Bristol Is the Next Test For the New Rules


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Just in case you didn’t notice or hear the latest, there have been some changes made in the past week. In last week’s article, you might recall I said I thought NASCAR might want to think about making changes to the qualifying process. I wasn’t alone in thinking that and many had expressed how much of a safety issue it was. Well, just in case you haven’t heard or didn’t watch NASCAR Cup qualifying, they did make changes to the process and there will no longer be cars going very slowly, cooling down their engines so they can make more attempts at qualifying better while others are going at full speed. Now NASCAR will allow the use of cool-down boxes on pit road but they still can’t lift the hoods of the cars to do so. That means they can cool the engines down much more efficiently and have a better chance at improving their qualifying times. It also means the crews had to come up with an innovative way to perform this procedure without lifting the hood of the cars. From this fan’s view it appears they were up to the task and did find ways to do so.

When the NASCAR Cup Teams take on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon, it remains to be seen just what kind of effect the new rules will have on the racing. This is the first time the new package has been in effect for a track of this size. We’ve already seen higher speeds in the practice and qualifying sessions and a few teams have already had to pull out their backup cars. Some are attributing the problems with handling to the higher speeds along with the colder temperatures and different tires Goodyear brought. Others just think it is because there is no rubber on the upper part of the track and the once popular upper groove is very touchy because of that lack of rubber.

From this fan’s view, it did appear that missing the black (laid down tire rubber) in the upper groove by just the two outside tires did make for some very interesting rides up to, or into the wall. We can only hope that by Sunday afternoon this particular problem will be a thing of the past and that the drivers will only be dealing with the higher speeds as a problem. (Well that is if it doesn’t rain out the race and move it to Monday and the chances are high that could happen.)

It does appear the Penske teams continue to have a bit more advantage at the tracks visited so far and this fan wonders if their top five finishes will continue. They do continue to qualify consistently in the top five and as I mentioned last week, it does appear they have the new qualifying procedure figured out.

Of course, from this fan’s view, the other teams are going to figure it out too and the new rule changes will make a difference, also. Denny Hamlin being on the pole, and the strategy they used to run their fastest time in the qualifying session didn’t go unnoticed by other drivers and crew chiefs as well. From this fan’s view, qualifying will continue to take on a new look (depending on track size) and strategies used will definitely be taking into account the number of laps on the tires.

Since many struggled with the upper groove on the Bristol track this weekend, the favorite groove now appears to be on the bottom and it is this fan’s opinion the bottom will be where most run and the line they will want to guard the most. That could make it interesting when someone faster comes up on the bumper of a driver just a tick slower trying to guard the lower line. I expect there will be a few tempers exhibited and some close encounters with the wall unless there is a little give and take between them. I also expect a few will make it a point to offer some not-so-friendly payback depending on their mood at the time.

So let’s see, the speeds are up, the tires are good, and the racing groove could tend to be a bit finicky depending how much rubber gets laid down and where it is. Sounds to me like it just might be the usual stuff we’ve all become accustomed to at short track racing and particularly at Bristol, what do you think…?

See ya next time…

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© March 16, 2014 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman, and

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