Stewart, Burton and Bowyer offer comments following first laps on "newer" Bristol
Bristol Motor Speedway has witnessed the initial laps on its recently altered surface. On day one of a two-day Goodyear Tire test Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer circled the half-mile concrete oval, and will wrap up the session on Wednesday.
While it's impossible to predict how the racing action will be when NASCAR hits Bristol for August race week and the IRWIN Tools Night Race, the trio of drivers offered their comments following a full day of lapping the banks of Bristol.
The same drivers will return on Wednesday to complete the Goodyear Tire test.
*Goodyear has mandated that the test sessions are closed to the public and media
Tony Stewart (the only driver among the three to attempt the high groove):
"Well, you’ve definitely lost the top groove. Guys who run up there aren’t going to be able to do that because it’s pretty slick up there. There’s going to be less room to race, that’s for sure. We’ve gone from a three-groove track to two grooves and any time you’ve got less room to get around it can get pretty interesting.
"I’m one of the guys who likes that high groove so it’s really going to change things up for me. It’ll change things for everybody though because when you take away room to race on a track this small with 43 cars… yeah, it’s going to tighten things up."
"That outside line – the upper groove – is out of play now. There’s going to be a lot closer racing than we’ve had here in the past. I don’t typically run up there, but a lot of guys do and I can't see them going up there now. If they do… it’s pretty slippery and they’ll figure that out in a hurry.
"The closer we have to race just means something’s going to happen. Is it going to make fans happy? Well, narrowing up the track means less room to get around so there’s no question there’s going to be closer action.
"I tell you what though… this place has always been – and will always be – far and away the best race we have. You wanna see a great race in the best atmosphere we have? Just be here in August."
"Goodyear is looking to bring a tire with more grip. I really think they have found some stuff that is really promising. As for the track itself, I really can’t imagine running up there in that top groove. I think it is going to force everyone more to the middle and bottom of the track. The drivers aren’t going to be happy, but the spectators probably will be because it is going to put more cars in a closer space.
By taking away that groove, it is going to change your mind about going up there. I think it is going to be two grooves, unless Goodyear brings a tire with a lot of grip. If that is the case, you’ll want to run around the bottom. Making the groove smaller is a good thing, it is going to put the action back to the bottom and middle of the track. What has changed is up near the wall, the bottom is the same. Tony experimented and tried out that top groove, and I know he won’t be trying that again.
If people liked the older track more than the new, they are going to like this. This takes the top groove out and brings it back toward the old track. Taking the groove out moves the track closer to what it used to be. Taking the banking out is what is going to make the difference. You won’t run the top groove on a short track without more banking. There is no way you will run around the outside. If there is less banking on a short track near the wall, you are not going to go there.
Every race track should look at the fan experience. The fans come to see action here because this is Bristol. That is why there are so many seats. This is why it is like a gladiator stadium. We always will walk a tight rope of what is in the best interest of the fan. The sport is under more scrutiny all the time. For us, it is a more constant conversation about changing. Some races are better than others. Some are phenomenal, some are sleepers. But all sports are like that. Not every NBA game is great.
This track always has been different. Fans always want to see action here. That is why pressure is always put on this track."
For tickets and more information regarding Bristol's August race week, please call 1.866.415.4158 toll-free or visit BristolTix.com.