BACK TO BRISTOL: This weekend marks the fourth trip to Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) for the Toyota Camry in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) competition. In March, Camry drivers led 377 of the 506 laps around Bristol's half- mile, high-banked...
BACK TO BRISTOL: This weekend marks the fourth trip to Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) for the Toyota Camry in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) competition. In March, Camry drivers led 377 of the 506 laps around Bristol's half- mile, high-banked short track, with Denny Hamlin's sixth-place result as the top finishing Toyota driver in the field. Tony Stewart led six times for a race-high 267 laps, but contact late in the race with Kevin Harvick relegated him to a 14th-place finish. Toyota drivers Kyle Busch (17th), David Reutimann (20th), Michael Waltrip (23rd), J.J. Yeley (25th), Dave Blaney (34th), Dale Jarrett (37th), Brian Vickers (39th) and Mike Skinner (40th) also competed in the event.
DEBUT OF THE NEW: The new NASCAR chassis made its debut in NSCS competition at Bristol in 2007. Vickers (15th) was the highest-finishing Toyota driver in that race. After that initial race with the new NASCAR chassis, track officials repaved the historic Bristol surface to include variable banking, and when the series returned to the track for the summer race, Waltip (23rd) led the Camry charge in a race won by Carl Edwards.
RETURNING FOR REVENGE: After leading more than half the laps at Bristol in March, the No. 20 Home Depot Camry should be strong again Saturday night. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli is hoping a stout car yields a fine finish. "Obviously, we ran good there in the spring, but we need to go there and run good again -- and finish good," says Zipadelli. "The race track changes a lot between the spring and the fall. You can't get caught up in other people's stuff so much -- you have to qualify well there, race well, have good pit stops and a good pit selection. Hopefully, we can take a deep breath this week and figure out what we need to do to accomplish all that."
HAMLIN HAD IT, ALMOST: Hamlin led 98 laps at the Tennessee short track in March, including pacing the field on a 'green-white-checkered' restart with two laps remaining. A fuel pickup problem allowed Jeff Burton to sneak by for the win, while a disappointed Hamlin coasted home in sixth. "It seems like Bristol is a track where we really, really run good," says Hamlin. "We've led on the last lap the past couple of times there and not won the race. It's good to go back there because we know we can run really well. It's just a nerve-wracking race track because you never know what can happen."
BUSCH ON BRISTOL: Busch has four top-10 finishes in seven career NSCS races at Bristol -- including a victory in March 2007. Heading into this weekend's race, the 23-year-old Las Vegas-native believes 'Thunder Valley' has tamed a bit. "I think years ago it was just a race where everybody could go all out, and now it's sort of tamed," says Busch, referring to the 'Chase' implications Bristol now holds. "With the track being a three-groove race track there's a lot more room that everybody can drive around it, so it's kind of cooled off a little bit in that sense, too."
BRAD'S FIRST BRISTOL: Camry driver Brad Coleman will make his Bristol debut in the Sprint Cup Series this Saturday. In his first start in the Hall of Fame Racing No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota last weekend at Michigan, the rookie completed 197 of 200 laps, finishing 38th in what proved to be a valuable learning experience. "I am looking forward to going to Bristol," says Coleman, who has made two NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) starts at the track. "It's going to be fun, but it's going to be tough to go 500 laps at Bristol."
HOMECOMING: Mike Ford, crew chief for the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Camry, hails from Tennessee. Ford was born approximately 75 miles southwest of Bristol in Morristown, Tenn. Brandon Thomas, chief design and development engineer for the Red Bull Racing Team, is a native of nearby Kingsport, Tenn. Thomas' first NASCAR win came at the half- mile bullring as a crew member on a car driven by Rusty Wallace.
MICHIGAN MISS: Busch recorded his 14th top-five finish in 23 NSCS starts with a runner-up result Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 18 Interstate Batteries Camry. He led twice for 34 laps, while fellow Toyota driver Vickers -- who finished sixth -- led 21 laps in the No. 83 Red Bull Camry. Camry drivers Stewart (12th), Reutimann (14th), Waltrip (19th), AJ Allmendinger (28th), Skinner (35th), Coleman (38th), Hamlin (39th) and Blaney (41st) were also in the field.
BRIAN BUMMED: Despite his seventh-place run at Michigan, Vickers was disappointed that his car wasn't handling better late in the race. "We felt like we had a car capable of winning," said Vickers, who scored the Red Bull Racing Team's first ever pole at Michigan. "We chased the track a little bit. I think everybody did. The track continued to get looser and looser and we didn't keep up with it quite as fast as we needed to. The last two stops we decided to go with two tires and go for it. We over-adjusted for the two tires and it was just too tight at the end to really do anything."
TOYOTA TOP-THREES: In 23 NSCS races this season, at least one Camry driver has finished among the top-three positions in 19 of them. Busch has eight victories, including wins at Atlanta, Talladega, Darlington, Dover, Sonoma, Daytona, Chicago and Watkins Glen. He also finished second at Richmond and Michigan, and third at Texas and Charlotte. Hamlin won at Martinsville, and finished third at Phoenix and Indianapolis. Stewart finished third in the season-opening Daytona 500 and both he and Vickers finished second in the two trips to Pocono. Waltrip finished second at Loudon. Through 23 races in 2008, Camrys have compiled 24 top-three finishes.
POINTS PACE: With his second-place finish at Michigan, Busch continues to lead in the NSCS point standings, now holding a 222-point advantage over Edwards. Toyota drivers Stewart (sixth), Hamlin (12th) and Vickers (15th) are also in the top-15 in points.
-credit: toyota motorsports