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‘Dirty’ Drivers Should Have An Edge At Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 22 2017

Kurt Busch says that being dirty is good this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. – At least two NASCAR drivers believe competitors with dirt track experience may possess the upper hand in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway because of VHT, a traction compound, being applied to the track’s surface in the turns.

“This is a perfect style of track to think about when you’re a dirt racer,” Kurt Busch said. “It’s not ready to go right away. You’ve got to pace the track a little bit. You’ve got to groom in the different grooves and then it’s gonna change once you get into the race and go into its optimum performance level. Dirt track racers will love this type of weekend.”

Busch could be seen taking the temperature of the track’s surface on different racing lanes following Saturday’s final practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Danica Patrick also believes the track is conducive to those with dirt track experience because the preferred line is running near the outside wall.

“I think any time you run by the wall, that is a comfort zone thing,” Patrick said. “It’s not that I’m not comfortable up there, it’s just running three inches off the wall versus a foot-and-a-half.”

Patrick said she’s more comfort with a foot-and-a-half.

“I think slide jobs are what’s important,” Patrick said. “Slide jobs are something that pretty early in the race you’re doing a lot of because that’s the only way to pass. … that’s a dirt racing move.”

Bristol officials applied the VHT last August and seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said the drivers liked it.

“In our drivers council meeting after our fall race here, we were all eager to make sure it was back down and thought that it did offer more options than without it,” Johnson said.

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Xfinity Series drivers Ross Chastain and Jeremy Clements, along with their crew chiefs, were summoned to the NASCAR hauler after Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway due to a brief altercation that occurred at the beginning of the race’s lengthy rain delay.

After the race was halted a few laps shy of the Stage 2 conclusion and the drivers had exited their cars, Clements walked up behind Chastain and grabbed his shoulder. The two scuffled and Clements received a black eye. Clements went to the track’s infield care center, but avoided the media waiting to talk with him by exiting through a different door. He was wearing sunglasses when he left the infield care center.  

“With our two teams we run together nose-to-tail every week,” Chastain told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little. “We’ve run into each other for three years now. Had a bunch of stuff off the track happen and I’ve been good with it. I feel like I’ve been the bigger man in a lot of cases.”

Chastain said he started it Saturday, getting into Clements when the 6 (Darrell Wallace Jr.) and the 48 (Brennan Poole) were trying to wreck each other.

“Getting into (turn) one I pushed him up and went on by him,” Chastain said. “The caution came out for rain and he got on our back bumper on the frontstretch and tried to wreck us. I told my owner I would talk to him when I got out, but I wasn’t going to do anything in the car.”

By the time Chastain exited his car, he said he had forgotten about it. But Clements hadn’t.

“Someone grabbed me by my shoulders and kinda pushed me,” Chastain said.  “I turned around and saw who it was. We can talk, but you can’t grab someone by the shoulders. It had happened once before and I said I would never let it happen again. What’s done is done. I didn’t want to go look for him, but I have to stand up for myself at some point.”

Both men returned to their cars when the race restarted. Clements finished 17th, but Chastain had to settle for 31st due to an accident on lap 270 of the 300-lap race.

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Daniel Hemric won the Dash4Cash Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway and collected a $100,000 bonus. Hemric finished fifth in the event won by Erik Jones. It was the best finish this season for the Kannapolis, N.C., native.

“We haven’t done a great job of managing our weekends and maximizing our points throughout the year,” Hemric said. “When you do that stuff it all kind of works itself out.

“We haven’t put ourselves in position to run for a win this year. I felt we were doing that (today) as the stages went by and the laps went by. The Dash4Cash is always lingering there, but it’s not something that crosses your mind. Then when the 00 (Cole Custer) and the 7 (Justin Allgaier) fell back there and the 62 (Brendan Gaughan) had his problems it put us in a good spot. We had a shot at winning the race … and if you win the race, you’ll definitely win the Dash4Cash.”  

Custer, Allgaier and Gaughan were the other drivers in contention for the bonus. Allgaier, who won the bonus at Phoenix last month, finished 14th at Bristol. Custer and Gaughan were eliminated by accidents. Custer finished 32nd and Gaughan 35th.

The third of the four Dash4Cash races is April 29 at Richmond. Two Dash4Cash wins are equivalent to a regular season victory in regards to playoff eligibility in the Xfinity Series.

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 Harrison Burton, son of former NASCAR driver and now NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton, won his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory Saturday in a rain-shortened Zombie Auto 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

A sophomore at Cannon School in Concord, N.C., Burton dominated the event before it was called after 70 laps due to rain.

“It’s pretty awesome,” the 16-year-old Burton said about his victory that he celebrated by picking up his mother as he joyously hugged her on pit road.

“We had a pretty rough season last year on basically all racing fronts with mechanical failures and mistakes that I made along the way. It’s really cool to come back this year and things start to click.”

Burton’s lone finish outside the top 10 this season came at Martinsville in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series race where he placed 13th.

“Now I’m more confident in these bigger, heavier cars and I feel like I can go out and run with the best of them.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 22 2017
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