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Trucks Tackle New Bristol Surface

Trucks Tackle New Bristol Surface

Trucks Tackle New Bristol Surface

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The new concrete surface at Bristol Motor Speedway received positive reviews from NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers during a test session on Monday. Thirty teams were at Bristol turning the first laps around the 0.533-mile oval track since it was resurfaced following the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on March 25.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) was the first truck on the track when the test session started and came away impressed.

“This is by far the best revamping of a track ever,” Bodine said. “No doubt about it. The people here knew what they wanted with the re-do and they went out and did it. This is the way it should be done.”

The resurfacing was the first since 1992, when the asphalt track was replaced by an all-concrete surface. Although no major changes were made to the track, variable banking was added to the turns to help smooth the transition to the straightaways. The track is also three feet wider now, which leads some drivers to believe a third – or “high” – groove will come into play during the race.

“I think if we're out there racing and we get bottle-necked up, we'll find a new groove,” said Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford). “You won't have to force anybody to go to the high side – if they need to pass, they'll be there.”

Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet) agreed with Crawford after watching some drivers test the high line Monday morning.

“Todd Bodine, Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday were the first ones out there and all three of them went to the top to see if they could run up there,” Gaughan said. “It was definitely interesting to see guys [drive] two grooves off the bottom.”

The second, and perhaps third, grooves will develop as more laps are run on the track. The rubber from the tires will expand the grooves, resulting in more side by side racing.

“It definitely gives you a better opportunity than ever to pass,” said Johnny Benson, driver of the No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota. “We're all so used to running the bottom groove it's awful hard to make yourself go up there. But that outside groove is going to be good once they get rubber on the track.

“It's definitely smoother and they've done a tremendous job. The transitions are better both going into the corners and coming out of the corners. It's just going to take a little time to get some rubber on it to get it seasoned. The place is going to be pretty awesome once that happens.”

The resurfacing job has even converted drivers who were against the project, like points leader Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota).

“When we were told they were going to redo this place, we were very, very concerned but it's an A-plus,” Skinner said. “It really isn't any different. It's Bristol.”

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Re: Trucks Tackle New Bristol Surface

Bristol Busch test important for Cup teams

In 1992, Bristol Motor Speedway officials paved the track with concrete. Unlike asphalt, concrete doesn't change much with the weather. Early on, some drivers complained they could not pass because there was only one groove around the bottom.

When I worked with Davey Allison in 1992, we tested after the concrete was put down. After he went out for a run, there was an inch-thick layer of concrete dust on the floor of his car. It took several years for the drivers to get comfortable with the surface, and this week, the Busch and Truck teams, along with some Cup teams for a tire test, will test on Bristol's new concrete.

Technology today is significantly better and different than it was 15 years ago. It used to be that we couldn't go anywhere that had been re-asphalted and not have to worry about the track surface coming up. Now, that's a thing of the past. You don't hear of it anymore. But a new concrete surface is still going to be a new concrete surface. The wear factor on the tires is going to be very high, and the grip is going to be very low.

The most recent track with fresh concrete was Nashville Superspeedway, where the Busch Series started racing in 2001. In the beginning, there was no grip. It was like being on ice. Tire wear was very high. Now, Goodyear has a lot of knowledge about new concrete surfaces so it's certainly going to help teams gain grip more quickly, but I've still got to believe wear will be an issue.

Cup organizations with Busch teams, like Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Robert Yates Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing will gain information for those Cup teams. They can look at their Busch teams and compare what they ran in April to what they're doing now, and they'll be able to come up with a very good starting point for the Cup cars because the Busch cars can compare apples to apples from spring to the new surface.

For the last few years, teams left Chicago on Sunday night and went to Indy and tested on Monday and Tuesday. That wasn't an issue this year. During the off-week, however, teams practiced at Kentucky Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile, Nashville and Virginia International Raceway to get ready for Watkins Glen. Teams just keep right on digging with testing, and bigger operations like RCR and Hendrick Motorsports probably have 100 or more people at the shop each week that never see the racetrack. They had their regular Monday through Friday work week. But I'd be willing to bet that the guys that go on the road with the Cup teams every Thursday through Sunday were allowed to take off last Thursday through Sunday.

A full season for a lot of series isn't 17 races, but the Nextel Cup teams are about to start 17 consecutive races from Indy through Homestead, the weekend before Thanksgiving. When the shops turned on the lights Monday morning, everybody was fresh, feeling good, rested and ready to go to Indy with a bounce in their step.

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Re: Trucks Tackle New Bristol Surface

New Bristol surface gets positive reviews in test runs
Associated Press

Many NASCAR drivers were skeptical about plans to resurface Bristol Motor Speedway's beloved but haggard concrete oval.

After a few days of testing this week, several Craftsman Truck and Busch Series drivers now say the project gives drivers more grooves and could improve racing at one of the circuit's most popular tracks.

"There is not as much transition down in the corners, which makes the car more comfortable getting in and should lead itself to side-by-side racing," said Jason Keller, a Busch driver since 1991.

The previous high-banked short track was known for full-contact racing, despite having only one fast groove toward the bottom.

With the new resurfacing that began immediately after the Food City 500 in March, drivers can now find fast lines higher up the banks.

"It (the low groove) didn't seem to be the fastest way around," Keller said.

"I can definitely see some two-wide racing here," said Busch driver Brad Coleman said. "My line was to go in on the bottom, slide up to about the middle of the track and then go."

Drivers also commented on the smoother contours leading out of the turns into the straightaways.

"This track can never be boring, but I told another driver that (Bristol) is a little boring compared to what it used to be," said Caleb Holman, who drives in the Busch and Hooters Pro Cup series.

"Cars here used to drop off in the corner, hit some bumps and be all over the place. The track is so smooth now that it's almost like you're waiting for something to bite you."

Most drivers were waiting for rubber to build up on the new surface before predicting exactly how it will treat the Nextel Cup's Sharpie 500 on Aug. 25.

The testing was already going better than the first day on the new surface in 2001 at Nashville Superspeedway's concrete oval.

"It was a brand-new concrete surface (at Nashville) and it was very slick," said Kevin Triplett, vice president of public affairs for Bristol and a former NASCAR vice president. "Speeds were high and with the fresh, slick surface we brought about a dozen cars in on a hook (tow truck) that first day."

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Re: Trucks Tackle New Bristol Surface

Jason Keller: “I’m going to tell everybody it’s the same old Bristol”
NASCAR Nextel Cup: Jason Keller

NASCAR Busch Series Teams Get Their Turn On Bristol’s New Surface

When it comes to experience in the NASCAR Busch Series, few have Jason Keller (No. 11 CJM Racing Chevrolet) beat. The 17-year series veteran is closing in on Tommy Houston’s all-time starts record (417) and is only two starts away from tying Dale Jarrett’s Bristol Motor Speedway record. So, after 27 races at “Thunder Valley, ”

Keller had no problem identifying changes made during the track’s recent resurfacing.

“It’s definitely different, ” Keller said. ”There is not as much transition down in the corners, which makes the car more comfortable getting in and should lead itself to side-by-side racing. ”

His observations came during a NASCAR Busch Series test at Bristol on Tuesday. Thirty-three teams were at the track testing on the new concrete surface installed after the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on March 25. Although no major changes were made to the track, variable banking was added to the turns to help smooth the transition to the straightaways. The new surface also eliminated many of the bumps in the track.

“I didn’t believe it was going to be so smooth, ” Keller said. “And I honestly didn’t remember it being so rough, until you feel how smooth it is now. “

As more laps are run on the track and the groove widens, more cars are expected to race two- and perhaps three-wide.

Keller doesn’t believe that will change a driver’s preparation for the race.

“I don’t think you can change your approach here because you better go all out, all the time, ” he said. “Even if the groove widens out, you’ll still have to go as fast as you can, as hard as you can.

“Typically, the Busch Series race here goes by pretty fast. I don’t think the approach to the race will change but the actual race may change, as far as getting some two-wide and perhaps three-wide racing coming off the corner. But it looks like we’ll see some side-by-side racing. ”

Keller’s anticipated 28th start at Bristol will be the most for the 37-year-old at any track. His results are among his best anywhere – he has three poles, one win and 12 top-10 finishes. His win came in 1999, three years before Victory Lane was moved from the middle of the track to the top of the Goodyear building.

“I’ve never been in that Victory Lane, but I have been in Victory Lane at Bristol, ” Keller said. “Anytime you’ve been in Victory Lane, you get good vibes coming (back) to the track. I looked at my trophy yesterday when I was in my office and reminisced for a little bit. That’s always nice. ”

The Bristol race, on the night of August 24, is one of the highlights of the NASCAR Busch Series schedule. Keller is among the many drivers who enjoy racing at the. 533-mile track.

“I’m one of the guys that looks forward to Bristol and always have ever since I came here for the first time, ” Keller said. “This is a huge race for us. Anytime you come to a track and there are 100,000 fans, it’s a big race. ” As the event draws near, don’t count on Keller to share the information his team learned from the test session.

“I’m going to tell everybody it’s the same old Bristol, ” he said with a smile.

Lap Leaders … Rain showers delayed the test session intermittently throughout the day. As of a rain delay at 4 p. m., Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) had the quickest lap.

A glance at the top morning times:

1. Jason Leffler, No. 38 Toyota – 16.083 seconds/119.306 mph

2. Kyle Busch, No. 5 Chevrolet – 16.100 seconds/119.180 mph

3. Bobby Labonte, No. 77 Chevrolet – 16.140 seconds/118.885 mph

4. Dennis Setzer, No. 24 Chevrolet – 16.153 seconds/118.789 mph

5. Steve Wallace, No. 66 Dodge – 16.157 seconds/118.760 mph

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