"New" Bristol Surface Tests "Old" Mindset of Team Chevy Silverado Teams Bristol Motor Speedway Bristol, TN - It is a new beginning for the famed Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS). The historic track was completely resurfaced, the first time...
"New" Bristol Surface Tests "Old" Mindset of Team Chevy Silverado Teams Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, TN - It is a new beginning for the famed Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS). The historic track was completely resurfaced, the first time since 1992, when the asphalt track was replaced by an all-concrete surface. Although no major changes were made to the track, variable banking was added to the turns to help smooth the transition to the straightaways. The track is also three feet wider now, which leads some drivers to believe a third - or "high" - groove will come into play during the race.
"Our Silverado teams came away from the test with some good information," said Dayne Pierantoni Chevrolet program manager NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) for GM Racing. "We will have another test day before we race at Bristol on August 22 that will give us the final data we need to make final recommendations to our teams for the race.
"At this point, we aren't completely sure which tire we are coming back with because Goodyear has a tire test scheduled for the Nextel Cup Series and will make their determination on the compound at the conclusion of that test. However, based on what we learned this week, we are comfortable that the final test the day before the race will put the final puzzle pieces in place for our Silverado teams and drivers to be up to speed quickly and be contenders come race time."
The day of testing, interrupted once during the day by rain showers, was the first look at the new surface by any of the drivers in NASCAR's big three series.
"They did an awesome job on the track," said Matt Crafton, No. 88 Menards Silverado. "It is very smooth and they made the transitions in the corners better. I really think we will see more side-by-side racing when we go back to race. Right now, I don't think there will be higher groove where you can just go up there and go around somebody. At least not right away - maybe when it gets some rubber down that will change.
"The biggest change I saw was everybody washes up and stays about half-a-truck to a truck width off the bottom. We never used to do that; you would wash up in the corner and then right back down to the bottom. For us, we didn't modify our setups too much and were running close to what we ran last year. I think they did a great job and it will make the racing even better than it has been in the past."
Bryan Berry, crew chief for the No. 77 South Point Hotel Silverado driven by Brendan Gaughan, had this perspective of the new surface: "We made setup changes to the front and the back and all four shocks. Bristol is not the same monster that it used to be. If I knew the whole answer, we'd have been the fastest truck there.
"The track is definitely smoother. The big transitions what we used to have as far as the shock package we would run; we don't have to worry about now. We're down on front spring. All that figures into the overall package here. The tire seems harder than what we normally run here The trucks were almost a full second slower than where we qualified last year, and I don't know if that has to do with the tire or the track or maybe both."
"We ended today with changes we wanted to make," Berry concluded. "But I think we can make it better than what it is now. We ran 300 laps but we would sure like to run a hundred more. There will probably be some more rubber on the track when we come back in August, and the race track should be a little faster. We're going to go back, study what we learned, and see if we can get some more speed and put our South Point Chevrolet on top of the board."
His driver weighed in with his thoughts on the day spent working through the issues of analyzing a new track surface.
"One of the things we've been talking about is how far this South Point Chevrolet team has come in terms of preparation," said Gaughan. "We were one of the first 10 trucks on the race track, and Bryan Berry (crew chief) and Mike Roos (shock specialist) had stuff they wanted to try, and we tried it. We never became the best truck today. I have to say that I don't think we're the happiest bunch here at the end of the day. We don't think we have a Chevrolet yet that can win this race, but we ended up sixth on the board. We had a good truck, and we definitely got some laps in. We know what the new track feels like.
"It was a good test for my new Hybrid driving device because I think that's the longest it's ever been run yet. After the rainstorm, I don't think Bryan let me get out of the truck. (around 3 p.m.) Once it stopped raining, I got in our South Point Chevy and I didn't get out until seven o'clock. It's definitely a comfortable piece. The boys at the race shop - nice job in the fab shop. They are building me comfortable race trucks. I felt very good - enough to sit there for four hours."
Gaughan went on to explain, "I think what's going to hurt us is the typical deal with NASCAR and Goodyear. They brought us here as guinea pigs today. They're going to bring us back the day before the race with a different tire. This was absolutely one of the five hardest tires I think in the history of racing. It made it very difficult. Talking to most drivers, everybody was complaining tight, no front grip, a little loose into turn three - things that are very typical of a hard tire with no grip. To me, that's kind of what we fought all day - that little loose into three, that no front grip tight. We're going to come back here hopefully with a softer Goodyear tire with a little more grip. But the race track itself is every bit as good as the old one. I didn't think anything was wrong with the old one, but I don't think there is going to be anything wrong with this one either.
"It's such a hard tire, it's tough to say. I love the track - I always have, it's just hard to get grip right now because of the hard tire. The cool thing is that there might be a second groove here now - a place where you will be able to pass or get out of the way. I don't know if you would want to race side-by-side in it all day, but I think you will have the option for some two-wide racing."
At the end of the day, Gaughan was pleased with the outcome of the test and is ready to come back for the O'Reilly 200 on August 22 as a contender for the win: "I definitely think a little bit of massaging from the boys at the shop - having Bryan sit down with John McQueen (Chevrolet engineer), having the brain trust get together and discuss what happened. I think they'll find something that will make us better. We will come back just that little bit quicker, and that's all we need."
-credit: gm racing