The top five drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this week; Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson talk the .533-mile oval at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol, Tenn., commences this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
This fast series includes comments by three of NASCAR’s most popular drivers—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, and Matt Kenseth.
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled, condensed and often written by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com. Quotes provided by NASCAR and Sprint Cup team media.
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)
“Bristol is a lot like Watkins Glen,” Harvick said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You could get caught up in someone else’s mess before you even know what happened. You have to race hard, but you have to race with one eye over your shoulder to see what’s going on around you, and behind you, and try not to make any mistakes.
“You need to have the fenders on the car now, or you become just like any other race track, and the dreaded areo-push takes over. You have to take care of your car in order to be up front.”
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
“We’ve struggled here ever since they changed the track,” said Gordon. “I just feel like I had a knack for the old configuration – a groove and a feel and a setup that really worked well for us.
“Ever since the change, none of that has seemed to work. It’s about reinventing myself as a driver – trying to find a different groove that works and giving good feedback to the team to get the car to work the way we need it to.
“Even though they’ve made changes and made the track have wider grooves, it’s still not enough. You are going to run out of patience, and that causes a lot of tempers to flare.”
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“It’s a spectator race that most people try not to miss. It’s always the one race that when people ask, ‘I want to go to a race, which one should I go to?’ Everyone always says the Bristol night race. The excitement level is so high, the cars can’t get away from each other, it’s just a half-mile race track and there’s always something going on at every turn.”
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
“Bristol is one of those places where you’ve got to have everything kind of go your way. If you have one hiccup, it’s hard to recover from it,” Stewart said. “Every time the competition gets closer, it makes it harder and harder to start further back and pass cars. If you’re a half-second faster than the 20 cars in front of you, you’re probably going to be able to work your way through. If you’re half of a tenth of a second faster, it’s a lot harder to make up those spots.
“With the sport and the competition level going up every week, passing is harder. That’s why track position is so important. The thing about Bristol is that, at the end of the day, you still have to have a good-handling racecar. You can get good track position, but if you don’t have a good car, you’re not going to be able to hold onto it.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“We ran so well there in the spring, even last year, we had a great spring and fall race,” Johnson said. “That night race has always been one of my favorites. It’s a great race track; I’ve always loved watching races there. I’m glad to actually enjoy racing on that track now.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
“Bristol is one of the best places to see a race,” Earnhardt said. “Everybody’s sitting right on top of the racetrack. There’s nothing else that really compares to Saturday night racing at Bristol. I like racing there and have enjoyed some success at the track.”
Kasey Kahne (No.9 Ford)
“Racing under the lights at Bristol makes for some of the best racing of the season,” Kahne said. “It’s a lot of fun as a driver and the fans as well. How tight it is – how banked and fast – it’s real easy to lose speed. The passing is difficult at times.
“It’s one of those tracks where you have to work on the car in practice to get the car where you want it because you definitely need it to run really well during the race. Staying out of trouble – I’ve gotten involved in accidents running in the back and I’ve gotten into accidents while running in the top 10. Trouble can find you anywhere on that track.”
Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford)
“Being a concrete, high-banked track that is so small, really makes Bristol stand out from other tracks on the circuit,” Kenseth said. “Bristol feels like the seats are on top of you, and the great fan atmosphere really makes it an exciting place to race. It has changed a lot since they re-configured the track surface a few years ago, although it’s still fast and small, stuff definitely happens in a hurry.”
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