Sprint Cup drivers describe how SAFER barrier will change racing line at Bristol Motor Speedway


NASCAR visits Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for its first race at the half-mile track since 600 feet of additional SAFER barrier (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) was installed.

The SAFER barrier was added on the outside walls of the frontstretch and backstretch. The addition comes after Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot when he hit an unprotected wall in February during the Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Drivers have called for additional SAFER barriers to be installed at all NASCAR tracks. But how do they think the racing will be changed at the short track?

Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne first addressed the topic during a tire test at Richmond International Raceway last week.

“It still hurts when you hit those things, but not as bad,” Bayne said. “That’s going to change the racing line a little bit. There’s going to be things we’re going to have to do different as drivers, but obviously safety is their priority and we appreciate that as drivers.”

One of the biggest voices in the demand for more SAFER barrier has been Jeff Gordon, who met with NASCAR officials after hitting an unprotected inside wall on Atlanta’s backstretch.

“It is going to change the groove slightly,” said Gordon, who has five wins in 44 career starts at Bristol. “Before you had a little bit of room, I don’t know, a foot, so that is definitely going to change how we race there. I hope it makes it more exciting, more action is what I’m hoping.”

Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick agreed there would be less room for the 43-car field to maneuver when exiting Bristol’s corners that are banked 24 to 28 degrees.

“The straightaway is going to be narrower,” said Harvick, whose only Sprint Cup win at Bristol came in 2005. “It’s just going to be tighter. You already have to come back off the corners where you’re running the top. If you’re running the bottom, it’s just going to give you less space to let the car have its head up off the corner. So it’s probably going to make the bottom worse than it was.”

Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, winner of the 2013 spring Bristol race, said the bottom lane will become less desirable.

“It’ll hurt the bottom more as you try to use the race track to get off the corner and be wide open,” Kahne said. “You’re already at a deficit down there, it’s probably going to hurt you a little bit more. (The top is) the spot already, now you’re going to have to be there.”

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.