The last couple of weeks have seen some amazing finishes and exciting battles at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) racetrack in Bristol, Tennessee. From Joey Logano’s dominating win to Martin Truex Jr.’s dramatic come-from-behind victory, this year’s racing there has been incredible. It all started with Matt Kenseth leading the way in the opening laps and continued on through to the checkered flag – and it’s all thanks to the incredible weather that we’ve had in the South this year.
Kenseth started on pole position for the 2020 MENCS race and, from there, led 138 of the race’s 188 laps. He held on for his fifth win of the season, followed by Logano and Kyle Busch. It was the first time since 2011 that three different drivers won on consecutive Sundays at Bristol. For Truex, it was his first win since 2018 and he did it the hard way, coming from last place on the grid to take the lead in the closing stages and hold on for the victory.
So who won at Bristol this year? We’ve put together a special TEAM USA versus CANADA bracket to help you decide. Using the latest stats and scientific data to hand-pick the best of the best, here’s a list of NASCAR’s top-five drivers based on their performance at the track.
1. Joey Logano
With a whopping 27 wins at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) racetrack in Bristol, Tennessee, Logano has undoubtedly had a fantastic season and delivered on his promise to be one of NASCAR’s best ever. The Team Penske driver scored a career-high 156 points this year to cement his place as one of the sport’s most influential and popular drivers. There’s only one problem: it wasn’t enough.
Logano’s winning streak started with a bang at Darlington in April, where he led 96 of the race’s 200 laps en route to the victory. It was his first win since 2017 and it all set him up for a glorious season, which he duly delivered on. In the last ten races of the season, Logano won at Richmond, New Hampshire, and Bristol, becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Bristol nights since Carl Edwards in 2005 and 2006. It was also the first time in over a decade that a driver swept all three of NASCAR’s biggest races of the season.
Ultimately, Logano came up short in the playoffs, losing out to Kyle Busch in the Championship 4 matchup. Still, it was another fantastic season from the Penske driver and his legions of fans will be happy to come back and support him in the coming years.
2. Martin Truex Jr.
Another championship contending driver who disappointed in the playoffs this year was Martin Truex Jr. It was an incredibly frustrating year for the Furniture Row Racing driver, who started the season as one of the front-runners and ended it barely clinging on to a top-five spot in the standings. A win in any of the first five races of the year would have assured him of at least a top-three spot and possible glory, but instead he finished eighth, ninth, and twelfth in a row over the course of the season. It was a heartbreaking end to what was otherwise an incredible season. Still, TRU won five out of the last six races in the second half of the season, which saved his championship hopes.
With a win at Bristol, Tennessee, in the penultimate race of the season, Truex became one of the most unlikely drivers to ever win a NASCAR title – let alone a sixth one. It was a fitting end to an incredible comeback season that saw him win back-to-back races in the season finale at Homestead. The victory also avenged one of the most devastating losses in the history of NASCAR. After suffering a severe knee injury in the season opener at Daytona, the driver underwent surgery and was subsequently sidelined for the rest of the season. It was an injury that many considered to be career-ending and yet, here we are, seven months later and Truex is showing no ill-effects from the operation. He’s proven that he’s still got it and is one of the standout performers of all time at Bristol.
3. Kurt Busch
A third championship contender for the season who also disappointed in the playoffs was Kurt Busch. The reigning champion seemed to have regressed slightly this year, with just four wins to his name compared to his usual six or seven. It didn’t matter though, as he still managed to put up a strong fight for the title. He started the season with a bang, winning the first three races of the year including the Daytona 500, where he led 187 laps. Over the course of the season, Busch won four times at Bristol, North Carolina; Fontana, California; and Kansas, the three biggest tracks on the circuit. Unfortunately, that was all he was able to manage and a disappointing end to a valiant campaign saw him finish twelfth in the standings.
The only positive to take away from a disappointing season is that it gave us one of the greatest comebacks in the history of NASCAR. In 2018, Busch suffered a horrific truck accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Although he spent over a year in rehabilitation, going through grueling physical therapy, he was able to return to the racetrack and finish seventh in the Championship 4 standings. Since then he’s gone on to add more trophies to his cabinet and cement his place among the sport’s elite.
4. Kyle Busch
The biggest surprise in the NASCAR world this year was Kyle Busch. The younger brother of three-time champion Kurt Busch had been touted as the next big thing coming out of the Sport Clips Haircuts ‘Young Guns’ program and, after a very strong rookie campaign, it looked like he might live up to the hype. It turned out to be a fantastic season for the 23-year-old, who won at Bristol, Virginia; and Darlington, South Carolina, becoming the first driver to win on both of those tracks since Jimmie Johnson in 2008. More importantly, he helped his team to some incredible results, leading to them finishing no worse than fourth in the standings and on the verge of a title run. A heartbreaking end to a superb season saw them lose out to Martin Truex Jr. in the Championship 4.
The only downside to what was an otherwise excellent season was that Busch had to sit out the last three weeks of the year due to injury. He started the season with a bang, winning the season opener at Daytona, but then suffered a broken rib in a collision with Kevin Harvick. Although he recovered well enough to take the checkered flag, he had to sit out the following five races while he healed. On his return, he managed to win at Bristol, but went on to suffer two more defeats to close out the season – at Texas and Homestead. Without those three wins, Busch would have finished the season in second place, cementing his spot as one of the sport’s elite for years to come.
5. Christopher Bell
Another contender who disappointed in the playoffs was Christopher Bell. The former Formula One driver spent the majority of the year running up and down the grid, either leading or in the top five. After starting the season with a bang, winning at Daytona in the season opener, he went on to finish third in the standings – his best finish since 2017. It was a fantastic result for the 39-year-old, who had been without a top-five result in over a year prior to the season opener. Since then, he’s managed to add another three podiums to his tally, while also scoring a victory in the season finale at Homestead. It’s fair to say that Bell had an excellent year and came close to claiming his first NASCAR title in fourteen years. That he was unable to do so was down to a lack of luck – or, more precisely, bad luck.
One of the big stories of the year was the emergence of Christopher Bell’s son, Cole, who made his debut at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) Bristol night race this year. In the process, he became the fourth-generation driver to take the checkered flag – an incredible feat that was enough to earn him a trip to Victory Lane. Cole started the year with a bang, winning the season opener at Daytona, leading 183 laps and scoring another win at Talladega. It was an incredible debut campaign and it culminated in him winning the Rookie of the Year award. It was a fantastic display of determination and grit by the eighteen-year-old and he’s earned a place among the sport’s elite. It was also a huge boost to the team, as Cole’s wins helped them achieve their best-ever finish of fourth in the standings. They’ve also got another championship in the works, as Cole will be driving the No. 18 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) Toyota in the 2022 season. A truly remarkable achievement for a first-year driver.