle Busch finished second in August.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at BMS in 2004, has finished on the lead lap in his last seven races and has not finished worse than 16th in his last 10 trips to Bristol. Those aren't bad numbers compared to mortal drivers, but his daddy won at Bristol nine times between 1979-99.
The darkhorse candidates are Denny Hamlin, who finished sixth and 14th last year, and Jeff Burton, who took home a ninth-place finish in August.
Keep an eye on... Jeff Gordon -- Although he hasn't won here since 2002, he always gets around the joint well, as his five career BMS victories attest. It will take a skilled veteran to steer the COT around the cramped quarters of Thunder Valley, and Gordon just might be that guy.
Kevin Harvick -- He has run well in the spring events here, posting a win in 2005 and a runner-up in '06. The one concern is how well he'll take care of that front splitter. If it stays intact, he'll be a frontrunner in March.
Ricky Rudd -- Rudd knows his way around this place, and it will take an extra-steady hand and a boatload of patience to win here this year. If the equipment is up to par, Rudd could score an upset win for Robert Yates Racing.