NASCAR Bristol Notebook: Is The Bottom Groove At Bristol Getting Faster?

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Brad Keselowski on track at Bristol Motor Speedway during qualifying Friday for the Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 (Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brad Keselowski on track at Bristol Motor Speedway during qualifying Friday for the Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 (Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

BRISTOL, Tenn.—Drivers at Bristol Motor Speedway are starting to like it on the bottom.

Ever since the grinding of the concrete racing surface in 2012, the top lane has been the fastest way around the .533-mile short track, but that may be changing.

During qualifying runs for Sunday’s Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes on Friday afternoon, Kasey Kahne moved to the bottom of the track and found speed there.

“My first qualifying attempt was through the middle, and I just didn’t have quite the speed that I wanted, so I ran the next two around the bottom, and I felt like I picked-up when I was down there,” said Kahne, who qualified eighth for Sunday’s Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes (1 p.m. ET on FOX), the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to crack the top 12. “The track has been interesting today. To me, there’s been a little less grip up high, compared to what it’s been for a while here.

“Usually in practice and qualifying you’re a bit higher than what we were today. So, I was a little surprised by that. But it’s still a long ways away from how it’s going to be for race day, and during the race, it will change as well. I think maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe we’ll be able to race all over the track on Sunday rather than just as much on the top. That would be good.”

The question remains whether the short way around the bottom of the track will continue to provide speed once the racing surface gets rubbered in during Sunday’s race.


Roughly eight minutes into Saturday morning’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, Tony Stewart smacked the outside wall exiting Bristol Motor Speedway’s fourth turn.

That was just the opening act in a series of mishaps that punctuated the opening session at Thunder Valley.

Seven minutes after Stewart hit the wall, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun, damaging his own No. 17 Ford and nicking the No. 19 Toyota of former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards in the process.

Fighting a loose handling condition in his No. 48 Chevrolet, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson scraped the wall later in the session.

The good news for all four drivers was that none had to roll out a backup car. Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet sustained the heaviest damage, but his crew worked diligently to repair the rear deck of the car, and Stewart was back on track with enough time to complete 56 laps in the session—24 before the wreck and 32 after.

Of the four drivers, Edwards was fastest in Saturday’s first session, running 125.889 mph on his fourth lap (before the incident with Stenhouse). Johnson was 10th fastest, with Stewart 24th and Stenhouse 31st.

Kasey Kahne paced the early-morning practice with a fast lap at 126.829 mph. Kurt Busch (127.554 mph) topped the speed chart in final practice, which was incident-free.


When the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel upheld NASCAR’s six-race suspensions to Richard Childress Racing crew chief Luke Lambert, race engineer Philip Surgen and tire specialist James Bender on Thursday, those team members began serving their enforced exiles.

In the wake of the penalties imposed for altering tires in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and the loss of the appeal, RCR installed its XFINITY Series competition director, Todd Parrott, as interim crew chief for Ryan Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet.

But when team owner Richard Childress opted to take his case to National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss and paid the $500 fee late Friday afternoon, he also chose to let the suspended team members return to the track.

So, on Friday, Lambert was back on the pit box and Parrott returned to his day job—after one day at the track with Newman.

The final appeal hasn’t been scheduled yet, but if Moss rules against Childress, Parrott likely will fill the interim crew chief’s role once again.

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