“In the Know”
Bristol Motor Speedway
This weekend’s race at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” takes us to the third race of the 10-race NASCAR playoffs. At the end of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, four of the 16 drivers will be eliminated from championship contention. Currently, three drivers have locked themselves into the Round of 12, either by a win or points – Denny Hamlin (won at Darlington), Martin Truex Jr. (won at Richmond), and Kyle Larson (clinched on points). This leaves nine spots up for grabs
“While only a half-mile in length, Bristol is a different animal than the other short tracks we have on the NASCAR schedule,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “The amount of banking Bristol has creates very high speeds and high loads, which more closely aligns with some of the bigger tracks we race on. Then you have the concrete surface, which we only race on a handful of times throughout the season. Laying rubber on concrete is a special challenge and is one that we have worked hard on over the past many years to get the right balance.”
● Event: Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Round 29 of 36)
● Time/Date: 7:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Sept. 18
● Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
● Layout: .533-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 500 laps/266.5 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 125 laps / Stage 2: 125 laps / Final Stage: 250 laps
● TV/Radio: NBCSN / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
What Our Drivers are Saying:
Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
The Bristol Night Race always has an electric vibe to it, but is that vibe heightened with it being a cutoff race to make the Round of 12?
“The vibe at the Bristol Night Race is always over the top. It’s always a great event. You really never know what to expect at the Bristol Night Race. It can go completely smoothly or it can be complete chaos. Usually, it’s somewhere in between those two and you just have an exciting night. Bristol is intense every lap. There’s just a lot happening every single corner to make good lap times at Bristol. There’s always something happening in front of you, so you try and look as far ahead as you can to keep yourself out of trouble. But the best way to keep yourself out of trouble at Bristol is to be on offense and going forward, so hopefully we can do that.”
Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Is it a new mindset when you return to Bristol’s concrete surface after racing on the dirt?
“Bristol on dirt does not correlate at all to Bristol’s typical concrete self. One thing that I am interested in is the fact that they completely had to wash the racetrack and I believe, or I’ve heard, they had to spray a solution on there to get all of the clay and stuff off and pressure wash the racetrack, so it’ll be interesting to see how different the track is just without the rubber that’s laid down in the pores of the concrete and if that changes anything – then how they apply the PJ1 to the bottom groove. That’s always a moving target for us on whether they apply it in a small strip or if they widen it out and make it to where it’s a whole car width wide. It’s always changing the dynamic of how the cars run around the racetrack.”
Chase Briscoe, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
For someone who didn’t grow up short-track racing, you found success quickly at Bristol in the Xfinity Series. How were you able to figure out such a tricky track in a short amount of time?
“Bristol is a track I’ve always enjoyed because it reminds me a lot of racing at Salem (Speedway) and Winchester (Speedway) in Indiana. Those high-banked, fast tracks are always ones I’ve enjoyed. I don’t do well on the flat tracks like Loudon or Richmond, but the higher banks seem to help me. I had high hopes for the dirt race and may have gotten a little ahead of myself, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in our Rush Truck Centers/Cummins team this weekend and I’m really looking forward to this race.”
Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Autodesk Fusion 360/HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
You excelled at Bristol when you were in the Xfinity Series. Why do you think that was the case, or what about the track suits your driving style?
“Bristol was a good track for me in the Xfinity Series, for sure. It’s a track that has always come a little natural to me, I feel like. I like the feel of it and being able to move around in the lanes. It’s a lot about keeping momentum. The bottom is about hooking the line. Hopefully we’ll be able to make those things happen in our Cup car with the 750 (horsepower) package, managing our race from beginning to end and getting through traffic without getting caught up in someone else’s mess. It can get pretty chaotic.”
Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race. The driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang won last year’s race in dominating fashion by leading four times for a race-high 226 laps, including the final 32 tours around the .533-mile oval. Harvick beat Kyle Busch by .310 of a second to take his 58th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his third at Bristol and his 35th since joining SHR in 2014. Harvick’s first NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol came in April 2005. In his ninth start at the high-banked, half-mile, Harvick beat Elliott Sadler by an impressive 4.652 seconds for his fifth career Cup Series victory. It would be another 23 races before Harvick scored his second Bristol win. In the 2016 Bass Pro Shops Night Race, Harvick beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr., by 1.933 seconds to take his 33rd career Cup Series victory.
Aric Almirola’s most recent visit to Bristol resulted in a fifth-place finish. In 20 starts at Bristol since 2007, Almirola has two top-fives and four top-10s. His best finish there was third in the Food City 500 on March 16, 2004. In addition to his Cup Series experience at Bristol, Almirola has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with four resulting in top-10 finishes.
Saturday night’s 500-lap race on the half-mile Bristol oval will be Cole Custer’s 68th Cup Series start and his third on the high-banked, .533-mile concrete oval. The reigning Cup Series Rookie of the Year’s 23rd-place finish in last year’s Bristol night race was the best of his first two Cup Series visits to Thunder Valley. In six career NASCAR Xfinity Series appearances at Bristol from 2017 through 2019, all in SHR Fords, Custer has a best finish of third from his pole starting position in the spring 2019 race. That came on the heels of his fourth-place finish in the fall 2018 race, and his pole position in the spring 2018 race that resulted in an eighth-place finish. He led 31 laps in those six Xfinity Series starts at Bristol.
In six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Bristol, Chase Briscoe earned four top-five finishes, including a win last September. He also had one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start resulting in a 12th-place finish. This will be Briscoe’s first start on the concrete of the famed .533-mile oval with the Cup Series. Earlier this season, the Cup Series drivers competed on the dirt-covered short-track with Briscoe bringing home a 20th-place result.
Of Special Interest
Be sure to check out our merch hauler at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend! If you can’t attend in person, you can shop anytime at store.stewarthaasracing.com