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After last week’s pause in the NASCAR schedule I’m hungry for a good race this weekend and Bristol Motor Speedway should deliver.
Well not everybody it on pause last two weeks as Goodyear held tire tests at two tracks which allowed one team from each manufacturer to go and test the tires Goodyear is thinking about using at those tracks in the near future.
These tire tests were important for a few of the teams because they are new teams and have not been together too long. According to an article on nascar.com Bobby Labonte (96) is a good example of this as his team was only put together a few short weeks before Feburary and since NASCAR put a ban on all testing at NASCAR sanctioned tracks the team has not really had a chance to gel and practice working together as an unit and this tire test allowed them the opportunity to do just that. Headed into Bristol teams like Labonte’s need that kind of time together as this track will test all of your team’s abilities and patience.
Bristol is a high banked half-mile all concrete short track that allows the drivers to carry lots of speed into the corners and under green flag conditions you’ll see the race leaders turn out about 4 laps per minute. That’s fast.
One of the side-effects to these high banks and high speeds is the amount of G-force experienced by each driver in their car while they are in the corners. The amount of force on the driver, especially their neck, is significant. In fact you’ll see most drivers use their wrap-around headrest to their advantage while in the corners as they’ll rest their heads against the side of the head-rest when turning into the corner in order to take the stress off of their necks and to help combat fatigue. With such short straight-aways there is very little recovery time in between corners so the wrap-around headrest is something that all drivers need to use.
With its variable degree banking Bristol offers drivers two distinct racing grooves to choose from and rest assured if someone is trying to race in the middle of the two racing lanes in order to hold off the person behind them they will get ‘moved’ out of the way in a hurry especially if the car they are trying to hold off is faster than them.
An equal amount of patience and aggression is needed if you are to run well at Bristol. You must be patient and calculating in order to keep your car with the pack, but you must not be afraid to use your bumper to move the completion out of the way when it’s time to get going.
Drivers that match this description are both Busch brothers Kyle (18) and Kurt (2) along with Carl Edwards (99). Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole slew of others who wouldn’t think twice about wrecking their own mother for a chance to win at Bristol.
Besides the aforementioned drivers others that run well here include Kevin Harvick (29), Kasey Kahne (9), Jeff Burton (31), Greg Biffle (16), Clint Bowyer (33), Jeff Gordon (24) and Dale Earnhardt Jr (88).
My picks to win this race by manufacturer would be Jeff Gordon (24) for GM, Kurt Busch (2) for Dodge, Kyle Busch (18) for Toyota and if you are a Ford fan then I’d go with Carl Edwards (99).
As far as outside picks go I would look at Mark Martin (5), Matt Kenseth (17), or Denny Hamlin (11).
But all of these predictions can go out the window in a flash because with all of the beating and banging that is sure to happen during the course of the race, more so within the last 100 laps or so, expect teams to take gambles to try to preserve or gain track position. If tire wear isn’t a problem then look for teams to give up a chance for fresh rubber in order to maintain or gain track position, especially near the end of the race, because trying to get through traffic is extremely difficult at this track.
In the end it will be the team that gambles the best in the pits and that has the driver that uses the best amount of patience and aggression that will win the race – but a little luck won’t hurt either.