Tires Should Now Make Bristol A Strategic Battle Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson and his crew chief James Ince agree Saturday night's race on the .533-mile concrete high banks of Bristol is always exciting, but this year the 130,000 fans...
Tires Should Now Make Bristol A Strategic Battle
Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson and his crew chief James Ince agree Saturday night's race on the .533-mile concrete high banks of Bristol is always exciting, but this year the 130,000 fans packed into the track and a nationwide television audience will witness more than just the normal beating and banging common to Bristol. This year's race promises to be an interesting strategic battle among drivers and crew chiefs. The reason is simple.
Just a year ago, Ince told Benson that four tires were the ticket to success at Bristol. Late in the Spring race, while other crew chiefs were putting on two tires or electing to stay on the track enjoying the track position, Ince never wavered in ordering four tires for Benson each time he visited pit road. When the checkered flag fell, Benson was second. That strategy has changed with Goodyear's introduction of a new tire compound at Bristol this Spring. Lap times don't fall off as they did in the past. Elliott Sadler proved that when he stayed on the track more than 100 laps at the end of the race without fresh tires to earn the victory ahead of others who took four tires.
* Patrick Barnett, husband of Christine Barnett in Valvoline's Accounting Department, designed Benson's Bristol paint scheme as part of an employee contest in the Spring. The Barnett's will attend Saturday's race.
* Benson has posted his tenth top-10 finish at Michigan on Sunday. He has top 5 finishes in his last three oval track races. Benson is ninth in the 2001 points but only 82 points out of fifth-place.
James Ince On Bristol's Changes?
"Bristol is different now. In years past, the Golden Rule of Bristol was 'Those who had the most tires won the race.' You just constantly fed tires to the race car. If you did that you could put your self in a position to win the race or at least get a top ten. That isn't the case any more. Now you have to make sure your car is right and if you use the correct pit strategy you should be in the right position at the end. It's also a luck thing. We finished second there last Spring. The caution came late in the race, and we bolted on four tires while everybody else took two or stayed out. We came up through the field pretty fast. It's not like that anymore. You have to be at the right place at the right time. Tires just aren't nearly as important as they used to be just last year."
Johnny Benson On Tires Changing Strategy at Bristol:
"Tires have changed our racing this year. I think it's for the better. Fans see more strategy, the teams have more chances to figure out ways to get to the front. Before, Bristol has been all about beating and banging. Now it's about beating, banging and thinking."
Johnny Benson On Racing At Night:
"I like racing at night. We all grew up Saturday night racing and that's what we like. It's cooler, there is less glare and the track stays more consistent, but it's really the atmosphere that makes night racing so much fun. The fans seem more intense than normal, the crew guys are hyped up and all that transfers to the drivers. Bristol might be the most exciting place we race."
Benson: Will You Take Two Or Four Tires At Race's End?
"That's James's decision. He's done pretty well so far this year calling my race so I'm not about to tell him what we should do. When we finished second here I was just patient all day. Anybody that has seen this race knows what can happen if you're not patient here. James just kept me calm in the car and we ran well all day. We were able to stay on the bottom. He made great calls all day long- on the tires and it was just a matter of being there at the end of the day, and we were."
Benson On Secret To Success At Bristol This Weekend?
"Patience. That's what Bristol is all about. That and survival. You don't race so hard in the early going that you get in trouble and kill your chances at the end."
Benson Bristol Record
Race S F
03/25/2001 28 26
08/26/2000 29 13
03/26/2000 33 2
08/28/1999 39 33
04/11/1999 42 29
08/22/1998 23 33
03/29/1998 8 5
08/23/1997 22 18
04/13/1997 33 31
08/24/1996 29 28
THE RACE: Sharpie 500
Winston Cup Race #24 of 36 for the 2001 season
Race: Saturday, August 25, 2001 in Bristol, TN
TV: TNT - 8:00pm/et
Pre-Race Show: 7:30pm/et - Hosted by Bill Weber
Track/Race Length: 0.533 oval, 500 laps, 266.5 miles
Pit Road Speed: 35mph
Practice: Friday, Aug 24th 12:00noon - ?pm/et
Happy Hour Practice: Friday, Aug 24th 6:15 - 7:15?pm/et, TV-CNN/SI
Qualifying Draw: Friday, Aug 24th, 11:00am/et
First Round Qualifying: 2 laps for positions 1-36, Friday, Aug 24th at 3:00pm/et, TV-CNN/SI and live via PRN Radio(link below)
0.533-mile concrete oval
Degree of banking in corners: 36 degrees
Degree of banking in straights: 16 degrees
Straightaways are 650 feet long.
Concrete racing surface is 40 feet wide.
Seating capacity: ~147,000
Bristol has two pits roads: 21 pit stalls on the front stretch and 21 on the back stretch (1 must be shared)