Bristol Motor Speedway
“Gentlemen, start your engines!” Those four words can’t come soon enough this
weekend. Because of one thing, we are finally to Thunder Valley. Bristol will be
the first race this year that is less than a mile in length. Bristol’s official
length is .533 of a mile. Put 43 cars on this track, mix in 180,000 screaming
fans and a tight pit lane, and you get excitement.
This weekend both the Cup and Busch cars will visit Bristol. Last year Michael Waltrip drover to a first place finish in the Busch series. While on the Cup
side, Kurt Busch earned his second career victory at Bristol. Kurt went on to
sweep Bristol in 2003 by winning the fall race at Bristol as well.
At Bristol this weekend, there will be three things in which the teams will have
to watch out for. The first being the softer tires. This will be the first time
the teams have raced at Bristol with this current tire compound. The teams will
have to watch the tire wear and make sure they don’t run too much camber. The
teams have used a softer tire in the past, meaning this shouldn’t be much of an
obstacle for them. The shorter rear spoiler will also be something for the teams
to watch out for. I look for several cars to get lose this weekend and back the
car into the outside retaining wall. The third item teams will have to keep an
eye out for this weekend, will be the slower, “field filler” cars. At Darlington
last weekend, we saw Jeff Gordon get taken out of the race after hitting a
spinning lapped car. With Bristol having two race grooves, this may not play as
much of a role as it did last weekend at Darlington.
This weekend for the Cup race, there are three drivers that are the ones to
beat. The first one would be last years race winner, Kurt Busch. In the last
four races at Bristol, Kurt has racked up three wins. With that kind of record,
Busch will be one of the front runners again this weekend.
The second driver that teams should watch out for is Jeff Gordon. Gordon has
earned 13 wins at the short tracks during this Cup career. Making him a favorite
to win every time he straps on his helmet. In Gordon’s past four races at
Bristol, he has been able to earn three Bud Poles and one win. Making Gordon not
only a favorite to win the race, but also a favorite for the pole. After a tough
weekend at Darlington with a 41st place finish, Jeff dropped eight spots in the
standings, down to a 13th place spot. Jeff would love to rebound this weekend
with another victory at Bristol and pick up some of those lost spots.
Now for the third contender for the weekend, Rusty Wallace. Rusty is the current
short track master. During the modern era, Wallace is fourth on the list of
short track wins with 24 of them. He is just behind the late Dale Earnhardt who
earned 27 short tracks wins during his career. This weekend could be the race in
which Rusty finally snaps his winless streak that dates back to the California
race of 2001. Rusty earned his first win at Bristol, his 50th win and maybe this
weekend, his 55th career win.
There are a few sleepers this weekend that could knock one of the three
contenders off of their throne. Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr.,
Matt Kenseth and Sterling Marlin. All five drivers are contenders at the short
tracks. This weekend should be no different.
With the races this weekend, there are three things that are guaranteed. The
racing will be exciting, several cars will be banged up by the end of the
weekend and driver’s tempers will flare up.
Steve Houser ( RebelRocket )