Bristol Motor Speedway has always been one the most popular stops that NASCAR makes during its 36 week season not only for the fans, but the drivers as well.
The action that follows the drivers who choose to test its 30 degree banking along with the half mile configuration can get very intense, and at times tempers are known to flare up because of the emotional rollercoaster ride that it generates.
A victory at Bristol does not come easy, and more times than naught the winners car looks like it just lost a Saturday night demolition derby.
Racing at Bristol has always been a driver’s biggest challenge when you take into consideration its confined high speed stadium type atmosphere, with no room for error because of its 40 foot wide racing surface.
With its sub 17 second laps, the track that is billed as “The Worlds Fastest Half Mile,” is once again ready to unleash its fury this coming weekend with hopes that the action is was known for was once again restored.
Since 1961 Bristol has seen many generations of NASCAR’s finest drivers confront one another, with some of the most exciting finishes in NASCAR history surrendered during its 39 year history.
The fracas that became synonymous with this one of a kind race track was lost in 2007, when Bristol was stripped of its identity along with its explosive demeanor.
What used to be a two groove hell bent asphalt monster, now became a three-wide typical drive on your local freeway with its new racing surface.
The progressive banking along with an additional three feet of track surface which was added to front and backstretch, is all that was needed to put this gentle giant to sleep.
The make-over which was intended to add more excitement to Bristol, instead gave the drivers an extra lane of racing which meant we would no longer see the carnage that was usually left behind after each race.
With the addition of more than 160 feet of SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers at the exits for Turns 2 and 4, Bristol is hoping to reclaim its identity that was taken away back in 2007.
While the modifications will increase driver safety, without the extra three feet of racing surface the drivers will now have to negotiate a tighter exit, and will no longer have the freedom to float out of the corners upon entering the tracks 650 foot long straightaway’s.
Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon who has visited Victory Lane five times, feels the added barrier will add more excitement to the race along with making it more challenging for the drivers to pass each other.
“We use every inch of that race track. It is definitely going to be unique. I am anxious to get there and see how many right sides we take off the first hour of practice," said Gordon when talking about the modifications.
Gordon also added that, “It is like anything else, eventually you get used to it. Then it is going to come down to the side-by-side racing and how that is going to affect that aspect of it. Because you narrow the track up that means it might be a little harder to pass.”
This weekend we will find out once again if less is best, and if it is expect the tempers to fly along with another installment to Bristol’s infamous carnage of race cars, which have created some of NASCAR most memorable moments.