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Shiny paint schemes, tons of bumping, tempers flaring, 165,000 people screaming...it sounds like we're talking about Mariah Carey's bedroom, but we're not. Man, the night race at Bristol is fun.

Saturday night is my favorite race of the year. There's an electricity at Bristol in the nighttime, as the fans sit right on top of the track, the drivers get irritated with one another right quick, and the excruciatingly small pit lane becomes a disaster area. Add to this the Car of Tomorrow in its second go-round at this place, with the playing field perhaps a bit more level, and you've got one heck of an event.

Kyle Busch won the first-ever COT event here in March, after a couple of Joe Gibbs Racing cars had freakish mechanical troubles that cost them wins. Of course, this was long before the younger Busch was set to become teammates with those Gibbs boys. Will Hendrick re-assert itself in the COT. Will a couple Roush Fenway guys who used to be great here get some Bristol COT magic going? Will some guy in the No. 2 car win this third race in four tries? Read on.

Last Week: The rain falls mainly on the plain, and on the Irish Hills of Michigan. A two-day wait finally ended last Tuesday, and we almost had a huge week, as both Martin Truex Jr. (second) and Jimmie Johnson (third) contended for the win. We still won our head-to-head battle, with Truex tackling Ryan Newman, so it was a winning week. We netted a positive 0.33 units on 1.5 units wagered (a 22% return) for the week. On the season, we're at a net positive 6.47 units on 34.5 units wagered (an 18.8% return). (Note that if you eschewed the conservative betting pattern we outline below, and simply wagered one unit on every recommendation we give, you'd have lost 1.8 units last week on four units wagered, though for the season you'd be up 29.98 units on 92 units wagered (a 32.6% return). Of course, such a betting pattern is riskier on a week-to-week basis.)

Take Tony Stewart (+600), 1/6th unit. Smoke was the best driver around that March afternoon the last time the Smokeless Set ran here, and led a race-high 257 laps before a simple cable broke in his car, causing him to finish 35th. It was especially frustrating because the Gibbs cars were so unexpectedly good, after all we'd heard was talk about how Hendrick would dominate in the COT. Of course, Hendrick did go on to win a whole mess of COT races, but as I mentioned earlier, the playing field does seem to have leveled a bit. Stewart hasn't won at Bristol since 2001, but there's a great chance he gets the job done Saturday night.

Take Kurt Busch (+900), 1/6th unit. Busch won at Pocono, finished 11th at Watkins Glen, then won at Michigan. This just in: he's hot. He's also coming to his favorite track in the land: Bristol Motor Speedway, where Busch has won five times driving a Cup car. Now, I grant you, his last two times out here (37th and 29th) haven't been pretty. But I do feel as though Penske has got the COT figured out much better here in the second half of the season, and if the No. 2 team can get Busch a decent racecar, he can win this thing.

Take Denny Hamlin (+600), 1/6th unit. Hamlin was the second-fastest driver at the March Bristol race, and should've won easy after Stewart had his weird mechanical troubles, but Hamlin, too, was overtaken by gremlins. He had a fuel-pickup problem, and wound up finishing 14th. Still, Hamlin's been the second-most-consistent driver in non-road-course COT events (after Jimmie Johnson (+1400)). He grew up on short tracks, Gibbs does seem to have the COT thing working, and he's due for an explosive effort. I wouldn't be shocked to see him duking it out with his teammate for a win Saturday. (And just as long as they don't wreck one another again, as they did at Daytona, I'll be happy.)

by Michael Cash - thespread.com - Email Us

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