Work on Bristol confounds drivers
There’s a sticky situation heading into Sunday’s race in Thunder Valley, and it’s causing fits for the drivers.
“It’s tough to trust, it’s tough to predict,” said Kurt Busch, a five-time winner at the Food City 500 Monster Cup race in Bristol, Tenn.
Bristol officials applied a VHT resin to the track surface that is intended to enhance grip. The TrackBite is much wider than it was last summer, when Bristol first tried it in August in an effort to make a stronger second lane. The top lane for years had been the preferred line, but the wider swath of VHT seems to have made the bottom of the track the place to be as drivers used limited practice time to prepare for Sunday.
Intermittent rain at Bristol has wiped out a ton of the notes drivers have gathered about the surface because every time they think they’ve figured out a lane, the showers wash off any tire rubber that’s been accumulated. The Xfinity Series race was stopped for rain Saturday, hours after the Cup drivers finished practice.
“The surface was real slick and then it was really grippy and then it started to slicken back up,” Brad Keselowski said. “It’s going to be an evolving surface race, so that just means it’s going to be tough. We’re supposed to be the best, so we’ll have to figure it out.
“It’s changing faster than I can keep up with it. This will be a weekend full of things we’ve never seen before, which usually means the field is privy to making a lot of mistakes, a lot of action, a lot of wrecks and that’s not always a bad thing.”
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said the driver’s council met during the fall and was in favor of Bristol continuing to explore using the VHT because “we were all eager to make sure it was back down and thought that it did offer more options.
“I welcome any change that might be thrown at us and any opportunity to create different lanes and searching around the race track,” he said.
Race: Food City 500 Monster Cup series race, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn. When: 2 p.m. TV: WPGH. The skinny: Youngsters Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott continue to dominate the standings. Larson is first with 315 points and a win, and Elliott is 17 points behind but has yet to win. Larson starts from the pole.
Only every time on the track, the bottom lane is where everyone wants to be — all but current points leader Kyle Larson.
“I feel like it would still be really fast up there [in the top lane], it’s just nobody is brave enough to go up there and work in the groove,” Larson said.
Should the top line fail to become appealing by race time, Bristol could revert to the way it once was — a one-lane track in which bumping a car out of the way was the only way to make a pass.