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Racing, Wrecking A Hot Topic At New Bristol

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 19 2011

Nobody is immune to the brutalities of Bristol. Good or bad? (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Bristol, Tenn. – One of the subjects being debated on Friday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway is how the racing on the reconfigured race track and its progressive banking compares to what went on before the 2007 facelift.

The bottom-line question seems to be whether the objective is racing or wrecking. Some say the end of a string of sellouts at Bristol is due in part to the change in the way races unfold. They say fans would rather see drivers using their bumpers to make passes than race side-by-side.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. weighed in during his media availability but didn’t pick one configuration over the other.

“I really like ‘em both,” he said. “I don’t prefer one over the other. This one has so many different characteristics versus the old one. The old one, you ran the bottom. There wasn’t a second groove. You moved guys out of the way. You know, it was a fun race track. A little tougher on cars, a little rougher.”

The new track has its own characteristics, he said.

“This place is really smooth,” he said. “There are more grooves.”

But he and several other drivers said that having more grooves doesn’t mean it’s any easier to pass.

“It makes it harder to pass because the guy on the outside can hold you off if he wants to

Carl Edwards and his crew chief, Bob Osborne, will be very busy this weekend at Bristol. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

be hard-headed about it,” he said. “I think there are good things about both of them.”

Carl Edwards agreed that more grooves doesn’t make a driver’s work any easier.

“This place presents a lot of challenges to a driver with this new surface,” he said. “It looked like when they changed it like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be easier to pass,’ and it would be easier to race because there won’t be just one groove, but it’s the opposite.

“It’s become much more difficult to pass guys and I think that puts a premium on qualifying, on good pit stops and on restarts because once it gets strung out, it’s very difficult to get by a guy.

“You can run side-by-side with a guy for 25 laps trying to make something happen.”

Martin Truex Jr. said the new track suits his style better as he’d rather brush the outside wall trying to pass a car than have to knock them out of the bottom groove.

Paul Menard, who enters Bristol sixth in the standings and the top performer so far this season at Richard Childress Racing, said that no matter what the configuration might be, the racing at Bristol will be intense.

“Bristol is always a tough place to have a clean race and finish where you are capable of,” he said. “It’s a lot like a restrictor-plate race where a lot of things happen out of your control that effect your day. …. It’s just one of those places where it’s just a tough, tough track.

“They have 43 cars that all go the same speed, and one hiccup ruins your day. Coming in here we will have a fast car, I’m confident of that. It’s hard to finish with all the fenders on and finish where you kind of deserve to finish I guess.

“We’ll just work hard and try to be up there.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, March 19 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • mike says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz its Bristol

  • Terry says:

    The old track was just an excuse to Ironhead someone out of the way. The new track is for true skilled CLEAN racers……
    not just for the
    Dale Sr’s….Matt Kenseths….Jimmy Spencers…Robby Gordon’s…Saturday Night County Fair bangers….