Rich Bickle Bristol Preview

HARRISBURG, NC (August 25, 1999) -- With more than 250 short-track stock car victories to his credit, Rich Bickle is somewhat of an authority when it comes to rating race tracks of a half-mile or less. This weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup...

HARRISBURG, NC (August 25, 1999) -- With more than 250 short-track stock car victories to his credit, Rich Bickle is somewhat of an authority when it comes to rating race tracks of a half-mile or less. This weekend's NASCAR Winston Cup test, the .533-mile, high-banked Bristol Motor Speedway, is one of the most difficult on the circuit according to the driver of the 10-10-345 Pontiac. 'Bristol might be the toughest track we go to," said Bickle. "Your'e pretty much wide open all the time. You let off the gas very little here. There are few short track you can say that about. At Martinsville (VA) for instance, you let off the gas a ton and use the brakes a lot. At Bristol, you hardly ever use the brakes, unless you're hard on 'em trying to miss a crash." Crashes are usually a big part of the Goodys 500 at Bristol. Last year, the ultra-high speed, 36-degree banked track produced 13 cautions. According to Bickle, staying out of trouble is paramount to a good finish at BMS. "The key is to not have a loose race car entering the corners," said Bickle. "If you're loose there, youll be loose all the way around the racetrack. If that happens, you are a good candidate to crash out of the race. If you can just stay out of trouble, you'll probably get a good finish because so many cars usually have trouble at Bristol." So just how do you set up a car for Bristol? "You raise the car up and run a higher frame rail car at Bristol," said Bickle. "You have to because the G-forces and the pressures on the car are so much greater on the high-banked corners of the track. Using Martinsville as an example again, we'd use a 600-800 pound spring in the right front of the car. At Bristol, its a 1600-2000 pound spring in the right front. The rest of the car also gets stiffened up and reinforced just about everywhere you can. The concrete surface and the high banks at Bristol really take a toll on a car. They do on the driver too." Many drivers indicate the switch from an asphalt to concrete surface has made Bristol a one-groove racetrack. Bickle is quick to point out that the evolution of Winston Cup stock cars has added another obstacle to side-by-side racing at the track. "Sure, its a one-groove race track until you get some rubber worn into the second groove," said Bickle. "Once that happens, you can get up there and pass. What makes it tough then is that all the cars are so equal. If you're only a tenth of a second or so faster than somebody, its pretty tough to get by someone in the top groove. Your car has to be very good to get to the top at Bristol. Even if it isn't you still have to get up there to get by all the lapped traffic. It can get pretty hairy at times, but its still one of my favorite race tracks." Last year, Bickle started 17th and finished 18th in the Goodys 500. It was just his second Winston Cup at the track after two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series BMS appearances produced a second-place effort in 1997. "I was running fifth in the 1995 Goody's 500 when I got swept up in somebody elses wreck," said Bickle. "In the 1996 Truck race, I was racing Rick Carelli for the lead and something broke in the truck coming off of Turn 2. That put me in the fence instead of Victory Lane. We were better than everyone except Ron Hornaday in the 1997 Truck race and last year we got the most out of Cale Yarborough's Ford. I really think we have the ability to put the 10-10-345 Pontiac in the Top-10 this week. We need a good finish and Bristol is my kind of racetrack. We just need to be fast and miss the wrecks." The Goody's 500 gets underway with practice and qualifying on Friday, August 27. Saturdays 266.5-mile event on the half-mile Bristol oval takes the green flag at 7:30 p.m. EDT and will be telecast live on ESPN.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rich Bickle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Rick Carelli , Cale Yarborough