BRISTOL, Tenn. – The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series invades Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for the Food City 500, following the off-weekend to observe the Easter Holiday. Sunday’s race marks the first of two consecutive events at tracks measuring less than one-mile and the second short-track race in three weeks.
Mother Nature Isn’t a Race Fan This Weekend
The forecast at Bristol this weekend has been less than stellar. Rain has affected track activity on both Friday and Saturday, with the expectations of Sunday’s race being delayed to Monday.
Should the race be postponed, the anticipated start time would be 1 PM/ET on Monday. Chances of racing on Monday seem more probable with only a 40% of rain expected after 11 AM.
UPDATE: Race Postponed to Monday at 1 PM ET.
VHT/resin/rosin/grip-strip, whatever you want to call it is in its second year of being used at ‘Thunder Valley’. The VHT compound was first used at Bristol during the 2016 season in response to driver feedback that there was only one true racing groove around the historic half-mile.
The application of the resin to the bottom lane of the track allows for the second line of racing, while the preferred line of choice through the corners is in the middle of the track. Throughout the weekend, several drivers have expressed their preference for it not to be used.
As seen in the XFINITY Series Race on Saturday, drivers were able to use the bottom and middle grooves, with several three-wide passes being made for the position. While many drivers would rather their only be one lane in the corners, the race should be action-packed for race fans.
Stage Racing Excitement
As has been documented for most of the season, NASCAR’s implementation of stage racing has not disappointed thus far. The Food City 500 at Bristol marks the second short-track race of the season and if it’s anything like Martinsville, one has to be excited about potential action.
The race at Martinsville provided a last-lap pass for the stage victory when Kyle Busch was routed out of the way by a car trying to maintain position on the lead lap. Busch was understandably upset, but one has to speculate what other drivers would do in the same situation.
Short-track racing doesn’t typically need any additional build-up, but factor in tempers associated with races at smaller tracks and the sense of urgency to gain valuable playoff points, expect to see additional questionable decisions made on Sunday (Monday if postponed).
Does Joe Gibbs Racing ‘Get Back on Track’ at Bristol?
Joe Gibbs Racing’s struggles to find victory lane is perhaps one of the biggest storylines of the season. However, if the weekend’s practice sessions are any indication, that winless streak is potentially in jeopardy.
All three practice sessions (one on Friday and two on Saturday) saw JGR drivers or JGR-affiliated drivers setting the fastest practice times. Erik Jones led the way in Friday’s only practice session, which saw all four of the JGR cars setting a time in the top-6.
On Saturday, Kyle Busch won both practice sessions with JGR teammates not far behind. Bristol could be the break that the JGR organization needs and is looking for to return to the form that they displayed through much of the 2016 season.
Greg Atkins – Martin Truex, Jr. – The Toyota’s showed speed in practice and appear poised for a shot at victory. Although each of them, amongst drivers from other manufacturers, will have a shot. I’ll take Martin Truex, Jr. for the victory here, although a maiden victory from Erik Jones would not be overwhelmingly surprising.
Tyler Painter – Kyle Busch – The comment was made by Busch on Friday during his media availability that he wasn’t concerned with Joe Gibbs Racing’s performance through the first seven events. He backed that statement up by finish atop the leaderboard in both practice session on Saturday. Busch has been successful around the concrete half-mile before and seems poised for a return trip to victory lane during this year’s Food City 500.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Huff, ApertureOne.net