*On The Line: Ninth-Place Bowyer Guest On Teleconference *New Racing Surface A Bristol Equalizer *On The Air: ESPN Ready For "World's Fastest Half-Mile" In The Loop: Kenseth's, Jeff Gordon's Bristol Stats Tell A Winning Tale In winning the...
*On The Line: Ninth-Place Bowyer Guest On Teleconference
*New Racing Surface A Bristol Equalizer
*On The Air: ESPN Ready For "World's Fastest Half-Mile"
In The Loop: Kenseth's, Jeff Gordon's Bristol Stats Tell A Winning Tale
In winning the last two Bristol night races, Matt Kenseth has established himself as a master of the high-banked short track.
He has finished in the top 10 in nine of his last 11 Bristol races, and his worst finish in that span was 16th in 2005. Over the past five races, Kenseth sits atop most of the key Loop Data categories.
Kenseth ranks first in the following:
Driver Rating (119.6)
Average Running Position (5.3)
Fastest Laps Run (204)
Green Flag Speed
Laps in the Top 15 (2,364)
Standings leader Jeff Gordon also has tremendous statistics at Bristol -- which is key if he wants to put distance between himself and Jimmie Johnson in the bonus points race. Currently, Gordon's four wins this season has earned him 40 potential bonus points. Johnson also has 40, while Tony Stewart has 30.
Gordon could add to his points stash with another solid Bristol performance -- he has five wins there and two consecutive top-five finishes.
Over the past five Bristol races, Gordon has a Driver Rating of 104.8 (third-best among drivers competing Saturday), an Average Running Position of 8.5 (second-best), 108 Fastest Laps Run (tied for fourth-best), 2,079 Laps in the Top 15 (second-most) and 84 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), which is third-best.
Greg Biffle is one driver who could surprise come Saturday night. Biffle, who is looking to make a major leap into the top 12, could make gains with another solid performance at Bristol.
He has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five Bristol races and over that span has a Driver Rating of 105.4 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 10.9 (fourth-best) and 158 Fastest Laps Run (second-most).
Keys To Victory
Bristol Motor Speedway is a physically demanding track that scoffs at aerodynamics and rewards drivers who keep their cars unscathed. The latter is a difficult task on a high-banked half mile. But despite the new racing surface, look for these Bristol constants:
* New concrete doesn't mean a new personality. Bristol remains a small, fast track that likely will provide a second groove by Saturday night.
* Staying out of trouble is as important as staying near the front. Although cars can tolerate some body damage here, too much contact means a serious drop in the running order.
* A new track means new setups. Also new spring and shock combinations and lots of practice research.
* Everyone is a rookie, again. Organizations with NASCAR Busch Series and/or NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams may have a head start because of those series' Aug. 23-24 tests at Bristol.
NNCS, Etc. ...
It's the "Night Race" at Bristol Motor Speedway and ESPN will have live coverage of Saturday's Sharpie 500 -- beginning at 7 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown.
Prior to Saturday, ABC News' five-part series NASCAR in Primetime continues tonight with its second installment at 10 p.m. ET. The series takes a behind-the-scenes look at the preparation, logistics, drama and competition of NASCAR.
The unscripted documentary series chronicles NASCAR on and off the track to explain the sport's emergence as a cultural phenomenon.
NASCAR in Primetime also includes inside looks at drivers Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) and Mark Martin.
Almirola To Make DEI Debut at Bristol
Aric Almirola (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet) will make his first start for Dale Earnhardt Inc., Saturday night at Bristol.
It will be the second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start for the 23-year-old from Tampa, Fla., who departed Joe Gibbs Racing in mid-July for Ginn Racing -- which then merged, days later, with DEI.
Almirola will split time in the No. 01 with veteran Mark Martin for the rest of this season and in '08. He'll also compete in Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series event for JGR.
Saturday night's start also will be Almirola's first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Bristol; he competed in two previous NASCAR Busch Series events there.
"I don't have a lot of experience at Bristol, but I have enough to know that you have to be patient and totally focused," he said. "It's a demanding track; you can't ever let your guard down."
Some "Concrete" Facts
The day after Bristol Motor Speedway's March 25 event, workers began demolishing its old concrete track to prepare for reconstruction. The result is a new multi-million-dollar concrete surface and a five-month transformation that represents the biggest change to Bristol's racing surface since concrete replaced asphalt 15 years ago.
Variable banking has corrected a convex shape into a smoother bowl effect. Workers also smoothed transitions into all four turns. The high-banked, .533-mile track also gained three feet, expanding to 43 feet wide.
Bristol's 43 pit stalls -- asphalt before -- now are concrete and two feet wider.
The project required more than 20,000 cubic yards of concrete -- 3,000 of which forms the track's new, top layer. The new track surface, including the sub-base, is 17 inches thick.
More than 650 tons of rebar -- iron reinforcement bars -- was used. That's equivalent to 382 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars (which weigh 3,400 pounds each), 1,182 adult Kodiak bears and 41,600,000 Sharpie pens.
All For A Good Cause
The NASCAR Foundation is gearing up for a busy Bristol Motor Speedway weekend -- first for Saturday morning's charity track walk and also in preparation for the second annual NASCAR Foundation Blood and Marrow Drive on Sept. 11.
Saturday's track walk begins at 10 a.m. Fans may walk the .533-mile surface for fun, fitness and to raise money for those in need. All proceeds go to the Foundation and the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.
All NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars will run a "Roll Up Your Sleeves" decal this weekend in support of the Blood and Marrow drive. In addition, temporary "Roll Up Your Sleeves" tattoos will be available at The NASCAR Foundation booth for fans to show their support.
The second annual NASCAR Foundation Blood and Marrow Drive takes place Sept. 11 at 25 tracks across the country.
On Deck: Labor Day Weekend at California
In Round 9 of the "Race to the Chase," drivers battling for the 12th and final Chase-eligible position are down to one event -- at California Speedway -- before facing the No. 26 cutoff race at Richmond International Raceway.
Kasey Kahne (No. 9 McDonald's/Dodge Dealers Dodge) is the defending race champion at California. Next Sunday's Sharp Aquos 500 is set for a 6 p.m. ET start.
Etc. ... In what has evolved into another Bristol "night race" tradition, children of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers will perform the national anthem prior to Saturday's Sharpie 500. ... NASCAR legendary owner and driver Junior Johnson will serve as the Grand Marshal of Thursday's 11th annual Blue Lizard Transporter Parade.
At 9 p.m., NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team haulers will parade along a 10-mile route to Bristol Motor Speedway. Most will be giving rides to a child from Make-A-Wish or the Children's Miracle Network as the event involves Making Wishes and Miracles Happen For Children In The East Tennessee Region. Johnson is the all-time winning team owner at Bristol, with 21 victories there.
The Race: Sharpie 500
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, August 25
The Time: 8 p.m. (ET)
TV: ESPN, 7 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 533-mile oval
The Distance: 266.5 miles/500 laps
The Purse: $6,182,147
2006 Winner: Matt Kenseth
2006 Pole: Kurt Busch
Pre-Race Schedule (local/ET time): Friday -- Practice, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Qualifying, 3:20 p.m. Final Practice, 6:15-7:20 p.m.