Bristol Motor Speedway hopes ‘polishing’ of lower groove improves racing

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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Bristol Motor Speedway is once again experimenting with the racing surface of the half-mile track in hopes of bringing back two-wide racing.

First reported by Motorsport.com, with consideration from the Sprint Cup Drivers Council, Bristol “polished” the lower groove of the track following the Food City 500 in April.

The changes, the first to the track surface since BMS grounded the high line in 2012, were finished last week and will be first raced on Aug. 17 by the Camping World Truck Series. Since the grinding, the preferred racing line has been up high. The track has progressive banking from 24 to 28 degrees in the turns, which came about after a 2007 resurfacing.

This has resulted in less side-by-side racing and fewer dramatic finishes and thrown helmets, which the track has become known for.

BMS released the following statement to NBC Sports from Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of the track:

“Following the Food City 500 we evaluated the race and track surface, as we always do. During that process we made a decision to make some minor modifications to the bottom groove. Throughout this process we had great collaboration with industry stakeholders and the NASCAR Driver’s Council. We look forward to another great race weekend during the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race week August 17 -20.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” Tuesday and addressed the “minor” alterations to the track. O’Donnell said the track “certainly consulted” with the sanctioning body in addition to drivers.

O’Donnell described the work done to the lower lane as “just smoothing the track to get it ready really to apply what’s called VHT (Track bite), which is used in NHRA, kind of at the starting line that applies more grip,” O’Donnell said.

VHT, also known as PJ1 TrackBite, is a “custom formulated resin that provides controlled traction for competition racing” according to Jegs.com.

“So they applied that and then really used the tires to drag the track, so if you get up there you will see what already looks like kind of an asphalt track on the first groove that was concrete,” O’Donnell said, referencing a machine that was also used by Kentucky Speedway following its repave to help improve tire traction. “A lot of work has been done to really bring the lower groove back in. We’ll see how it plays out, but we’re certainly excited heading into this weekend.”

After the Truck race on Aug. 17, the Xfinity Series competes in the Food City 300 on Friday, Aug. 19 before the Sprint Cup Series’ Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race the following evening.