We’re back to a short track this week after two trips to intermediate tracks. Richmond should provide us, as I talked about earlier this week, with some much needed action via bumping, banging, accidents and caution flags. Give it a click for news on Bristol, a Nationwide newcomer and what to watch for at Richmond…
The Big News: Bumpin’ and Grindin’- Bristol Motor Speedway gave us the biggest news of the week. They announced their plans to reconfigure the track. We already knew they were going to do it but owner Bruton Smith outlined their plan to take a groove away from track. Bristol changed their 36 degree banking into progressive banking that ranged from 26-30 degrees. Progressive banking means that the top lane of the raceway had a different banking than the lower lane of the track. The track’s top lane will be grinded down, as shown in the image above, to create equal banking throughout the corners. Bruton Smith hopes this will eliminate the lane that drivers could use on the high side to pass and “put it back to a single-banked track that has a consistent angle in the turns and gives the divers a chance to race for the win just like they always have.” You have to love that NASCAR is willing to make changes for the fans but you also have to be concerned about the increased cost to owners of having to fix beat up race cars from a track that gives you no choice but to knock someone out of the way. Drivers and owners don’t seem thrilled with it but I think, at a place like Bristol, they are going to have to deal with it. It’s part of the appeal and culture of the track over the years. Bruton Smith has also asked Goodyear to bring a softer tire in August to the track so they will wear out faster. The harder tires have also been a complaint of fans because it allows the good cars to run so well for so long that the racing becomes strung out. It also allows for less wrecks since all cars handle better and are less susceptible to tire blowouts.
You may have missed… that Travis Pastrana is making his Nationwide Series and NASCAR debut tonight at Richmond. ESPN and NASCAR.com have been covering it the last couple days but not enough is being said about the debut. The extreme sports star’s NASCAR debut was supposed to happen last year but an injury in a motorcycle stunt prevented that. He has cut his teeth in a stock car with the K&N Pro Series East recently and I’m excited to see what he can do in Nationwide. The best thing about Pastrana’s debut is it gives two big names to the development series of NASCAR with Danica Patrick and Pastrana. Pastrana will bring lots of new fans to NASCAR and Danica has certainly done the same. I know that I will be flipping back and forth between the race and other events going on tonight just to see how it goes with the both of them on the track. This is not to say that there aren’t other legitimate stars in Nationwide. But these are names people know that do not watch NASCAR on the regular. It’s great for the sport. I wonder if fans will wear Mullet wigs to support him the same way they were afro wigs for Boris Said a few years ago.
Why you should be watching…is obvious. This isn’t going to be the kind of race that we have sat (suffered?) through the last few weeks at Kansas and Texas. It’s 400 laps at a .75 mile brake eating track. The best part? It’s under the lights so we’ll get to see the “Richmond Glow” of the brakes as they heat up. Sparks will fly because of the need to push others out of the way to progress here. As I wrote earlier this week, Richmond gave us 15 yellows in the Fall and 8 in the Spring last year so expect some action.
On Deck for a Burnout…is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He showed some aggressiveness this year on the track bumping the likes of Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin at times. Dale, Jr. may be one of the few drivers willing to do what it takes to get a win at a place like this. If you recall back at Martinsville, Newman was pushing Bowyer pretty hard which helped cause the final lap fiasco that took out leaders Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. What was lost is that Dale was back there pushing too behind Jimmie. He has 3 wins at Richmond, although the last one came 6 years ago. His results the past few years have been ugly but bear with me. Jr has been running with a consistency that he never has been able to run with previous to this season. He’s maturing and getting better and what he was bad at; giving input to his team. I look for Dale to have a good race here and be around to steal a win at the end… and they might even tear the place down if he gets one. It’s been too long.