Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano Collected in Lap 19 Crash at Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. —  Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both expected to contend for the win at the Food City 500 on Sunday night but were not around at the end following a big crash on lap 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Remarkably, the race was able to start only an hour after the scheduled start time following morning showers despite the threat of additional showers in the area. However, the run only lasted 22 laps before Keselowski spun above the lap car of Alex Kennedy.

Keselowski got sideways and Logano had nowhere to go but right into his Penske teammate. The Keselowski car suffered heavy left side damage while Logano had sizeable nose damage. For his part, Keselowski believes the wet conditions played a part of his spin.

“It’s been raining since we started the race,” Keselowski said. “It was just a really light sprinkle and the track was just barely dry. I don’t know. The rain was coming in and out and the car just took off on me.

“I would like to blame the rain, but I honestly don’t know. Usually when a car gets that far sideways and it’s kind of out of nowhere there’s a reason behind it.”

Keselowski started on the outside pole but both drivers were just settling in and were running in the back half of the top-10 when the accident occurred. Logano was only a half car length behind Keselowski and just didn’t have time to go anywhere.

“It happened quick, obviously,” Logano said. “You think you get early in this race and kind of want to settle in and just starting to get the top worked in a little bit there and Brad just got loose underneath that lapped car.

“You start checking up and it looked like he was going to have it saved and he checked up more than I expected and the next thing you know I’m in the back of him and we’re both headed towards the fence.”

The Team Penske duo finished first and second in the Night Race here in August and were both off to fast starts this season. Both drivers have won races this season and are already locked into the Chase but Keselowski just hates that the incident damaged both team cars in one fell swoop. Both teams will try to repair their cars once the red flag is lifted.

“I just really hate that I tore up my teammate in the process,” Keselowski said. “That’s really a bummer. I felt like I had a pretty normal line and it just flew crazy sideways on me. It’s a bummer for everybody at Team Penske to tear up both cars that way.”

Keselowski again cited the rain as the cause of the incident but said NASCAR had to try to get the race started if they had even the tiniest of windows.

“I hate racing in the rain, but I understand the position that NASCAR is in,” Keselowski said. “They want to get the race going and this is one of those days where it’s going to just keep raining off and on and we’re trying to get as many laps in at a time as we can to give the fans the best race possible.

“But we’re racing in the rain to do it and that’s what happens.”

Keselowski finished 35th while Logano limped to 40th.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
Humor

NASCAR Fan Travel Guide: Bristol

It’s Bristol, baby! The Last Colosseum! Thunder Valley! The Bullring! The World’s Fastest Half Mile! And so on and so forth.

There’s a lot of great stuff to do in Tennessee. Here are some of them.

  1. West Tennessee. I was born there. There’s nothing there. We moved away. Don’t go there.
  2. Get drunk on real moonshine and go blind. Going blind isn’t great, but hey, you had some real moonshine!
  3. Visit the Parthenon in Nashville. There’s also one in Greece, but it’s not as good.
  4. Take a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. That’s in North Carolina, though.
  5. Go to the hillbilly enclosure at the zoo and feed a fried green tomato to a genuine hillbilly.
  6. Go to Gatlinburg where you can meet Cooter from the Dukes of Hazard. I’m not kidding, I think you can actually do that there.
  7. Bemoan the fact that Bristol ain’t what it used to be.
  8. See Rock City. Because, Woohoo, rocks!
  9. See Mud Island. It’s like Rock City, only with mud, I guess.
  10. Visit Graceland. I’d avoid the reenactment of Elvis’s death if I were you, though.

So, enjoy Tennessee, and enjoy the race!

Categories
Home Tracks

K&N East: Jesse Little Sets Bristol Record in PittLite 125 Qualifying

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Welcome back, Jesse Little.

The 18-year-old NASCAR Next driver has returned to the K&N Pro Series East for a one-off appearance this weekend and quickly made his intentions known, earning the pole for the PittLite 125 on Thursday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. His quick lap of 15.891 seconds at 120.748 mph was also a new track record for the Pro Series at Thunder Valley.

NTS Motorsports teammates Brandon Jones and Daniel Hemric will start second and third on Saturday afternoon with Jones’ lap of 15.893 also eliminating the previous track record of 15.898 set by Michael McGuire in 2013.

“We definitely got it dialed in the right direction,” Little said. “I just love these big tracks and it’s something I look forward to the most.”

Little will be making his 38th career NASCAR Pro Series East start on Saturday afternoon and has two prior poles — both at NASCAR national touring venues Dover and Iowa. Now he has scratched Bristol off his list. His first career victory also came at a top-level track last summer at New Hampshire.

“Hopefully, we can finish where we start on Saturday,” Little added.

K&N East: Bristol Race Preview

William Byron, J.J. Haley, Scott Heckert and Rico Abreu all topped 120 mph and secured positions fourth through seventh. Kyle Benjamin, Codie Rohrbaugh and Nick Drake round out the top-10.

Championship leader Austin Hill was forced to a back-up car after a hard crash in the second practice session but still managed to qualify 11th. The backup car has a winning pedigree, having captured the season-opening race at New Smyrna in February and finished fourth two weeks ago at Greenville Pickens Speedway.

Hill believes a flat right front tire terminated his primary car.

“Nothing I could do,” Hill said. “I can’t thank my guys enough. They have been working their tails off all day. We’ve changed springs; we’ve changed everything, shocks. Everything to make that thing fast.”

Defending winner Eddie McDonald clocked in at 16th while championship contender and West division points leader Dalton Sargeant qualified 17th. Gray Gaulding was set to start 19th but an electrical fire during time trials will force him to start at the rear of the field.

Little says the race is relatively short so he plans to be aggressive right from the start — even though he says Bristol is second in intimidation factor on the K&N East schedule just behind Dover.

“We have to be (aggressive),” Little said. “I don’t think tires will be an issue so we’re going to push hard the entire time and hopefully our car doesn’t steer in the wrong direction.”

The PittLite 125 is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. ET green flag on Saturday. The race will be televised on NBCSN on Thursday, April 23 at a time to be determined. The starting lineup can be found below.

  1. Jessie Little
  2. Brandon Jones
  3. Daniel Hemric
  4. William Byron *
  5. J.J. Haley *
  6. Scott Heckert
  7. Rico Abreu *
  8. Kyle Benjamin *
  9. Codie Rohrbaugh *
  10. Nick Drake
  11. Austin Hill
  12. Kaz Grala
  13. Trey Hutchens
  14. Ronnie Bassett
  15. Travis Miller
  16. Eddie MacDonald
  17. Dalton Sargeant *
  18. Kenzie Ruston
  19. Gray Gaulding
  20. David Garbo, Jr *
  21. Jay Beasley
  22. Collin Cabre *
  23. Chad Finchum
  24. John Holleman IV *
  25. Devon Amos *
  26. Sarah Cornett-Ching *
  27. Charles Buchanan

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Drivers Offer Suggestions for Bristol Changes

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — The Sprint Cup Series’ most recent return to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night was met with widespread praise from both drivers and fans, with many of them calling it the best race at Thunder Valley since the controversial resurfacing that forever changed the venue back in 2007.

Bristol has seen a lot of changes over the past decade with the Tennessee half-mile transforming from a single groove on the bottom track into a high-speed multi-lane circuit that featured side-by-side racing when progressive banking was installed seven years ago.

Fans criticized the changes and attendance for one of the most beloved events began to suffer. In a poll conducted by the speedway in 2011, 70 percent of fans demanded a return to the Bristol of old and the use of the bump-and-run that made the World’s Fastest Half-Mile so famous in the first place. As a result, Speedway Motorsports Inc. construction manager Steve Swift ordered a grinding of the top groove to weaken its effectiveness, and in theory, force drivers back to the bottom. The plan backfired and made the top line faster than ever before.

The bottom line has now been rendered all but useless as of last Saturday night, leaving one driver in @AricAlmirola to suggest that SMI now grind the bottom line in the efforts to open that lane back up for passing.

“When they grinded the top a few years ago, they wanted to force us back to the bottom but they actually just made the top faster than it ever was before,” Almirola said following the incident that knocked him out of the Irwin Tools Night Race. “I think they should look at grinding the bottom too and see if they can give us another line to pass.”

2015 Rues Package: Drivers Wants Less Downforce, Softer Tires

Brad @Keselowski has won two races at the track in the new configuration and finished second on Saturday but wishes they had never touched it in the first place. With that said, he doesn’t like the idea of touching it once again given the previous results.

“I just don’t think they should have changed the track at all,” Keselowski said. “I think it was a mistake to do so but it’s not my decision to make.

“(But) no, they don’t need to go grinding tracks. They handed it to a bunch of engineers and told them to make the bottom lane the fastest and lo and behold they screwed it up and made the highest lane the fastest. I’m shocked.”

Greg Biffle finished 10th on Saturday night and has long been a proponent for a softer Goodyear tire. While the fastest line at the new Bristol will continue to be the top, he believes the bottom can still be a viable option assuming that Goodyear develops a softer tire that allows a driver to dig and better rotate the center of the corner.

“The softer the tire and the more grip it has, the better the bottom is,” Biffle said on Friday afternoon. “The harder the tire and the wider the arc we have to run, it puts us all the way up the track. It’s just a matter of getting a soft enough tire on the car to allow us to use the bottom.

“When you pile downforce on these cars and you give them a soft tire and they go too fast. If you shed a little bit of downforce and put on a softer tire, we could run all over the race track and pass like old Bristol.”

Attendance was up considerably on Saturday and the event generated a familiar buzz of years’ past. Perhaps it is time to leave Bristol be after all as all three iterations were capable of putting on exceptional races. Opinions, as they always do, varied on which version of the track a driver most preferred.

Categories
Editorial

Reactions: Bristol Night Race

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — It’s been written here before that this is one of the best times of the year to be a NASCAR fan and the Bristol Night Race proved it once again as the Race to the Chase took numerous dramatic turns in the rolling hills of Thunder Valley.

@JoeyLogano held off Brad @Keselowski over the closing laps to win the Irwin Tools Bristol Bristol Night Race — an event he called one of the biggest mama jamas of them all upon taking his seat in the media center for his media debrief.

Going to Victory Lane in the Night Race is cool enough, no doubt, but Logano also made several other notable statements (verbal and otherwise) on Saturday in regards to his current place on sport’s totem pole.

Those who follow the sport regularly inherently understand that Logano has the speed and momentum to win a championship but his third win of the season felt like the first public coming-of-age moment for the former wunderkind dubbed Sliced Bread. Only the toughest of the tough win at Bristol — names like Earnhardt, Wallace, Gordon and Jarrett — bonafide Sprint Cup Series champions.

On Saturday, Logano out-dueled another champion in his teammate Keselowski in yet another display of power from Team Penske as they once again prepare to take on NASCAR’s traditional juggernauts, Hendrick Motorsports, in the ever-approaching Chase for the Championship.

For whatever reason, Logano has been greatly overshadowed — at least publicly — by Keselowski this season. Even during the post-race press conference, both teammates were peppered with questions about Logano’s readiness to contend and if he has been underrated in advance of the remaining 12 races.

After all, entering this season, Logano was fresh off his first playoff appearance and had never won more than a single race in a given season. This year is remarkably different though as Logano has found a home in Team Penske and with crew chief Todd Gordon.

And despite seven years of Sprint Cup experience, Logano is still just 24-years-ol and in the prime of his physical and mental acuity.

With his third win of the season, Logano ties Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Keselowski for the most in 2014 and is in a tie for the top seed two races away from the playoffs. His fourth place points ranking and 721 laps led this season are additional affirmations of his season, regardless of what those who are still thinking on him may think.

“I don’t care what they think of us,” Logano said. “We’re going to do what we’ve got to do. They can underestimate us. They can overestimate us if they want and I don’t really care. We’re going to go out there and do the best we can, do what we’ve been doing … It’s definitely the best shot I’ve ever had at winning the championship, I can promise you that, so I feel very confident going into it.”

Logano has been blistering fast at every track this season and if not for a snafu on the final restart at Michigan, would likely be sitting on back-to-back victories and sole ownership of the top seed in the Chase.

It’s no secret that Logano was rushed to the Cup Series by Joe Gibbs Racing and that Logano wasn’t prepared at the time for the spotlight and scrutiny involved with driving the famous No. 20 entry. He admitted so to Popular Speed at the start of the season, in fact.

However, those formative years may be the key to his winning this championship this season.

At Gibbs, he replaced a champion in Tony Stewart and the whole world expected him to continue the trend. Paired with the architect of Smoke’s first two championships in Greg Zippadelli, Logano was issued the pressure of a two-time champion. Logano doesn’t appear to be sweating the pressure of the 2014 championship battle yet.

He’s never been more confident and comfortable in his career and much of that is likely owed to his tenure with Coach Gibbs. The inherent pressure of contending for a championship is all that Logano has ever known since his 2008 arrival.

Now it’s time for Logano to earn the hardware that goes with his newfound swagger.

Harvick v. Hamlin

One of the literal highlights of the Bristol Night Race on Saturday was the incident between Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin which occurred while the two were fighting for the lead in the middle stages of the race.

The details of the crash can be reviewed here but the short version was that Harvick lost his car under Hamlin and plowed into his fellow contender, an ordeal that ended Hamlin’s night right on the spot.

New NASCAR rules prevent a driver from leaving his car until after safety workers arrive on the scene, an obligation that Hamlin dutifully complied to but he still took his shot at the driver he believed wronged him. In traditional Bristol fashion but without leaving the track apron, Hamlin chunked his HANS device at Harvick’s No. 4, nailing it with the accuracy of a Stephen Strasburg fastball.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp says he was unaware of whether or not Hamlin had committed actions detrimental to stock car racing. In short, it will be or has been reviewed.

The importance of safety cannot be understated in NASCAR but it’s my personal hope that the sanctioning body lets this one slide. Hamlin never left the comfort of safety workers and never stepped foot on the gray concrete racing surface. It’s Bristol Baby, and it ceases to be when these sort of emotional outbursts are eliminated from the equation.

The attendance on Saturday night at Bristol was one of the best from the past five years at the Last Great Coliseum and Hamlin surely sold some additional tickets for next year’s race, just as he did last season with his now ill-fated rivalry with Logano that began in the spring.

The Race to the Chase is On

As stated above, this is the best time of the season to be a NASCAR fan. As if the Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond swing isn’t entertaining enough on a micro level, the macro level and the implications of making the Chase have added a new layer of intrigue and excitement to the end of the regular season.

Based purely on points, it appears that the 16 Chase drivers are locked in with winless Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle pulling even further away from their pursuers on Saturday night. With that said, a Kyle Larson or Austin Dillon win over the next two weeks, not the most unrealistic outcome, would literally change everything.

The win and you’re in format has done exactly what it was advertised to do thus far and everyone on the outside looking in has to win the metaphorical games six and seven to make the Chase or be doomed to near-obscurity over the final 10 weeks of the season. Combine that with the resurgence of popular drivers like Earnhardt and Gordon and NASCAR has a real dream season brewing.

Enjoy the ride.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jamie McMurray Sees Victory, Chase Chances Fade Late

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — Jamie McMurray led the most laps (148) on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway but may have missed a prime opportunity to make the Chase for the Championship when he faltered over the last 64 laps and posted just an eighth-place finish.

McMurray has yet to win a race this season and is not in position to make the playoffs via his championship points. As a result, he is in desperate need of a victory over the next two races at Atlanta and Richmond to contend for his first championship.

The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran started 18th on Saturday but worked his way to front by lap 311 with a car strong enough to run the bottom line around the half-mile short track. The final caution fell with 71 laps to go and McMurray led the majority of the field down pit road. Several drivers, including Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard chose to stay out, slotting McMurray to fifth on the restart. Unfortunately, he was unable to work his way through traffic and actually lost positions during the final run to the finish.

McMurray won the non-points Sprint All-Star Race in May but believed this was his best car and effort that he has had all season.

“It’s just about putting the race together all at the right time,” McMurray said. “We had the best car, I thought, for the first three-quarters of the race. As it rubbered up, we just didn’t keep up with it. It wasn’t from a lack of effort. We were freeing the car up every stop. It just couldn’t get the car to turn enough in the rubber.”

Despite having his best chance yet to make the Chase slip out of his hands, McMurray said that the NASCAR playoff format was the furthest thing from his mind on Saturday night. More than anything else, he says he wanted to win a race that he views as one of the most prestigious in motorsports.

“I more wanted to win the night race at Bristol than I was worried about the Chase,” McMurray said. “The Chase, it’s all about winning. That’s all you want to do. I would love to be in the Chase but if I don’t make the Chase and win three or four races after that, I would rather have that than just make the Chase and not run that well.”

As for that ill-fated final pit stop with 70 to go, Matt Kenseth stayed out and still finished third but McMurray says he hasn’t second-guessed his team’s decision to call him to pit road.

“I think the leader is in the worse place in that situation,” he added. “I was confident that Matt was going to stay out but after taking two tires earlier in the race, I felt like that was going to be a big advantage. There was still 60 laps left and I felt like we made the right call and it wasn’t the call as much as it was my car getting tight over the final 60 laps.”

Chase Grid Comes Together with Two Races Remaining

Greg Biffle posted a 10th-place finish on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway and strengthened his chances to make the Chase despite not having won a race this year. Entering the final two races of the regular season at Atlanta and Richmond, Biffle holds a 26 point advantage over Kyle Larson for the final spot on the provisional Chase Grid.

While a new winner from outside the top-15 in the championship standings over the next two races would change the outlook, Biffle and his No. 16 team is on quite the roll in the efforts to get a second Roush Fenway car into the Chase alongside two-win Carl Edwards.

Larson finished 12th but was two positions behind Biffle and just five ahead of Clint Bowyer, the next driver in the standings ahead of Biffle. As such, Larson didn’t do enough to close the gap with the cut-off approaching.

The updated Chase Grid standings can be found below.

Jeff Gordon (3 wins)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3)

Brad Keselowski (3)

Joey Logano (3)

Jimmie Johnson (3)

Kevin Harvick (2)

Carl Edwards (2)

Kyle Busch (1)

Denny Hamlin (1)

AJ Allmendinger (1)

Kurt Busch (1)

Aric Almirola (1)

Matt Kenseth

Ryan Newman

Clint Bowyer +31

Greg Biffle +26

Kyle Larson -26

Kasey Kahne -33

Austin Dillon -40

Paul Menard -45

Jamie McMurray -60

Marcos Ambrose -68

Brian Vickers -73

Categories
Trucks

John Nemechek Adapts to Bristol, Previews Canada

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — @JohnNemechek had never raced at Bristol Motor Speedway prior to this past Truck Series race but declared the venue an emerging favorite following a sixth-place effort on Thursday morning in the UNOH 200.

Nemechek qualified 13th on Wednesday afternoon in the two-round knockout session but quickly worked his way into the top-10 in the early stages of the race. He remained there throughout the morning before finishing just outside of the top-5 at the drop of the checkered flag in a race won by Brad @Keselowski.

RESULTS: Keselowski wins Bristol Truck Series Race

“I felt like I adapted pretty quickly,” Nemechek said after his first start at the historic half-mile. “This place is a lot of fun. It kind of reminds me of Dover a little bit with the concrete and the banking and stuff. Our race was pretty good. I didn’t think I was going to race that good and I felt like we were going to be stuck in the back.”

While many of his rivals struggled on the bottom line during restarts, Nemechek found no issues with either lane. Gaining positions in the laps following a restart had more to do with who you were behind more than the line itself, said the 17-year-old after the race.

“Either lane worked on the restarts,” he said. “You just have to have the truck to do it. So if you start in the inside, you could go and if you started on the outside, you could go. You just had to have a truck that could do it. But it was also about the people in front of you and how good their stuff was.”

PHOTOS: Truck Series at Bristol

Next up for Nemechek is the road course at Canadian Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The son of Joe Nemechek has limited experience on road courses and doesn’t entirely know how to forecast what lies ahead of him. His team entered him in the K&N Pro Series race at Watkins Glen earlier this month to gain experience but he lost the opportunity when he lost fuel pressure on the first lap.

He did not return to the track.

“I think I’m ready for it,” Nemechek said with a wry smile. “Watkins Glen wasn’t really experience so I wouldn’t say that. I’m excited to go up to Canada though. I speak a little bit of French so I’m looking forward to doing that a little as well.

“All I have is about two tests worth of experience on road course so we’ll see, haha.”

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Kevin Harvick Crashes Denny Hamlin for the Lead

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — Kevin Harvick spun Denny Hamlin off the exit of Turn 4 on lap 161 of the Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night while the two were racing for the lead, igniting a crash that also eliminated Dale Earnhardt Jr. from contention.

Harvick dived to the bottom under Hamlin and washed up the track and into the leader’s left rear quarter panel, sending his no. 11 spinning into the wall and back up the racing surface on the frontstretch.

Earnhardt had no time to slow his No. 88 Chevrolet and nowhere to go, plowing right into Hamlin. Harvick accepted the blame for the accident on his radio and said he simply lost the nose on his car once he got under Hamlin.

MORE: Jamie McMurray Dominates, Fails to Capture Victory and Chase Spot

Hamlin waited to get out of his car until officials arrived per the new NASCAR ordinance announced in the wake of the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward tragedy but promptly tossed his HANS device at Harvick as he drove by under the caution. NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said he was unaware if Hamlin broke any rules when asked during the middle of the race.

It’s worth noting that Hamlin did not walk onto the racing surface and tossed the helmet from the apron with safety workers surrounding him. Hamlin explained that he was mad because he felt like he had a race-winning car.

“I’m just frustrated because we had a good run going,” Hamlin said after leaving the infield care center. “I really felt like, after the first couple of runs, that we were going to win the race. We were really fast and we were on two tires holding our own and pulling away mostly. We caught some traffic but I was happy with the car and our teammates looked strong before they had incidents.”

Hamlin says he couldn’t recall the last time he was that mad and maybe never, mostly because it was so early in the race.

“I’m alright with wrecking someone on the last lap or getting wrecked on the white flag lap but not on lap 100 or something, so that part is frustrating,” Hamlin said. “But I’m proud of (my team) for everything they’ve done to prepare a race-winning car and I had a feeling that within a couple of laps that we had a car that could have won today but it’s not going to pan out that way.”

MORE: Jimmie Johnson Regaining Momentum Before Chase

Earnhardt had to go behind the wall almost immediately and his team spent 110 laps repairing his car before he returned to the track. He eventually pulled it back behind the wall in the closing laps and finished 39th. He says he had no idea what was happening with Harvick and Hamlin until it was too late.

“There was a lot of smoke so I couldn’t really judge the speed of his car to know whether I needed to be going up there and go around him on the top,” Earnhardt said. “I had to make that choice.  I just went ahead and went to the top and ended up getting into him.  It wasn’t too hard of a hit just did a lot of damage and tore the lower (control arm) off the left-front.”

Categories
XFINITY

Ty Dillon, Regan Smith Argue After Nationwide Race

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — Tempers boiled over in the closing stages of the Food City 300 Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night between @TyDillon and @ReganSmith who bounced off each other twice over the final two restarts.

On the penultimate restart with 12 laps to go, Dillon bobbled under Smith, squeezing him into the wall, nearly collecting several frontrunners with him before everyone gathered it back up and escaped unharmed. On the final restart with six laps remaining, Dillon again slid up the track and into Smith, putting him lightly into the wall. Dillon and Smith overcame their contact and went on to finish fourth and fifth, not that it was any consolation to Smith who confronted his rival after the race.

Smith placed his hands on Dillon’s chest and was doing most of the talking during the brief confrontation. Following the monologue, Smith told ESPN that he wished Dillon had showed him and the field more consideration over the final two restarts.

“He ran me into the wall (several) times and everyone else out there seems to be able to give us room and I explained that to him,” Smith said. “He says he got tight and that’s always the excuse but when you get tight, you lift off the pedal.

“So next time I run over him, I’m going to get tight too.”

Dillon says he didn’t have any animosity towards Smith and chalked up their battle to two rivals fighting to remain in the championship hunt.

“I didn’t have any problems,” Dillon said. “I guess Regan was mad that I got into him off the corner a couple of times. But it’s under 10 to go at Bristol, we’re both racing for a championship, and I’m not giving away any points.

“So I hate that he’s upset but this is Bristol and stuff like this happens. We didn’t crash and we still finished fourth and fifth. It’s racing and I would expect the same thing from him trying to get every position for his team as well.”

Smith and Dillon left Bristol second and third in the championship standings, 13 and 30 points behind leader Chase Elliott respectively.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Drivers Asking for Less Downforce and Softer Tires Next Season

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn) — NASCAR and a group of teams tested a collection of possible Gen-6 competition packages on Monday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. The session resulted in several drivers wanting a high horsepower and low downforce formula that would make the cars harder to driver and perhaps generate additional passing.

In short, NASCAR tested two packages on Monday.

The first was a low downforce formula while the other was a prime package that included the use of dive planes on the nose, a 9-inch spoiler and three different power levels that varied anywhere from 800 to 700 hp.

The power was cut using a restrictor plate on Monday but next season could see the same effects with the use of a modified electronic fuel injector or a tapered spacer. NASCAR also experimented with a driver-adjustable trackbar from inside the cockpit.

Greg Biffle was not one of the drivers at the test but has a very clear stance on the direction that NASCAR should utilize next season.

“It’s the same thing we see over and over again when they take some of the downforce off these cars,” Biffle said. “It creates better racing. This is what I can tell you — when drivers have to lift in the corners, that creates better racing. It creates another chance to catch a guy.

“When you’re barely lifting off the throttle on these intermediate tracks, it doesn’t allow the guy behind you to catch up. So by taking some of the downforce off and softening the tire a little bit, that makes us pit and take four tires and that is how we see some of the best racing every single time.”

NASCAR eliminated the ride height restrictions during the off-season and increased the spoiler size on the Gen-6 car, resulting in additional downforce. The sanctioning body again increased downforce for part of the Monday test and Matt Kenseth opined that the results were not satisfactory from his perspective on the track.

“It was really singled out,” Kenseth said. “You couldn’t pass. You could draft a little bit more on the straightaway but you’re almost wide open in the corners and it was really bad.”

At the end of the test, NASCAR took off the downforce and gave back the horsepower and Kenseth says the package received unanimous praise from the participating drivers.

“It was awesome,” Kenseth said. “It was like going back in time 15 years or something. You could actually pass in the corner instead of worrying about drafting in the straightaway. You could get one guy on the bottom and one guy on the top and the air wasn’t so turbulent that you couldn’t get on the outside of people.

“So the track got really wide and it was like the track aged 10 years and it was awesome.”

His teammate, Denny Hamlin agreed, tweeting that the “2015 aero test was a bit disappointing … Right up until the end. We may have found something that actually moves the needle for passing.”

Jeff Burton has raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since 1993 and has competed under a variety of different competition packages. On Friday afternoon, he said that the only way less downforce will increase competition is if Goodyear develops a longer lasting softer tire to compensate for the lack of mechanical grip.

“Every time we’ve taken downforce away and not put on a better tire on the car, it’s always been worse,” Burton told Popular Speed. “The one thing we’ve never done is take downforce away and added extra grip with the tires and that’s what the drivers have been clamoring for.

“If Goodyear can build a softer tire — one that will last and stay soft, then it is a viable option. My question is that I don’t know if they can. I feel like that’s something we need to look at if we can. If they don’t feel like they can, then that’s not going to work. If you’re going to take downforce away you have to find a way to get grip in them because history has told that story.”